Malaysia - US Relations
The United States established diplomatic relations with Malaysia in 1957, following its independence from the United Kingdom but has had a consular or commercial presence in the area since the 1800’s. Today, Malaysia is a significant regional and global partner for the United States, and the two countries share a diverse and expanding partnership in trade, investment, and educational and cultural relations. Economic ties are robust, and there is a long history of people-to-people exchanges. Malaysia has a diverse democracy and is an important partner in U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia. The two countries cooperate closely on security matters, including counter-terrorism, maritime domain awareness, and regional stability and participates frequently in bilateral and multilateral training, exercises, and visits.
The United States and Malaysia share a diverse and expanding partnership. Economic ties are robust. The United States is Malaysia's largest trading partner and Malaysia is the sixteenth-largest trading partner of the US. Annual two-way trade amounts to $44 billion. The United States and Malaysia launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in June 2006. The United States is the largest foreign investor in Malaysia on a cumulative basis. American companies are particularly active in the energy, electronics, and manufacturing sectors. The US direct investment position in Malaysia for 2007 was $15.7 billion. The United States and Malaysia cooperate closely on security matters, including counter-terrorism, maritime domain awareness, and regional stability. The relationship between the US and Malaysian militaries is also strong with numerous exchanges, training, joint exercises, and visits. The U.S. and Malaysia signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in July 2006 during the visit to Kuala Lumpur by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
ASEAN expects the United States to be an important strategic economic and development partner as much as it is an important diplomatic partner. The United States, on the other hand, gives a higher priority to ASEAN as a strategic partner for political and regional security purposes.
In 2008 Government owned newspapers joined in the 08 March 2008 election fray and increased their negative reports on the opposition candidate and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The papers gave prominence to human rights activist and former Peoples Justice Party Deputy President (1999-2001) Chandra Muzaffar's comment on March 4 that it would be an "unmitigated disaster for Malaysia" should Anwar become the PM. Chandra also stated in another interview for an UMNO-owned newspaper that Anwar's close relationships with individuals and groups in Washington including former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz "had very serious implications on Malaysia's sovereignty and independence." The UMNO owned newspaper condemned Anwar on March 6 for "tarnishing the image" of the country by giving an interview in Singapore that criticized government policies and the conduct of elections. The paper cited Anwar's comments that he is a "close friend" of former Vice President Al Gore, whom the paper claimed supported "the 'reformasi' demonstration of 1998 that threatened the stability of the country."
U.S. assistance to Malaysia focuses on education, exchanges, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, and security cooperation. The U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Malaysia is among the largest in the world, helping improve the English language skills of thousands of Malaysian primary and secondary school students. Exchange programs encompass secondary students, Fulbright Scholars, agricultural fellowships, and International Visitor programs. Counter-terrorism assistance builds capacity within Malaysian law enforcement and judicial entities responsible for combating terrorism, and includes improving Malaysia’s ability to monitor and secure its borders. Non-proliferation assistance aims at enhancing Malaysia’s ability to enforce its laws on shipments of controlled munitions, dual-use commodities, and weapons of mass destruction and related commodities through the country. Security cooperation and training builds capabilities among Malaysia’s armed forces and coast guard, allowing it to take on an expanded international role, including peacekeeping operations and participation in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan.
The United States and Malaysia are both negotiating partners in the talks to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious next generation Asia-Pacific trade agreement. In addition to working together on TPP, the United States and Malaysia meet frequently to discuss bilateral trade and investment issues and to coordinate approaches on APEC, ASEAN, and the WTO. Malaysia was the United States’ 23rd largest trading partner in 2011, and the second largest among the ten ASEAN members in Southeast Asia. The United States is Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner. U.S. exports to Malaysia include machinery,aircraft, agricultural products, optic and medical instruments, and iron and steel. U.S. imports from Malaysia include machinery, agricultural products, and optic and medical instruments. The United States remains the largest foreign investor in Malaysia both with new investments in 2011 and total stock. Reported U.S. foreign direct investment in Malaysia is led by the manufacturing, banking, and oil and gas sector. Malaysian foreign direct investment in the United States is led by the real estate and wholesale trade sectors.
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