Policy & History

The United States established diplomatic relations with Malaysia in 1957, following its independence from the United Kingdom but has had a consular or commercial presence in the area comprising modern day Malaysia since the 1800’s. President Obama and Prime Minister Najib elevated the relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership in April 2014. Today, Malaysia is a significant regional and global partner for the United States, and the two countries share a diverse and expanding partnership in trade, investment, and educational and cultural relations. Economic ties are robust, and there is a long history of people-to-people exchanges. Malaysia has a diverse democracy and is an important partner in U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia. The two countries cooperate closely on security matters, including counter-terrorism, maritime domain awareness, and regional stability and participates frequently in bilateral and multilateral training, exercises, and visits.

U.S. Assistance to Malaysia

U.S. assistance to Malaysia focuses on education, exchanges, cultural heritage preservation, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, and security cooperation. The U.S. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Malaysia is among the largest in the world, helping improve the English language skills of thousands of Malaysian secondary school students. Exchange programs promote engagement with secondary school and undergraduate students, Fulbright Scholars, agricultural fellows, and participants of sports and cultural programs. The U.S. also supports International Visitor Leadership programs. In 2014 President Obama announced additional exchange programs, grant opportunities and felllowships for youth ages 18 – 35 under the Young Southeast Asian Young Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). There are over 6,000 alumni of Department of State-sponsored exchange programs in Malaysia. Since 2001, the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) has supported 10 projects to support the preservation of cultural heritage in Malaysia. Counter-terrorism assistance builds capacity within Malaysian law enforcement and judicial entities responsible for combating terrorism, and includes improving Malaysia’s ability to monitor and secure its borders. Non-proliferation assistance aims at enhancing Malaysia’s ability to enforce its laws on shipments and trans-shipments of controlled munitions, dual-use commodities, and weapons of mass destruction and related commodities. Security cooperation and training builds capabilities among Malaysia’s armed forces and coast guard, allowing it to take on an expanded international role, including peacekeeping operations and its recently concluded participation in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan.

Malaysia’s Membership in International Organizations

Malaysia and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Malaysia and the United States participate in the East Asia Summit.