United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab said her country will press ahead with Malaysia on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks, Bernama news agency reported Saturday.
The United States will continue to have FTA negotiations with Malaysia despite the call from a senior congressman to suspend the talks, Schwab said Friday at a news conference in Washington.
"We will press ahead with Malaysia for the FTA talks. we've a timetable, if we're going to have success mutually-beneficial for both countries," Schwab was quoted as saying by the Malaysian national new agency.
U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos was reported to have sent a letter to Schwab, demanding that Washington cut off all FTA talks with Kuala Lumpur until the latter cancels the 16-billion-U.S. dollar energy deal signed last month by a Malaysian company with Iran's national oil company.
Schwab said she was aware of the letter from Lantos but had not read it yet.
Describing Malaysia as a "tough negotiator," Schwab expressed her hope that the talks could wrap up by March.
Lantos's remarks have sparked angry reactions from the Malaysian government, particularly the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which said the southeast Asian country is ready to cancel the FTA discussions if the situation warrants it.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Friday said his country will not bow to any political pressure from the United States in the FTA negotiations.
The two countries are scheduled to kick off their fifth round of FTA talks next week in eastern Malaysia. Tricky issues the two sides need to iron out include matters relating to government procurement and the service sectors.
Currently, the United States is Malaysia's biggest trading partner and also a major foreign investor. Malaysia is the 10th largest trading partner for the United States.