When it comes to bilateral relations, few countries share a bond as long-standing and exceptional relations as the one between the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. The tryst that was marked by the UAE establishing its embassy in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur in October 1995, has been nurtured and elevated to a strategic partnership from 27 September 2022.
“One of the greatest factors contributing to the strong relationship between both countries is due to the great bond and friendship between His Majesty, the King of Malaysia and His Highness, the President of the UAE,” shared Datuk Seri Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin – the Malaysian Ambassador to the UAE. “Both leaders began their friendship as cadet officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1978 and have maintained it ever since. Today, Malaysia and the UAE celebrate 48 years of friendship and cooperation on many fronts, including shared values and joint economic ventures, as well people-to-people ties.”
High-Level Diplomatic Visits
The recent few years have witnessed a growth of high-level visits between both countries, including the special visit from His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Malaysia, from 22nd May, 2023 to 24th May, 2023. It was the first country he visited upon being appointed the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. During the visit, Sheikh Khaled attended the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, besides several other important meetings.
Future visits for both countries have already been marked on the calendar. The Malaysian Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry will be making a working visit to Abu Dhabi in October 2023. The Prime Minister of Malaysia is also scheduled to spearhead the Malaysian delegation at the upcoming COP28 summit in Dubai.
Bilateral Trade Boosts
Malaysia and the UAE have enjoyed a robust and vibrant economic and trade relations, which have grown by leaps and bounds over the past three decades. Indeed, Malaysia and the UAE recorded the highest bilateral trade thus far, of USD 8.79 billion in 2022. According to the Ambassador, “As Malaysia’s leading trade and investment partner in the West Asia region, Malaysia is keen to enhance collaborative efforts for the bilateral trade and investment to a more strategic level particularly through expansion of green investment collaborations between our two countries.”
He goes on to add, “As the host of the upcoming COP28, I must say that the UAE has truly emerged as a global hub for innovation and technological advancement, with a special focus on key areas like clean energy, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing. Acknowledging the UAE’s global standing in environment, social and governance (ESG), I am of the view that renewable energy could be one of the sectors that both countries could establish for mutual growth and long-term economic sustainability. As such, I do hope that Malaysia and the UAE will establish strategic partnerships in several mutual sectors that could greatly contribute to the progress of trade and investment relations between our two countries.”
In the previous year, UAE was Malaysia’s second-largest trading partner, export destination and import source. Malaysia’s total trade with the UAE increased by 73.5% to RM 38.73 billion (USD 8.79 billion) in comparison to RM 22.33 billion (USD 5.39 billion) for the 2021 financial year.
The main products of trade between both nations include petroleum products, jewellery, electronics, gold, and palm oil – which is rapidly becoming a highly-desired commodity across the world,” said Mr Shamsuddin.
In 2022, Malaysia’s total imports from the UAE increased by 93.5% to RM22.66 billion (USD 5.14 billion). This sudden jump can be credited to the increase in crude oil imports from the country.
Opportunities Offered by Malaysia
As Malaysia continues opening its doors to the world, it has implemented several programmes to attract foreigners to its diverse and culturally rich country.
MM2H, also known as ‘Malaysia My Second Home’, is a diamond programme that allows foreigners to retire and live in Malaysia. “Our country is one of the top 20 countries to retire in,” stated Mr Shamsuddin. This is why, this programme has been attracting many foreigners from the South and East Asia countries, gradually capturing the attention of other nations as well.
The programme offers expats a long-term pass in Malaysia, with a 5-year long renewable visa. Open to citizens of all countries, the visa poses an extensive criteria list for applicants, offering life in a good, clean environment coupled with all the modern facilities one may require for daily living.
Along with residency, Malaysia is offering commercial opportunities to expats as well, with the assistance of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). A “one-stop agency” according to Mr Shamsuddin, MIDA offers investors and businesspeople a hassle-free gateway into the Malaysian economy, especially into the manufacturing and services industries. With one of its branches being located in Dubai, MIDA offers exciting opportunities for Emiratis wishing to expand their horizons in the Southeast Asian market.
To date, the total accumulated investments from Malaysia in the UAE amount to approximately USD 1 billion. Major Malaysian players in the UAE include organizations such as TNB, UEM, Eversendai Corporation, PETRONAS Lubricants, Shing Yang Shopping, and Marrybrown.
Key investments by the UAE in Malaysia include Mubadala Energy, Lulu Hypermarket, along with Medini Development and Landmark Group. A concession agreement between Petronas and ADNOC was signed on 5 December 2020 to develop the Unconventional Onshore Block UC01 in the Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi and is expected to boost energy cooperation between Malaysia and the UAE.
Malaysia and the UAE agreed to launch negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The joint ministerial statement was signed between the two trade Ministers in May 2023 on the occasion of His Highness’s Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi’s Visit to Malaysia.
Both countries continue to work closely under strategic partnership and collaboration in various sectors such as renewable energy, petrochemical and chemical industries, aerospace, electrical and electronics (E&E), pharmaceuticals, digital economy, food security and agriculture, transportation and tourism.
“It is evident that the strong bond between both countries will only continue to grow in the future,” said Mr Shamsuddin. “Business relations, people-to-people relations and investment opportunities will rapidly expand.”
Having just celebrated Malaysia Day on 16th September, the country looks forward to a year of growth, global cooperation and continued friendship with the UAE in the years to come.