Mercredi 21 Août 2019  

N°114 - Deuxième trimestre 2016

La lettre diplometque
  Une présence française en constante progression
  Les relations interparlementaires, moteur des liens franco-malaisiens
  « Un partenaire privilégié de la France au sein de l’ASEAN »
  Le GIFAS crée un réseau SEAFAN pour l’archipel malaisien
  Une coopération stratégique d’armement
  DCNS : un partenariat de long terme avec la Malaisie
  Des synergies économiques franco-malaisiennes diversifiées
  Une destination privilégiée pour les investissements
  Malaisie, la belle inconnue de l’ASEAN
  L’émergence irrésistible de l’économie malaisienne
  Cyberjaya : ville malaisienne du futur
  La Malaisie défend son huile de palme
  Soutenir la vocation de l’UNESCO à favoriser la paix et le développement
  Pour un développement des affinités et du bonheur durables...
  L’Alliance Française de Kuala Lumpur, vecteur de la culture française en Malaisie
  Histoire et archéologie au cœur de la recherche au sein de l’EFEO à Kuala Lumpur
Organisations Internationales
Coopération Internationale
Enjeux Économiques
La lettre diplometque
La lettre diplomatique Haut
  S.E. / H.E. Dato’ Ibrahim Abdullah

Balance: the Key to the Success of the Malaysian Model

Interview with H.E. Dato’ Ibrahim Abdullah,
the Ambassador of Malaysia to France

As it gears up to commemorate its 60th anniversary of independence, Malaysia has become a key country in Southeast Asia. It has built the region’s third largest economy and taken on an active role in the ASEAN integration process, serving as the community’s chairman in 2015. It is a model for forging social cohesion, has acquired strong technological know-how, and is working hard to build a knowledge-based economy. The Ambassador of Malaysia to France, H.E. Dato’ Ibrahim Abdullah, sketches the broad lines of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak’s economic strategy and describes Kuala Lumpur’s unique role on the regional stage and its ever closer ties with France.

The Diplomatic Letter:  Mister Ambassador, Malaysia will be celebrating in 2017 the 60th anniversary of its independence. It has become the 3rd largest economy in Southeast Asia. Which factors in your view explain the success of Malaysia’s development model?

H.E. Dato’ Ibrahim Abdullah: As you would already know, Malaysia is about to realise its Vision 2020 i.e. to be a developed nation and it is now within the last leg of this journey. With less than 4 years to go, Malaysia is intensifying its efforts to ensure that all its fundamentals remain strong as well as all the various transformation programmes are implemented fully. It is my opinion that the success of Malaysia’s development model lies in the Government being pragmatic and identifying its priorities well since Independence in 1957.
Malaysia has always prioritised its economic development ensuring a balanced approach so that everyone will have access to equal opportunities. Malaysia also believes it is an integral necessity for it to maintain a vibrant pluralistic society as diversity gives strength and character to its make-up. Moderation is therefore a key factor to ensure peace and harmony prevails in this environment. Without these two key factors, stability and security will be a forgone reality.
Last but not least, Malaysia continues to invest heavily into its human capital and resources i.e. through education utilising innovation and technology. This is, I believe, a crucial element in ensuring the success of Malaysia all this time. As such, the Prime Minister when he announced the budget for 2016 last year had apportioned almost 20% for education. With education, the people of Malaysia will not just live and work together with tolerance, but with respect and understanding of each other, the bedrock of any successful nation.

T.D.L.: Appointed on 3rd April 2009, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak has initiated the ‘New Economic Model’. What are its objectives? Which measures does it provide for to give concrete expression to the national unity promoted by his ‘1 Malaysia’ concept? How do you analyse the assets of Malaysia’s multicultural diversity?

