Canada – Malaysia Relations

Canada and Malaysia have a long history of close and friendly bilateral relations, reinforced by an increasingly sophisticated range of political, economic, trade, and social cooperation.

Canada was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the newly-independent Federation of Malaya in 1957, and was represented at the celebrations marking the formation of Malaysia in 1963. In Malaysia, Canada is represented by the High Commission of Canada in Kuala Lumpur, and by a consulate headed by an honorary consul in Penang. Malaysia is represented in Canada by a High Commission in Ottawa, a trade office in Toronto and a consulate in Vancouver.

The bilateral relationship has been strengthened by recent high level visits such as that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper who visited Kuala Lumpur in October 2013. He was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Parliamentary Secretaries Deepak Obhrai and Andrew Saxton, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, and a delegation of Canadian business executives. Governor General David Johnston also visited Malaysia in his first State Visit abroad in November 2011, marking also the first visit by a Canadian Governor General to Malaysia. Previously, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast had visited Malaysia in February 2012. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia visited Canada in September 2010.

Education and tourism play important roles in promoting people-to-people ties. A number of Canadian universities maintain exchange and study programs with Malaysia. It is estimated that more than 80,000 Malaysians have studied in Canada since the 1950s. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, in 2013, there were 1,520 Malaysian students studying in Canada. Some 89,000 Canadians visited Malaysia in 2013, and, in the 2006 census, just over 12,000 Canadians claimed Malaysian origins while an estimated 3,000-4,000 Canadians live in Malaysia.

Canada engages Malaysia on issues related to the promotion of good governance and human rights, both bilaterally and in multilateral organizations. In addition, Canada, through its High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and the Office of Religious Freedom, engages with a diverse range of actors and groups within Malaysia to promote pluralism and freedom of religion and belief.

Canada and Malaysia enjoy an expanding defence and security relationship, highlighted by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on security cooperation in October 2013. Canada is providing ongoing support for capacity-building initiatives related to counter-terrorism, anti-crime, security and defence. Through these programs, Canada has trained nearly 1000 Malaysian first responders to safely respond to terrorist attacks and has contributed equipment to Malaysian security partners, including two rigid hull fender boats which were delivered to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in June, 2014.

Since 1977, Canada has been a formal Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Malaysia will chair in 2015. The relationship between the two countries is further fostered through cooperation in other international organisations such as the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Canada and Malaysia are both participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations.

Malaysia was Canada’s third largest bilateral merchandise trading partner in the ASEAN region in 2013, with bilateral trade reaching approximately $3.0 billion. Canadian merchandise exports to Malaysia were valued at nearly $780 million. Top Canadian exports included fertilizers, electrical equipment and machinery, machinery and oilseeds (soybeans and canola). Canada primarily imports electrical machinery and equipment, machinery, precision and technical instruments and rubber and related products.

According to Statistics Canada, stocks of Canadian direct investment in Malaysia reached $569 million in 2013, while Malaysia had $1 million in Canada for the same year. However, due to data limitations these numbers fail to capture the full scope of the bilateral investment relationship. For example, PETRONAS’ 2012 acquisition of British Columbia’s Progress Energy and of Talisman Energy’s natural gas assets later in 2013 totaled $7 billion alone. During Prime Minister Harper’s 2013 visit to Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib announced PETRONAS’ intention to build a liquefied natural gas plant and pipeline in British Columbia, expanding the firm’s investment in the province to over $36 billion over the next 30 years.

Canadian companies have invested in Malaysia’s oil and gas, financial services, consumer goods, transportation and manufacturing sectors, among others. Canadian companies in Malaysia employ thousands of Malaysians.

November 2014


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