KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 (Bernama) -- Malaysia-US economic ties will continue to be robust and mutually reinforcing with the US high technology and knowledge intensive investments contributing to Malaysia's vibrant economic growth.
Malaysia's Economic Counsellor to the United States Hairil Yahri Yaacob said trade, investment and economic ties have always been the pillar of Malaysia-US relations.
Malaysia and the United States, two nations at different stages of economic development, can interact in such a fashion, reflecting a mutually pragmatic approach that recognises the leadership roles of the two friendly nations at the regional and global levels, he said.
"It's a relationship borne out of maturity and confidence," said Hairil, who is is based in Washington.
After 57 years of diplomatic relations, the US has become one of the largest foreign investors in Malaysia, and Malaysia's top trading partner, while Malaysia is the 25th largest trading partner of the US.
The presence of large US firms in Malaysia is particularly significant in the manufacturing, electronics and energy sectors.
Today, American investments are shifting towards high-end manufacturing and research and development initiatives are being undertaken by Malaysian talents.
Between 2003 and 2013, Americans have invested over US$13 billion in Malaysia.
"It all started with the National Semi-Conductor, the first US multinational company (MNC) in Malaysia incepted in 1971. Since then, over 20 per cent of all foreign direct investments in Malaysia has come from the US," Hairil said.
There are over 100 American MNCs in the country, from Motorola, Intel and Agilent to General Electric, Halliburton, Bose and Dell.
These companies have since gone beyond assembling to establishing their research and development bases in Malaysia. This in turn has contributed to the development of local suppliers, with capabilities in automation systems, precision engineering and software development," Hairil said.
Hairil said the MNCs also had a significant impact on the upskilling of the Malaysian workforce.
They employed more than 150,000 people in Malaysia and support the country's human capital development plans.
Malaysia enjoys a substantial surplus in the country's bilateral trade relations with the US.
Between 2003 and 2013, Malaysia's exports to the US totalled US$247.5 billion, while imports amounted to US$173.3 billion.
"This says as much about the competitiveness of Malaysian exporters as it does about the overall importance of the US market," he said.
Hairil said key to boosting bilateral trade and investment was the strong relationship between the government and the US private sector.
Malaysia's collaboration with the US-ASEAN Business Council, the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) has been crucial in unearthing new business opportunities for Malaysian companies.
"We have had years honing our strong value proposition as a long-term investment destination and trading partner.
"That would continue as Malaysia is committed to strengthening its business environment and image through such programmes as the Economic Transformation Programme," he said.
As close partners, Malaysia and the US agreed on shared goals and work together to achieve these goals at the bilateral, regional and multilateral level, Hairil said.
Through joint approaches, Malaysia and the US collaborate on issues of mutual interests at the fora such as ASEAN, APEC and WTO.
"We are also negotiating partners in the ongoing talks to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)," he said.
He said an important aspect of the work in APEC is the deepening of the region s economic integration.
"The ultimate objective is to have a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) that encompasses all 21 APEC member economies and the TPP is a building block towards this end," Hairil added.
Given the openness of both the US and Malaysia s markets, the TPP and eventually the FTAAP would ensure that both countries benefit from this regional economic integration, Hairil added.