Eight rounds of negotiations have taken place since the U.S. Trade Representative announced on March 8, 2006, the Bush administration`s intention to negotiate a free trade agreement with Malaysia. A ninth round of talks, scheduled for November 2008, was postponed after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, after it emerged that several outstanding issues had not been resolved. Since the postponement, Malaysia has suspended bilateral negotiations, possibly in response to U.S. support for Israeli military operations in Gaza. On December 30, 2007, Barbara Weisel, the U.S. Deputy Representative for COMMERCE, confirmed that “the United States continues to try to conclude the agreement by this summer, which we believe is feasible…”16 Weisel also stated that the Bush administration would seek an “appropriate vehicle” to obtain congressional approval on the free trade agreement as soon as negotiations have been concluded. Table 1 of Table 1 contains a summary of Malaysia`s key economic indicators. In recent years, Malaysia has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world. At the beginning of 2008, Malaysia experienced a sharp rise in inflation, but inflationary pressures eased as the effects of the economic slowdown in the United States and the EU affected Malaysian exports. Malaysia`s GDP and average per capita income make it a much larger market than most countries that have recently negotiated free trade agreements with the United States. With official exchange rates, per capita income was $6,724 in 2007, but its purchasing power parity was estimated by the World Bank at $13,570, higher than Argentina, Chile and Mexico.99 The U.S. Trade Representative announces and informs Congress of the Bush administration`s intention to negotiate a free trade agreement between the United States and Malaysia.
The eighth round of negotiations took place from July 14 to 18, 2008 in Washington, D.C. The Malaysian delegation was led by the Secretary General of the Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Abdul Rahman Mamat. The chief negotiator of the U.S. government was the deputy USTR Weisel. The negotiations covered the themes of six working groups on agricultural trade, trade in services, investment, IPR, health and plant health measures (SPS) and legislation.