H.E.D.I.A.: The New Economic Model (NEM) presents an overall framework for transforming Malaysia from a high middle-income to a high-income nation by 2020. The objective of the NEM is for Malaysia to be a developed and competitive economy, whose people enjoy a high quality of life and a high level of income resulting from growth that is both inclusive and sustainable.
With respect to high income,we have set a target of US$15,000 gross national income (GNI) per capita to be achieved by 2020. Based on our progress to date, we have nearly crossed the US$9,000 level, and if we remain on track, we will be able to reach the target by 2020.
Another focus for the NEM was to ensure the economy is resilient through the effective management of government finances. We realized that, during any economic crisis, there was a need for the government to pump money in order to prime the economy, which resulted in a much higher deficit which was 6.7% of GDP in 2009. Such deficits are unsustainable, whereupon the government embarked on a fiscal consolidation programme. We are now working towards achieving a balanced budget by 2020. We have consistently reduced the deficit over time. Last year we had targeted a reduction in fiscal deficit from 3.2% to 3.1%. As part of managing government finances, one of the key measures to broaden our revenue base is the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2015. The introduction of the GST also meant that we have substantially reduced our dependency on oil-based revenue from 40.3% to total revenue in 2009 to 20.9% in 2015.
The NEM also promoted national unity by its “1Malaysia” concept through the National Transformation Programme (NTP). The NTP delivers initiatives in sustainable and inclusive ways to ensure nobody is left behind in the country’s pursuit towards high-income status. This is a very important tenet for a pluralistic society like Malaysia. As I had alluded in the previous question, Malaysia’s true success lies in how we manage to live in peace and harmony with the myriad and diverse societies living in one melting pot. We have been a shining beacon for many countries vulnerable to civil strife, conflicts and failed governance. The key to success for Malaysia is that we have made it a point to strive for balance and ensure the middle income group is significant.

T.D.L.: Aiming to transform Malaysia into a developed economy by 2020, the 11th five-year plan has just started being implemented with the adoption of the budget 2016. In view of the slowdown in growth, what measures are planned to spur the increase in the population’s standards of living? How is the pro-innovation policy structured? Following the example of biotechnologies, which sectors do you think are likely to accelerate the transformation of Malaysia into a knowledge economy?

H.E.D.I.A.: As Malaysia is a very open economy, it is not immune from the impact of volatility in the external environment, including a global slowdown in growth. Malaysia has also successfully eradicated absolute poverty (the poverty rate was 0.6% in 2014), so the Government is now focusing on the well-being of households of the bottom 40% of the income group (B40).  
The initiatives under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, 2016-2020 (11MP) to elevate the livelihood of the B40 households are as follows:
1) Raising the income and wealth of the B40 households by:
- reducing school dropouts;
- enhancing accessibility to higher education and skills training;
- increasing productivity through adoption of modern technology;
- enhancing adoption of information and communications technology;
- enhancing integrated entrepreneurship support;
- developing community- and social-based enterprises;
- incentivising investment in majority B40 households areas; and
- increasing wealth ownership through investment programmes.
2) Addressing increasing cost of living by:
- strengthening the monitoring and enforcement of price control regulations;
- increasing the provision of affordable housing;
- increasing access to healthcare services;
- introducing an integrated and comprehensive social safety net; and
- enhancing financial and debt management programmes.
3) Enhancing delivery system in B40 programmes by:
- strengthening support to B40 households; and
- complementing the Poverty Line Income (PLI) measurement with the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
Under the 11MP, efforts will also be accelerated to achieve universal access to quality healthcare by targeting underserved areas as well as improving health system delivery to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Access to quality affordable housing will be further enhanced by expanding and strengthening existing programmes. Housing support will be maintained for the poor, low and middle-income households, including youths and young married couples.
 At the same time, a comprehensive and sustainable social protection system will be established to protect the needs of the vulnerable.

T.D.L.: Malaysia is looking forward to building a knowledge economy. How is the pro-innovation policy structured? Following the example of biotechnologies, which sectors do you think are likely to accelerate the transformation of your country?

