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USTR Seeks Public Comment on Free Trade Agreement with Malaysia


New York, Mar 28, 2006

The United States’ largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s economy has expanded by an average of 5% every year for the past decade. A proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) recently announced by President George W. Bush would remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between Malaysia and the U.S. with the goal of expanding trade and strengthening investment ties between the two countries.

On average, Malaysia’s applied tariffs are twice as high as those of the United States. Reducing or eliminating these tariffs would lead to new export opportunities for U.S. industry. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the FTA could double the market for U.S.-manufactured exports to $22 billion by 2010. Expected to foster significant commercial, economic, and political benefits, the FTA with Malaysia would also help to strengthen President Bush’s goal for the Enterprise for ASEAN initiative— a network of free trade agreements with countries across Asia.

“These bilateral agreements build upon the existing World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement provisions which describe the principles of good international standards development,” said Dr. Lester Eastwood, chair of the ANSI Regional Standing Committee for Asia Pacific. “The TBT agreement as implemented also limits the ability of economies to develop standards which are unnecessarily trade restrictive. From a standards perspective, we see this FTA as a formalized commitment of the good relationship that the U.S. maintains with Malaysia and of our mutual understanding on the importance of the WTO TBT criteria on the development and use of international standards.”

“The Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM) of the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is ANSI’s fellow national standards body and member of PASC, ISO, and via our respective national committees, to the IEC,” said Gary Kushnier, ANSI vice president of international policy and chair of the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC) Standing Committee. “In these fora, ANSI has maintained a solid and long standing relationship with DSM. Under the US-Malaysia FTA, we look forward to strengthening our cooperation and to serve as resources for our respective economies in the provision of information on standards and conformity assessment.”

Negotiations for the FTA will begin after a 90-day consultation period. In line with the Trade Act of 1974, the President must provide the public with the opportunity to present their opinions regarding the proposed agreement; designate an agency or inter-agency committee to convene a public hearing regarding the agreement; and seek the advice of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) regarding the probable economic effects of the agreement on U.S. industries and consumers.

To assist in the Administration in developing and identifying negotiating objectives for the FTA, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) recently issued a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on the proposed agreement. To provide a forum for comment, the interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) will convene a public hearing. Interested individuals are invited to submit written comments and/or oral testimony on relevant issues including:

  • trade-related laws or regulations and technical barriers to trade
  • existing Malaysian sanitary and phytosanitary guidelines
  • the adequacy of existing customs regulations
  • relevant government procurement, labor, or environmental issues
  • product-specific import or export interests or barriers

The public hearing will begin May 3, 2006, in Washington, DC, (Rooms 1 and 2, 1724 F Street, NW) and will run as necessary on subsequent days. Individuals intending to testify at the hearing must provide written notification of their intent, as well as their testimony, by April 21, 2006. Written comments must be submitted by May 12, 2006, and may address or rebut points presented at the hearing. The public is strongly urged to submit documents by electronic mail (FR0443@ustr.gov).

Click here to access the Federal Register notice for specific details regarding the submission of comments.

AN INTRODUCTION TO STANDARDS: WHY, WHERE AND HOW ARE THEY DEVELOPED?