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November 01, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on a visit to Malaysia that the two countries hope to reach a free trade deal next year.
Ms. Gillard met Monday with Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, standing in for Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is ill with chickenpox.
Muhyiddin told reporters that he hoped the trade agreement would move forward next year and be signed as soon as possible.
Ms. Gillard also called for a center to be set up in East Timor to process refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who use Malaysia as a transit point to Australia.
Muhyiddin said Malaysia needs more information before coming up with an official position on the processing centers.
Ms. Gillard is on her first regional tour since becoming Australia’s first female prime minister earlier this year. She began her tour by attending the 16-nation East Asia Summit in Vietnam Saturday and was to travel on to Indonesia later Monday.
Some information in this story was provided by AP and AFP.