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Malaysia, Australia on FTA road

April 7, 2005 at 8:42 PM

SYDNEY, April 8 (UPI) -- Malaysia and Australia are to begin talks next month on a free trade agreement, The New Straits Times reported Friday.

If the discussions are not stuck in a quagmire, Australia expects the agreement to come into force on Jan 1, 2007, to add considerable value to the economies of both countries over 20 years.

Malaysia Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Australian Premier John Howard made the announcement Thursday after a meeting.

Howard said that the agreement will build on an already substantial economic relationship between the two countries.

The main stumbling block is expected to be the liberalization of services sector in Malaysia and concerns that Australian agricultural exports could put pressure on more inefficient Malaysian producers.

Australia has already struck a trade deal with Singapore.

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