H.E.D.I.A.: As to pro-innovation, the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), which was formulated in 2013, charts the direction to guide the implementation of STI in creating a scientifically advanced nation for socio-economic transformation and inclusive growth.
In the 11MP, innovation has been identified as one of the game changers to drive the economic growth towards a developed economy by 2020, focusing on both economic and social aspects.  Several measures have been outlined in the 11MP to enhance the national  innovation ecosystem by strengthening  relational  capital  to  foster  stronger  linkages,  collaboration  and  trust  among stakeholders.
One of the important measures is to improve collaboration between the industries and researchers as well as academicians in promoting the use of technology in companies. Research & development (R&D) output generated from this collaboration will assist the industries to produce more innovative products, improve processes, technologies, enhance the value chain and solve the industries’ problem whilst it encourages more demand-driven research.
In terms of the STI governance structure, the Government has set up the National Science Council in 2015, a single council to oversee all STI-related matters and set the direction for STI development. With the establishment of a research management agency in the future, it will act as an operational arm to manage all research, development, commercialisation and innovation (R&D&C&I) initiatives to ensure higher return on investment and optimisation of resources.
In terms of financial assistance, the Government is also providing funds in the form of grants and soft loans to related ministries, agencies, research institutes, institutions of higher learning and companies, including small medium enterprises, to promote R&D&C&I activities from basic R&D to the commercialisation stage. Besides the private financial institutions, access to financing will be strengthened through venture capitalists and investors to widen the financial options, reduce dependency on Government resources and increase the financing of R&D&C&I projects.
On the transformation of Malaysia into a knowledge economy, some of the industries being promoted under the 11MP are as follows:
- Modern services:  Islamic finance, information and communication technology (ICT), oil and gas, private healthcare, private higher education, ecotourism, professional services and halal industry.
- Complex and diverse: electrical & electronics manufactured products, machinery & equipment , chemicals, aerospace and medical devices.
- Agrofood industries
Realising the potential of these sectors in transforming the country into a knowledge-based economy, intervention programs will be carried out in the 11MP to accelerate process and product innovation at the SME scale to increase productivity and competitiveness. It is imperative that a conducive environment is in place for domestic firms to move up the knowledge value chain and translate the knowledge into economic wealth.
The 11MP emphasises on driving the knowledge economy by focusing on highly skilled and capable workforce while utilising technology and ICT to drive innovation, creativity and productivity. It is important to equip the workforce with specialised skills to facilitate growth in the various sectors, while inculcating innovation as a culture. This will ensure the nation not only benefits from but also contributes to global advancements. These strategies will give Malaysia a competitive edge in the global landscape through increased innovation and productivity, while catalysing the achievement of an advanced economy and inclusive nation.

T.D.L.: Ranking 18th in the World Bank Doing Business index, your country has seen foreign direct investment triple over a decade. Could you specify the main lines of your country’s attractiveness strategy and the investment incentive mechanisms? Conversely, what types of investment are given priority to by the Khazanah sovereign fund with a view to developing Malaysia’s involvement in the world economy? In this regard, how does Malaysia perceive the assets of the French market?

H.E.D.I.A.: Malaysia through the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), the Government’s principal agency for the promotion of manufacturing & services sectors has adopted a more focused and targeted approach in attracting quality investments.MIDA adopts an ecosystem approach whereby concerted efforts have been put in place to promote the entire value chain of industry clusters and enhance delivery enablers to support the value chain. The aim is to generate higher economic returns and growth for the country, creating a lasting impact on the economy which would lead to a more attractive business environment.
To illustrate how this works, I can relate it to how Malaysia engages with French companies at the moment i.e. by identifying new growth areas within the emerging technologies, high technology, capital intensive, high value-added, knowledge-based, skills-intensive, export-oriented sectors, which among others, provide high income jobs for Malaysians, before making an incentive-rich offer. Once identified, French companies that are interested can use Malaysia as a base for conducting their regional and global operations to manage, control, and support their key functions. The Principal Hub scheme is intended to complement and strengthen the country’s position as a preferred regional investment destination as well as cater to the increasing trend of global off-shoring activities by encouraging foreign companies to leverage on Malaysia’s position in the ASEAN and Asia Pacific regions. This scheme will also support Malaysia’s continuous growth in the services sector as well as positioning Malaysia as part of the global integrated supply chain with the assistance of French companies.
On the types of investments Khazanah is prioritising today, the focus will be on investments that are innovative and high technology based, transport management services, communications, banking, construction, energy and health sectors. I believe it is also increasingly looking internationally as the returns are much higher. Overall, Khazanah’s investments, which include legacy assets, have given it a return of 10.7% in 2015 whereas its international investments have given it about 18% per annum.

