Sunday, March 18, 2007

Anti-Iraq War Protest In KL And FTA Stalemate. Not A Bright Day In US-M'sia Relations.

There have been better days than today in our relations with the United States. Although not extremely friendly even during the best of times at least we have avoided openly clashing with the Americans ever since Pak Lah took office.

However as if to make up for this lull in activity on the political front, a small group of protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in KL this morning to mark the Iraq war's fourth anniversary. About 200 people massed outside the American mission and read out anti-war speeches while holding up banners denouncing Washington's decision to invade Iraq.

The protest here apparently follows widespread demonstrations in Washington and around the globe. Our government opposes the war, and has urged Washington to seek a peaceful resolution to conflicts in the Middle East.

Also today DPM Najib said that we will not bow to pressure from Washington to meet the White House's fast-closing window to push a free trade pact through Congress without amendments. Apparently the U.S. has all but ruled out a successful conclusion by July — when President George W. Bush's fast-track authority expires. The authority allows Bush to submit a trade deal to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote without amendments. Negotiators must conclude a deal by the end of March to allow U.S. lawmakers three months to review it and then vote.

According to Bernama, Najib said "Malaysia is not bound by any timeframe to give a decision on the issues at stake in the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the United States. We will study thoroughly every issue being negotiated." He refuted assumptions of Malaysia being pressured by the US to wrap up the FTA talks soon. "No, the US is not pressuring us. Of course, the US would like early resolution but they also understand there are some issues that require a bit of time," he said.

How this FTA impasse is going to end is anybody's guess although some suspect that it probably won't take off at all. That's rather pessimistic though. Certain issues are of course non-negotiable and further progress depends on whether the U.S. wants to understand our concern on these at all. If they practice a little give and take and not posture obstinately on these subjects of concern, then a FTA will be inked in due course. This will be a better alternative than a lose-lose no agreement scenario.

Earlier related post: Window For Malaysia-U.S. Free Trade Pact Closing Fast.
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Blogger kittykat46 said...

You need to know both the US constitution and US politics to understand why the July window to get the treaty through Congress is real, and not just underhand pressure from the US negotiators. The US constitution gave the US Congress the power to approve a treaty between the US and a foreign country. You could end up with any US congressman or Senator introducing his pet amendments or attaching unrelated legislation to the treaty. This makes it practically impossible for the US government to negotiate any treaty in good faith. The earlier Congress gave Bush "fast track" authority, which allows it to submit a finalised treaty to Congress for a straight Yes or No vote. The Fast Track authority expires in June. Bush faces a hostile Congress now, he will not get any more extensions to this.

So there will be no chance of any FTA treaty until after 2008. The new administration after 2008 will have many other priorities, frankly Malaysia is a not an important country in US eyes. So most likely there will be no opportunity to restart the FTA until 2010.

9:51 PM GMT+8  

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