Malaysia–United States relations

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Malaysia–United States relations
Map indicating locations of Malaysia and USA


United States

Malaysia–United States relations (Malay: Hubungan Malaysia–Amerika Syarikat) are bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United States. Despite being a predominately Muslim nation, the two countries have long been close allies and diplomatic partners. [1]

According to global opinion polls, only 27% of Malaysians viewed the US favourably in 2007, most likely mostly due to disapproval of US foreign policy against fellow Islamic nations. However, as of 2013, 55% of Malaysians view the US favourably, declining somewhat down to 51% in 2014. According to the same poll conducted in 2014, 54% of Malaysians have confidence that Obama will do the right thing in international affairs. [1] According to the 2012 US Global Leadership Report, 34% of Malaysians approve of US leadership, with 31% disapproving and 35% uncertain.[2]


Political relations became strained under the rule of Mahathir bin Mohamad, who ruled from 1981 until 2003, and who was very critical of the foreign policy of the United States. Nevertheless, the cool relations between the two nations did not prevent United States from being one of the largest trading partners of Malaysia during Mahathir's tenure. The US was, and still is one of the biggest trading partners of Malaysia and is traditionally considered to be Malaysia's closest ally.

In 2002, Malaysia-US Friendship Council was established to strengthen the friendship between the Malaysian government and the US government. Datuk Amin Mohd Noor, Chairman of the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), was appointed as the Secretary-General for this council. The council is headquartered in Washington D.C and sponsored by leading Malaysian companies to offer advice on matters relating to bilateral relationship between the two countries.[3]

Two-way diplomatic ties between the two sovereign nations have thawed and subsequently warmed under the helm of the Najib Tun Razak administration. President Barack Obama visited Malaysia in April 2014, the first visit by a sitting US President since 1966. President Obama and Prime Minister Najib issued a joint statement that, among other things, elevated the US-Malaysia relationship to a comprehensive partnership. Malaysia is currently pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty with the support of the US.

Trade and investment[edit]

The United States is the largest foreign investor in Malaysia. American companies are particularly active in the energy, electronics, and manufacturing sectors and employ nearly 200,000 Malaysian workers. While figures capturing the full range of foreign investment (including oil and gas) are not available. The cumulative value of US private investment in the manufacturing sector in Malaysia is roughly $15 billion. In the 1970s, American companies, including Agilent AMD, Fairchild Semiconductor, Freescale, Intel, Texas Instruments and Western Digital pioneered the Malaysian electrical and electronics (E&E) sector, which exports billions of dollars of equipment to global supply chains every year. Major US oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Hess and Murphy Oil, have invested billions of dollars to develop Malaysia’s energy resources. Recent US investors include Hershey, Kellogg, Bose and Darden. Malaysian investment in the United States is small but growing, particularly in leisure and gaming and biotechnology. The United States is Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner and Malaysia is the 22nd largest trading partner of the US Annual two-way trade in goods and services in 2013 amounted to approximately $44 billion. The United States and Malaysia launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) but did not conclude an agreement after eight rounds of talks. In 2010, Malaysia joined the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (Japan subsequently joined the negotiations in 2013). This agreement seeks to expand market access, strengthen intellectual property protections, and support high labour and environmental standards while fostering greater economic integration among participants.


The United States and Malaysia enjoy strong security co-operation. Malaysia hosts the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT), where over 2000 officials from various countries have received training. The United States is among the foreign countries that has collaborated with the center in conducting capacity building programmes. The US and Malaysia share a strong military-to-military relationship with numerous exchanges, training, joint exercises, and visits.

Malaysia’s Peacekeeping Center provides pre-deployment training to Malaysian and other peacekeepers before deployment on UN missions. Through the Global Peace Operations Initiative, the United States provided support for the Malaysian Peacekeeping Center.

During President Obama’s April 2014 visit, Malaysia joined the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Official visits[edit]

The American Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visited Kuala Lumpur in July 2006.

American president George W. Bush meets with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia during Bush's visit to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, 18 September 2006.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and President Barack Obama met just before the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on 12 April 2010. This meeting was thought by many to represent a significant improvement in relations. This was their first one-on-one meeting. During their talk Obama sought further assistance from Malaysia in stemming nuclear proliferation which Obama described as the greatest threat to world security.[4] In June 2009 Najib and Obama discussed via telephone the global financial crisis, nuclear non-proliferation issues and two Malaysians detained at Guantanamo.[5] During the summit Najib stressed that Malaysia only supported nuclear programmes designed for peaceful purposes. Najib's attendance at the summit was part of a week-long official visit to the United States.[6]

In November 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a 3 day bilateral visit to Kuala Lumpur. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also visited Malaysia in November 2010. US Attorney General visited Kuala Lumpur in July 2012. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Kuala Lumpur in August 2013. US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew visited Kuala Lumpur in November 2013. US Trade Representative Michael Froman has visited Kuala Lumpur four times, most recently in July 2014.

On 21 October 2013, Secretary Of State, John Kerry and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Kuala Lumpur to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

On 26 April 2014, President Barack Obama made a state visit to Malaysia. He is the second US President to visit Malaysia since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.

Diplomatic missions[edit]

American embassy to Malaysia[edit]

The American embassy in Kuala Lumpur

The American embassy in Malaysia is located in Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. The Principal US Embassy Officials include:

  • Ambassador – Joseph Y. Yun
  • Deputy Chief of Mission – Edgard D. Kagan
  • Political Counselor- Tressa Finerty
  • Economic Counselor – Andrew R. Herrup
  • Public Affairs Counselor – Frank J Whitaker
  • Consul - Wendy Vincent
  • Management Counselor – James Kent Stiegler
  • Defense Attaché – John Segura
  • Commercial Counselor – Stephen Jacques
  • Agricultural Attaché – Chris Rittgers

Country comparison[edit]

 Malaysia  United States
Population 27,496,000 318,944,000
Area 329,847 km² (127,355 sq mi) 9,826,630 km² (3,794,066 sq mi )
Population Density 83/km² (216/sq mi) 31/km² (80/sq mi)
Capital Kuala Lumpur Washington, D.C.
Largest City Kuala Lumpur – 1,887,674 (7,200,000 Metro) New York City – 8,214,426 (18,818,536 Metro)
Government Federal constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy Federal presidential, constitutional republic
First Leader Tunku Abdul Rahman George Washington
Current Leader Najib Razak Barack Obama
Official languages Malay English (de facto)
Main Religions 60.4% Islam, 19.2% Buddhism, 9.1% Christianity, 6.3% Hinduism, 2.6% traditional Chinese religions, 0.5% Judaism and 2% other religions 78% Christianity, 0,7% Buddhism, 1,2% Judaism, 0,8% Islam,12% other religions/non-religious
GDP (nominal) $307.178 billion ($10,578 Per Capita) $13.770 trillion ($44,190 Per Capita)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Opinion of the United States Pew Research Center
  2. ^ U.S. Global Leadership Project Report - 2012 Gallup
  3. ^
  4. ^ [Najib Attends Nuclear Security Summit, by Tham Choy Lin, Bernama, 13 April 2010]
  5. ^ [ Najib and Obama in historic bilateral meeting, by LIM AI LEE, The Star, 13 April 2010]
  6. ^ [Najib-Obama historic meeting in Washington, The Malaysian Mirror, 13 April 2010]

External links[edit]

Media related to Malaysia – United States relations at Wikimedia Commons

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State (Background Notes).[2]