T.D.L.: Following the example of the development of the Vision Valley project or the future Kuala-Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail, important projects to develop infrastructures are maintained in spite of the public spending restrictions provided for by Budget 2016. How will these projects allow to increase the dynamism of Malaysia’s economy? Which of these projects do you consider are the most representative of the role which your country aspires to play as a gateway to Southeast Asia?

H.E.D.I.A.: Infrastructure projects will continue to be important to support the dynamism of Malaysia’s economy.  Infrastructure projects, especially in the transportation sector such as rail-based transport and road networks contribute to economic growth, both during and post construction. Due to the nature of these projects that require huge capital investment and utilization of raw materials which are mostly locally produced, they are able to contribute to growth. Once completed, these infrastructures can better facilitate movements of peoples and goods, thus increasing productivity and efficiency of the workforce. These projects include the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 1 and Line 2, the extension of Light Rapid Transit (LRT) and the heavy rail track improvements in the Klang Valley.
Spending restrictions in 2016 will not have a big impact on the plan to continue our infrastructure development. Infrastructure project financing does not solely depend on government budget. Other sources of financing, such as through public-private partnerships especially for highway projects, are very pertinent in Malaysia. Additionally, mega projects are also financed through issuance of government-backed Sukuk (Islamic bonds).
Malaysia’s aspiration to be a gateway to Southeast Asia is translated into the development of our airports, namely Kuala Lumpur International Airport 1 (KLIA 1) and the recently completed KLIA 2. It is the country’s hope that the construction of the high speed rail from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore will further promote this role, supported by the operationalization of the double tracking rail network from Padang Besar town, bordering Thailand in the north, down to Johor Bahru City in the south, towards the end of the 11MP period.

T.D.L.: The incident that occurred in March 2016 about the alleged presence of Chinese vessels in the Luconia Reefs claimed by your country has again highlighted the border tensions in the South China Sea. In your opinion, which initiatives could further ease these tensions? While China’s investments in Malaysia are already significant and are expected to become perpetuated following the announcements made by Prime Minister Li Keqiang in November 2015, how is the dialogue between the two countries structured?

H.E.D.I.A.: Malaysia-China bilateral relations have been described as their best in history. They have been elevated from “Strategic Cooperation” to a “Strategic Comprehensive Partnership” during the Official Visit of President Xi Jinping to Malaysia in 2013. In 2014, Malaysia and China celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations. YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia undertook an official visit to China from 28 May – 1 June 2014 to commemorate this celebration. The momentum of the close relations between both leaders continued with the attendance of Premier Li Keqiang during 27th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Kuala Lumpur and his Official Visit to Malaysia on 23 November 2015. During this official visit, both leaders witnessed the signing of eight Memorandum of Understandings between the two governments and a joint statement was issued.
On the other hand, economic and trade relations between Malaysia and China have grown from strength to strength, contributed by healthy and close political and business exchanges at the highest level. China was Malaysia’s largest trading partner in 2015, a position maintained since 2009. Trade with China accounted for 15.8% of Malaysia’s total trade in 2015, amounting to US$59.12 billion (RM230.89 billion), an increase of 11.1% (in Ringgit terms) from 2014. China was also Malaysia’s largest source of imports at RM129.36 billion (US$33.14 billion), an increase of 12.0%, and second largest export destination with exports valued at RM101.53 billion (US$25.98 billion), an increase of 10.0% from 2014.
Malaysia hopes that both sides would refrain from taking measures that may hinder trade. The role of the Government authorities should be to facilitate and not to create unnecessary barriers to trade.
The maturity of the bilateral relations has seen dialogue at various levels between Malaysia and China. Both sides have always underscored the importance of peace and stability in the region. As such, any issue that may arise in the South China Sea will be brought for discussions and negotiations at the various levels from ministerial to officials. This serves as a platform for continuous dialogue despite the challenges and differences.

