US FTA: Will we lose out, too?

Original Publication Date: 
10 January, 2007

BY tomorrow, the fourth round of negotiations for the free trade agreement (FTA) between Malaysia and the US would have concluded in San Francisco.

While both governments have not set a specific deadline for the FTA to be signed, ongoing negotiations suggest that they remain interested in pursuing such an agreement.

What does an FTA do? FTAs are bilateral agreements that spell out the rules governing how trade between two nations are conducted. They are unlike multilateral trade agreements such as those under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where developing countries may have better bargaining power through groupings.

Malaysians have cause to worry about any FTA that will be signed by our government with the US. These FTAs usually require developing countries to commit to legal obligations that are more burdensome than those in the WTO. Indeed, these FTA obligations are commonly called