26 April, 2010

The International Agenda


Over the past fortnight, I embarked on a series of successive overseas visits, to Vietnam; the United States; and finally, Japan. They proved enormously busy but fruitful trips, and I’m pleased to say that I did not return to Malaysia empty-handed, as several of the highlights below attest.

My first port of call was Hanoi, where I participated in the 16th ASEAN Summit.In addition to adopting joint statements on climate change and sustained recovery and development, we committed to enhancing cooperation within the region. Summit aside, I discussed issues such as trade and investment in a bilateral meeting with Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, PM of Vietnam, and witnessed the signing of an agreement between AirAsia and VietJet Air to start a new low-cost airline. I was also impressed with the number of Malaysian companies that have set up businesses in Vietnam.

I left Asia for Washington, DC, and the Nuclear Security Summit, chaired by US President Barack Obama, with whom I enjoyed a bilateral meeting for the first time. As I told the audience attending a CSIS forum on US-Malaysian relations (for which I delivered a keynote presentation), the US President is very keen to re-engage with Malaysia, and looks forward to a productive and meaningful relationship.

High on my agenda also were trade and investment. I met business leaders, and addressed executives attending the “Trade and Investment Summit: Investment Opportunities” (hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce). I invited greater US investment in sectors such as renewable energy and green technology (two targeted growth areas), and urged Malaysian companies to further collaborate with their US counterparts.

The message received from the American private sector was positive: they wish to increase their investments in Malaysia, particularly in those areas providing high-value jobs for Malaysians.

Later in the week, I returned to a city I last visited late in November 2009: New York. Delivering a talk at the Asia Society, I spoke of my determination to push through both the New Economic Model and the 1Malaysia initiative.

I left the Big Apple to commence my third and final working visit, to a strategic partner and an old friend: Japan. In Tokyo, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and I agreed to enhance our bilateral relationship towards a new frontier. New commitments included strengthening cooperation in environment and energy under a “Japan-Malaysia Cooperation Initiative for Environment and Energy” (I later visited JFE Recycling Plant to learn more about green technology); establishing a Malaysia-Japan University; and enhancing cooperation for promoting the Middle East peace process.

Meeting Japan’s business community, I expressed hope that they would invest in Malaysia, and outlined a number of measures that we were taking to demonstrate our pro-business stance.  Indeed, upon accepting an honorary doctorate from Meiji University, I stressed that Japan can play a pivotal role in our transformation to an innovation economy.

Throughout these trips, I remained steadfast and clear on one message: that Malaysia is ready for a transformation in its economy and its growth as a nation. Make no mistake, while we stay true to our values as Malaysians, we must also be prepared to shoulder greater responsibilities, not just to remain afloat in an increasingly challenging environment, but to excel in it. Your support as fellow Malaysians who desire a successful transformation is valuable to my administration and I as we continue such efforts for the betterment of our people.

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