T.D.L.: Under the aegis of the Malaysian chairmanship, the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community on 31 December 2015 has set a milestone in the regional integration process. What was the role played by your country in the implementation of this project? Following the example of the joint declaration on climate, what were the other achievements of its chairmanship?

H.E.D.I.A.: In short, the answer is that all ASEAN Member States (AMS) had an equal stake in bringing about the establishment of an ASEAN Community at the end of 2015. The work towards an ASEAN Community began when the seed was first planted in Bali during the 9th ASEAN Summit in 2003 with the Bali Concord II Declaration.
It has been a long and arduous process, spanning more than a decade, ensuring that all three blueprints of the community pillars namely the Political and Security, Economic and Socio-Cultural elements were fully implemented. As AMS are made up from a very diverse group, with different histories, background, legal and financial systems, it was a momentous task. As such, even after the establishment of the Community last year, it is still work in progress. The ASEAN Leaders have signed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, where it charts the next decade of ASEAN priorities through its three blueprints ensuring that ASEAN maintains its relevance both regionally and globally.
Among the notable successes of Malaysia’s Chairmanship was honouring ASEAN’s individuals and organisations for their community-building efforts at the inaugural ASEAN People’s Awards. Malaysia had also hosted the 1ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit, a week-long assembly of 15,000 young entrepreneurs from all over ASEAN. The launching of the GOASEAN TV, a new English-language, ASEAN-focused travel channel that will serve as a platform for AMS to jointly promote tourism in ASEAN - both to the world and to each other.
The establishment of an ASEAN Micro and SME Growth Accelerator Exchange for SME finance is a practical as well as tangible example of ASEAN making a real difference to the hard-working companies which are the backbone of its economies. The ASEAN Leaders signed the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children which goes to show how important are its women and children in the region. These are only a few of Malaysia’s successes during its Chairmanship in 2015.

T.D.L.: What should be, in your opinion, the next steps in the deepening of the relations among member states both at the economic and cultural level?

H.E.D.I.A.: I am of the view that AMS could work towards having special lanes for ASEAN citizens at every international port, road and airport. This will have a direct impact on the people when they travel within ASEAN. There should also be banners celebrating ASEAN food in cafes, warongs, food courts , supermarkets and all relevant meeting points. This will increase the visibility and raise awareness of the Association.
I wish to also echo my Prime Minister’s call that there is a need to prioritise the launch of the ASEAN Business Travel Card as well as strengthen ASEAN’s internship programmes. As the name suggests, a business travel card will facilitate travel among investors in the region and accelerate ASEAN connectivity. Currently, most business travellers may only obtain a two to four-week temporary visa when travelling to other countries in ASEAN. ASEAN festivals and cross-cultural ties must also be promoted.
The governments of ASEAN should ensure that no student leaves school without having been first taught about ASEAN’s history and its impact on the region. Instilling greater awareness at an early age will ensure the future generations of ASEAN to appreciate and understand the benefits of being in ASEAN.  
Other areas in which AMS need to work towards are the harmonisation of domestic laws so that the implementation of an ASEAN single market and production base can be realised. There is a need to ensure the free movement of goods, services, skilled labour, capital and investments. However, at present, there are still significant non-tariff barriers among AMS that affect the daily life and employment opportunities across AMS. Lastly, I believe ASEAN should act to find solutions to environmental problems such as the haze, natural disasters including floods and earthquakes, and crises of migration.
Internationally, ASEAN needs to act cohesively in a way that makes it plain that together we are far stronger than as individual nations, and that others around the world recognise and respect our rise and what we have achieved so far. That includes maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea. We stress the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We call on all parties to exercise self-restraint, and avoid actions that would complicate or escalate tension. That is the ASEAN way.

