The United States and Malaysia made what they described as "solid progress" in the second round of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in Washington last week, and said talks will resume in Malaysia in September.

The two sides hope to conclude the trade talks by the end of the year, and say they are optimistic of reaching "a strong agreement that achieves a balance of interests and benefits businesses, farmers, ranchers and workers in both the United States and Malaysia."

During last week's negotiations, 22 groups met to thrash out a range of issues, including textiles, which will be included in the trade pact.

"These discussions enabled the two sides to get a clear and thorough understanding of each others' priorities and sensitivities in each area, which will serve them well as the negotiations proceed," the US Trade Representative said in a statement.

This mutually beneficial approach is being endorsed by trade groups such as the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Malaysian Textile Manufacturers Association (MTMA).

Both associations are urging their respective governments to focus on the trade relationship between the two countries and not to negotiate from a template in the US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement talks. 

US textile and apparel exports to Malaysia totalled over $56m in 2005 while Malaysian exports to the United States totalled over $677m.

"The FTA must be beneficial to both the US and Malaysian textile and apparel industries with sufficient flexibility built into the agreement to maintain a viable partnership between Malaysia and the United States," said AAFA president and CEO Kevin M Burke.
 
MTMA president YH Tan also called for mechanisms "that will create a dynamic, and not stagnant, agreement to reflect the industries as they change over the coming years."