The relationship between New Zealand and Malaysia will be elevated to a Strategic Partnership, Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta has announced.
The Minister said the reclassification would open up opportunities for greater co-operation and connections between the two nations in areas like regional security and economic development.
Ms Mahuta met her Malaysian counterpart, Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, during a visit to Kuala Lumpur to mark 65 years of formal diplomatic relations on Monday.
“There is now greater opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand and Malaysia to reconnect in person following the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to explore new areas of co-operation,” Minister Mahuta said.
“For 65 years we have built strong and rewarding connections through our significant trading partnerships, thousands of students who have studied in each other’s countries, and our defence ties. There is a proud legacy of many distinguished Malaysian alumni who created lasting professional and personal networks after studying in New Zealand.
“Today I joined Foreign Minister Saifuddin to signal a step-up in our engagement through a Strategic Partnership. Officials from both countries will now develop the detail of the Strategic Partnership document.
“It will prioritise high-level engagements and greater collaboration,” she said.
Key elements will include:
- regular annual exchanges at Ministerial level, to enhance bilateral co-operation and engagement on regional and global issues,
- arrangements to co-operate more closely to counter terrorism and transnational crime;
- strengthening indigenous and cultural connections; and
- ongoing reviews of free trade agreements to ensure they remain relevant and maximise economic opportunities.
The Minister said a Strategic Partnership with Malaysia will complement other formal partnerships Aotearoa has in the region, including those with ASEAN, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Singapore.
“Malaysia is New Zealand’s fourth largest dairy market worldwide, our eleventh largest trading partner and New Zealand’s third largest in ASEAN. We share four free-trade agreements.”
“The announcement highlights a significant milestone for both countries, coming on the 55th anniversary of ASEAN Day, when Malaysia joined four other regional leaders to found the Association of South East Asian Nations in 1967. New Zealand was the second nation to join ASEAN as a Dialogue Partner, in 1975.
“It is a fitting commemoration of the strength of regional partnerships in the Indo-Pacific. It underscores the importance we place on ASEAN’s centrality in the region and the support Malaysia provides for New Zealand’s engagement with ASEAN,” said Ms Mahuta.
While in Malaysia, the Minister is also meeting the Rural Development Minister, speaking at a Malaysia-New Zealand Business Council breakfast and the Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, visiting Fonterra’s operations, and meeting Orang Asli youth leaders at an event to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.