Strategic competition between the United States and China has intensified in recent years, and has seen Europe working closer with the former particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine. The trend towards economic decoupling, with the United States and its allies seeking to secure and diversify their supply chains away from China, has opened up new opportunities for countries in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has several advantages, in terms of its longstanding relations with these countries and their Multinational Corporations (MNCs), relatively developed and efficient infrastructure, and an educated workforce. However, political instability and an uncertain policy environment in the country give MNCs some cause for concern, particularly given the significant competition from Malaysia’s regional peers, namely Vietnam and Indonesia.
Hosted by the Malaysia Programme at RSIS, the webinar titled “Rising US-China Competition: Economic Implications for Malaysia” featured Dr Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and former Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) of Malaysia; and Dr Tham Siew Yean (Professor Emeritus at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute) as the discussants.
Dr Ong traced Malaysia’s foreign policy engagements from former prime ministers Najib Razak, Mahathir Mohammad, to current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. He noted that the latter is expected to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, after having ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in January 2022. He tracked the recent trends in Malaysia’s external trade and investment relations, and elaborated on Malaysia’s free trade agreement strategies from 2018.
Dr Tham focused on Malaysia’s economic relations with China, the United States, and the European Union. She iterated Malaysia’s general openness to trade and investments across administrations, noting specifically the net flow of Foreign Direct Investments into Malaysia in 2021. The session continued with a discussion and a question-and-answer session, moderated by the Malaysia Programme.
The seminar can be viewed on RSIS’s YouTube channel.