US ambadassor to Malaysia, James R Keith, at the Obama Inauguration Day Party, 21 Jan 2009 (all pics by Cindy Tham)
KUALA LUMPUR, 21 Jan 2009: The US will prioritise continuing free trade agreement (FTA) talks with Malaysia now that President Barack Obama has taken office, said its ambassador to Malaysia James R Keith.
He noted that at the end of the previous administration — under George W Bush — the US-Malaysia FTA negotiation was regarded as mutually beneficial.
However, the new administration under Obama will need some time to organise itself, including appointing heads of departments in the new administration and to handle the FTA talks, Keith said.
“We would need to take some time to organise ourselves but we will go as quickly as we can, in view of pressure from the global economy and the concerns of American companies operating in Malaysia,” he added.
Keith said this at a press conference held after the Inauguration Day Party organised by the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) and American Association of Malaysia (AAM) at a hotel here today.
Amcham and AAM members at the Obama
inauguration partyObama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the US in Washington, DC, earlier this morning.
The future of US-Malaysia relations and FTA talks, and the demonstrations in front of the US embassy in reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were among the issues Keith was asked to comment on.
He said that under the current tough economic conditions, countries should not turn to protectionism but they should find ways to restore global trade and economic growth.
“The FTA is an investment into the future. We should encourage Malaysia to not just protect but to expand into the future,” he said.
On 15 Jan, International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the US-Malaysia FTA negotiations were postponed following a request from Washington, DC. He said this was probably because of the transition of power from Bush to Obama.
At the press conference today, Keith said the new US administration’s priority would be to get its domestic house in order and to bolster global economic growth.
US ambassador to Malaysia, James R Keith, speaking to journalists
He said the US would continue to work with countries in Asia. “You can expect Americans to continue to invest in every way, not only in the economy and finance [but also in security], to advance our mutual interests,” he said.
Asked to comment on the spate of demonstrations against Israel and the US in front of the US embassy on Jalan Tun Razak, Keith said he would support peaceful protests but not the use of violence against the international community or any party.