|| Ranking Member Eni Faleomavaega of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific announced today that he visited Malaysia from April 4-11, 2012 where he met with Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Razak, other government officials and NGOs. Faleomavaega shares his thoughts in the following op-ed about U.S.-Malaysia relations.
In Samoan, we have a saying – Ou te le to’ai fa’a i’a a po – which means I do not come secretly like a fish in the night, but I am here to meet you all, to converse with you, to tell you my wishes.
My wishes for the good people of Malaysia are simple. My wish is that the United States and Malaysia will keep up what we have and expand our partnership in a way that transforms us. Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Razak said it like this. He said, “As the most ethnically diverse people in the region, Malaysians have always embraced outsiders and, while we may not see eye to eye on every issue or approve of everything each other says or does, as long as I am Prime Minister you will always be welcome in our country.”
As a Member of the U.S. Congress and in my official capacity as the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I say the same to the people of Malaysia. You will always be welcome in the U.S., and I thank you for welcoming back young Americans to serve as volunteers.
After a 30-year lapse, I applaud President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Najib for their leadership in fostering closer relations by reviving the spirit of the Peace Corps program through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program. Prime Minister Najib requested U.S. support for English-language education in Malaysia, and President Obama responded by providing Fulbright volunteers who will assist Malaysia’s next generation with the critical English-language skills necessary to succeed in our globalized economy.
The United States and Malaysia have a long history of people-to-people exchanges. Over 100,000 Malaysians have studied in the United States. More than 1,500 Malaysians are alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Together, we are making lasting memories and promoting mutual understanding and respect.
Since 2009, the U.S.-Malaysia relationship has become stronger than it has ever been. The United States is Malaysia’s fourth-largest trading partner and Malaysia is the 22nd largest trading partner of the United States. Two-way trade between our nations amounts to about $40 billion annually. On a cumulative basis, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Malaysia.
In 2010, Malaysia joined negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement (FTA). The TPP is a proposed regional free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. If implemented, it would be the second largest U.S. free trade agreement after NAFTA, based on trade flows. We also cooperate closely on security.
Since taking office, President Obama has stressed the need for a renewed focus on the Asia and the Pacific. The Asia Pacific region has become a key driver of global politics. No region of the world is more dynamic than Asia. The Asia Pacific region has seven of the ten largest armies in the world. As Senator Inouye said years ago, “for every 747 that flies across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, four 747s fly between the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region.”
The Asia Pacific region is home to more than 60% of the world’s population and more than half of the global GDP. The United States is the largest TPP market in GDP and population. In merchandise trade, the United States imports more from Malaysia than any other TPP country.
No doubt the U.S. needs to renew its engagement with the region, and I am pleased that we are doing this in Malaysia. During my visit to Malaysia, I had the opportunity to observe your political process. I met with you on the streets and in your shops. I had breakfast at a Chinese-owned shop that has been run by the same family for more than three generations. I ate your ethnic foods. I saw you at Pasar Batu Bahat.
I attended a rally where more than 70,000 of you gathered, and it was my privilege to meet with PM Najib during my visit. What I saw in PM Najib’s character and demeanor is a leader who is committed to the establishment of peace and prosperity for the people of Malaysia. It was also clear to me that, like President Obama, PM Najib wants to establish a closer relationship between our two countries.
I commend both leaders and, as you move forward with your elections, it is my wish that you will remember that Malaysia is an independent and sovereign nation. As such, you should never surrender to any type of foreign interference in your elections, whether it be from another government, an ally or even non-government organizations (NGOs).
Malaysia has a bright future if you hold together. My wish is that you will hold together as one Malaysia, and that we will remain partners and friends for years to come.