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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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Malaysia and the United States will begin their next round of talks on a free-trade deal on July 14, a minister said Tuesday.

The talks come after Malaysia indicated last month it would not compromise on the agricultural sector. The talks will be held in the US from July 14-18, deputy international trade minister Liew Vui Keong said.

"The meeting is aimed at solving several issues that have yet to be resolved," he said, according to state news agency Bernama.

The negotiations, which began in March 2006, reached an impasse at the seventh round in January.

Critics fear an agreement would leave Malaysia in a unfavourable trading position.

Malaysia's list of sensitive areas -- including environmental protection and the practice of giving Malay companies a leg-up in lucrative government contracts -- have bogged down the talks.

The United States, which is Malaysia's biggest trading partner, wants the deal to be struck before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009, warning that efforts on a deal could be ended after that.

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