NEW YORK, Aug 20, 2014:

Malaysia’s relations with the United States have been good, but they are being upgraded to the next level of what is called a “comprehensive partnership” built on the foundation of mutually-perceived interests of both sides, according to the Malaysian ambassador to the United States, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin.

In an interview with Bernama during a recent visit to New York, Awang Adek said that both the United States and Malaysia wanted to forge closer ties in every aspect of their bilateral relationship.

“Comprehensive partnership does not concentrate on one particular aspect of our relations. It emphasises development of closer ties in every aspect of our relationship,” the envoy said.

Awang Adek, who maintained that US President Barack Obama’s speech during his visit to Malaysia was well received, said the United States, as the biggest investor in Malaysia and one of its top trading partners, assumed a “very important role” for Malaysia’s external trade and business.

The Obama administration was very keen to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which, together with its Asia pivot, would lead to an even sharper focus on Asia. Both sides are trying to resolve issues relative to the proposed TPP agreement.

The formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 has generated considerable interest among US businesses.

Malaysia is attracting considerable interest because of its well-developed infrastructure, its high level of industrialisation and, as the ambassador put it, because it is an “attractive gateway to the AEC”.

“Malaysia will be in a strong position to attract investors from the United States,” he said, adding that high-level visits in both directions will increase.

“A business delegation will visit Malaysia in early September, led by the Washington-based US-Asean Business Council, while a delegation of the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce will visit Washington and New York in the latter part of August.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is expected to visit the United States for the UN General Assembly session in September, will lead a high-powered delegation, including business people, Awang Adek said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian companies are increasingly investing abroad, including in the United States. Genting has already established itself on the east coast while Tabung Haji is trying to make inroads into the real estate/property development sector.

“These are new horizons in our relationship with the United States. We are working together with the United States to ensure stability and peace in Southeast Asia, the South China Sea, etc,” he said, emphasising that Malaysia wanted peaceful coexistence with all the key players in the region, including China.

“Our friendship is not directed against any particular country,” Awang Adek emphasised.

“Our aim is to steer Asean in such a way as to make China and the United States comfortable with each other.”

Najib is, of course, in the best position to do this because he has very close relations with the top leadership in both the United States and China, he said.

Awang Adek said the two MAS plane incidents — MH370 and MH17 — generated a “great deal of sympathies” for Malaysia in the United States.

“I sense a lot of sympathies when I meet government officials, politicians and the general public. MAS has had a good safety record in the past.

“The two tragedies, as I see it, have brought the United States and Malaysia closer to each other, and highlighted the need to cooperate with each other in terms of providing technological and other help.

“I have been very touched by the outpouring of spontaneous public sympathies for Malaysia,” he said.

Najib’s efforts to obtain the release of the remains of the MH17 passengers were also, specifically, praised in the US Congress records.

US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega was full of praise for Najib’s personal involvement when the latter spoke to rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine.

The congressman applauded Najib for setting “standards for diplomacy around the world”.

“I commend Prime Minister Najib for not leaving the negotiations only to his aides. Some matters in life are sacred and I am pleased that Prime Minister Najib recognised this situation as such.

“I thank him for setting aside politics for a higher purpose, which is the return of the bodies to fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, to the families who lost and loved them.

“I praise him (Najib) for doing what others would not or could not do,” Faleomavaega said.

Meanwhile, the United States has been saying that it wants to grant a visa-waiver entry for Malaysian nationals visiting the United States.

A delegation led by a senior official of Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry will soon visit Washington to discuss and streamline the visa-waiver procedures.

Malaysia is likely to propose visits to the United States by young Malaysian leaders, including students and scholars, particularly in the fields of government, sports, etc.

“This will provide a good opportunity for young Malaysians to meet their US counterparts. This is part of our bridge-building process to promote goodwill and understanding,” Awang Adek said.