The Malaysian Regional Programme (MRP) is part of the Asian Experts Programme (AXP) under chairperson Datuk Paddy Bowie OBE.

This global professional and business networking forum allows members to interact with notable leaders in industry, commercial directors, senior government officials, socio-economic and political analysts and other experts.

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MRP Review:  July 2017

By Maria Townsend 09/8/2017
It was business as usual in July following on from Ramadan and the Hari Raya break in Malaysia.  On 27 July, we were honoured to have US Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir as a guest speaker at our MRP luncheon.  The event was extremely popular, and Ambassador Lakhdhir shared her views on the US-Malaysia bilateral relations to a full audience of our members.

Ambassador Kamala was confirmed by a full senate to become US Ambassador to Malaysia in December 2016 and in her short time here in Malaysia, has already built strong ties with the community.  She disclosed a personal and touching story about the start of her diplomatic career which began in 1991, whereby she pursued her own mother’s aspirations in joining the Foreign Service.  Ambassador Lakhdhir is a career diplomat, and with all career ambassadors was asked to remain in position when all political appointees were recalled with the change of administration.  This is common place with any new administration, and Ambassador Lakhdhir serves at the pleasure of the President.  This change wasn’t all the new administration brought.  Within the first week of the Trump presidency, it was announced that the USA would be pulling away from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), adopting a much stricter approach to immigration, carving their turf by building the infamous wall on the US-Mexico border, and the America First policy, cementing views that America was facing a populist backlash against globalisation.  How would this affect the US-Malaysia bilateral relationship?

USA-Malaysia:  Then & Now

Malaysia is a significant regional and global partner for the USA.  It has a diverse and expanding partnership in trade, investment, security education and cultural relations.

Economy & Trade

The USA is one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners.  In the 1970s, US electrical and electronic companies established their roots in Penang, Malaysia.  Until today, Penang has remained a vital investment and reinvestment location for many American MNCs including the likes of Intel, HP and Motorola.  The US companies in Malaysia are particularly active in energy, electronics and manufacturing sectors, employing around 200,000 Malaysian workers.  The investment is long-term and with continued good governance, clean leadership, consistency and transparency towards corporations, the relationship can only continue to thrive.

Education & Tourism:  People to People

The investment of the US MNCs are deep-rooted.  Malaysians are trained and provided skills and expertise in various industries including engineering and technology.  Much of the management positions of the corporations are locally sourced.  The USA also see the benefit of investing in the Malaysian education system and future talent pool.  The US Fulbright English Teaching Assistant programme is amongst the largest in the world, supporting a number of young US students who in turn impart their English language skills and thought process to students at nominated Malaysian secondary schools.  Malaysian students are also currently studying in the USA, despite the challenges faced with the currency exchange rate, the distance and different education structure.  The recognition of the level of education they can receive in the USA is not forgotten.  The people to people US-Malaysia relations are further reinforced with the launch of the new Air Asia flight route from Kuala Lumpur to Hawaii.  This is hoped to boost tourism both ways.


Our nations share a strong security cooperation and strong military to military relations.  The Royal Malaysia Police has collaborated with the US DEA for narcotics, and FBI for people and animal trafficking, counter-terrorism as well as the very relevant and widespread topic of cybercrimes.  Malaysia and USA have also cooperated in their military with 5,100 US military personnel here in Malaysia in the last 12 months.

The Future

Despite the press highlighting America’s more isolationist policy, the new US administration has been actively engaged in Asia.  US Secretary of State Tillerson hosted the Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a special US-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting, reinforcing the strategic partnership between the United States and ASEAN.  US Defence Secretary Mattis has met and is keen to collaborate with Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, as well as US Vice President Mike Pence showing the USA’s continued engagement with Asia in is tour of the region.  More significantly, President Trump has committed his attendance this November to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Manila.  It is clear that even though the media are portraying a protectionist America, the new US administration has clearly recognised that in this global economy, the USA cannot turn away from the rest of the world and Asia and ASEAN will very much remain focal points for the foreseeable future.