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U.S., Malaysia Pact To Set Pace For Free-Trade Agreement

By Agence France-Presse The United States and Malaysia signed an agreement May 10 setting up a special forum to address trade issues, Washington, D.C.'s fifth such pact with export-driven Southeast Asian nations. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Malaysia's Minister of International Trade and Industry Rafidah Aziz signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which could lead to a bilateral free-trade pact. The TIFA provides for the creation of a joint council to expand and liberalize trade and investment, including tackling trade barriers and other issues seen hampering free trade. Aside from Malaysia, the United States has TIFAs with four other members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) -- Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei. The other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam. Washington has already signed a free-trade agreement with Singapore and is discussing one with Thailand. "We look forward to working closely with Malaysia to further strengthen our economic relationship bilaterally and within ASEAN," Zoellick said. Among areas that the two countries could look into are intellectual property, information and communications technology, biotechnology policy, tourism and enhancing participation of small- and medium-sized enterprises in trade and investment. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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