Malaysia and the United States (US) is celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations this year.

The US was one of the earliest countries to establish ties with Malaya in 1957. Since then bilateral relations have grown from strength to strength over the years. Under former president Barack Obama the two countries signed a Comprehensive Partnership in 2014.

This elevated ties to a whole new level. It was of course as part of his administration’s effort to strategically rebalance the US’ foreign policy priorities to Asia with increased attention on the Southeast Asian nations, including Malaysia. Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak welcomed the closer ties and spoke frequently about building stronger relations with the United States.

Malaysia’s substantial and multifaceted relationship with the US encompass security cooperation, which intensified following the events of 11 September 2001. As such Malaysia has grown into a strong security partner for the US. Notably under Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib, Malaysia has adopted several anti-terrorism measures to support US initiatives including enacting legislation on the shipment of nuclear materials in 2010 and officially joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative in 2014.

Malaysia also signed the Homeland Security Presidential Directive on Oct 8, 2015, a document on sharing information of individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Meanwhile the overlapping claims in the South China Sea is a mutual concern for both countries. Both Malaysia and the US’s security goals are aligned in resolving the maritime dispute amicably.

Another important pillar in Malaysia-US bilateral relations is economic cooperation. Dato’ Sri Najib is keen to enhance trade ties with the US under President Donald Trump’s administration. Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) never materialized, the US remains an important trade partner for Malaysia.

Moreover the US is the second largest foreign investor in the country. Many of its companies in the financial services, information and communications technology, and oil and gas sectors make Malaysia their base hence providing hundreds of thousands of Malaysians jobs. Emphasis on trade will undoubtedly remain an integral part of bilateral ties.

Although Malaysia’s relations with the US were previously fraught during former premier Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib has deftly taken it to new heights. There has been greater diplomatic, economic and security cooperation allowing for the better relations.

Markedly Dato’ Sri Najib’s forthcoming visit to the White House is to ensure that bilateral ties between the two countries continue to flourish under President Donald Trump’s administration. Here’s to another 60 years of cordial ties!


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