T.D.L.: During the ASEAN Summit held in Kuala Lumpur from 18 to 22 November 2015, the relations between the Association and the United States were elevated to the rank of strategic partnership. Taking into account the unprecedented meeting held in Sunnylands in February 2016, how would you like to see the cooperation on strategic issues such as maritime safety and the fight against terrorism deepen? Beyond this, how do you view the tightening of links between the United States and your country since President Barack Obama made an official visit there in April 2014 ?

H.E.D.I.A.: The ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations have been progressing well since their establishment in 1977. In the early stages, priority was given to cooperation in commodities, market and capital access, transfer of technology, development of energy resources, shipping, and food security.
At present, ASEAN sees the US through completely a different lens due to the global political landscape that exists today.
Therefore, it is natural that the ASEAN-US Dialogue Relations were elevated to a strategic level during the 3rd ASEAN-U.S. Summit, which was held on 21 November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The strategic partnership features the way forward for ASEAN-U.S. relations over the next five years, spelling out a plan of action to deepen the relationship as well as identify priority areas for cooperation not just between the two sides, but also on regional, global and transnational issues. While ASEAN and the United States have already been working on several pressing matters in their consultations, – from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and human trafficking to climate change – the pact would provide both a structural foundation as well as a list of specific ways through which both sides can advance cooperation.
On the issue of maritime safety, ASEAN and the U.S. have been working closely particularly through the ASEAN Defence Ministerial Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) exercises, Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) framework and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings and exercises  focusing on seafarer training, education and sharing of experiences to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
As for countering terrorism, ASEAN and the U.S. are working together in co-hosting the ARF Workshop on First Response Support for Victims of Terrorism and Other Mass Casualty Events, ARF Workshop on Medium to Long-Term Support for Victims of Terrorism;  and ARF Workshop on Raising Awareness and Promoting Cooperation on Chemical, Bacteriological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation.
Bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United States have been further strengthened with the State Visit of President Barack Obama to Malaysia in April 2014, where both countries decided to elevate the bilateral ties to Comprehensive Partnership with key pillar of cooperation in the areas of political and diplomatic, trade and economics, education and people-to-people, defense and security, environment, science, technology and energy. Malaysia views this as a clear indication of the commitment of both countries to expand and deepen bilateral ties.
The United States is among Malaysia’s largest trading partners, ranking 3rd after China and ASEAN in 2015. Total bilateral trade in 2015 grew by 10.5% to US$33.03 billion with exports valued at US$18.85 billion and total imports valued at US$14.18 billion. On investments, the U.S. is the second largest foreign investor in Malaysia.
Malaysia looks forward to increasing the trade and investment relations with the U.S. through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Malaysia also looks forward to increasing people-to-people relations with the US through Malaysia’s participation in the Visa Waiver Programme. Both countries also cooperate in the field of security and defense, especially on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We are confident that the Malaysia-US bilateral ties would continue to further strengthen in the years ahead.

T.D.L.: While Daesh organization is seeking to increase its influence in Asia, the Malaysian Parliament adopted a new national security law in late 2015. Which approach is advocated by your country in the fight against terrorism? In view of the attack on the Indonesian capital city Jakarta on 14 January 2016, how do you assess the terrorist threat in the region? Beyond this, how does Malaysia, a country which openness is recognized, contribute towards promoting Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance?

H.E.D.I.A.: Malaysia condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism. In combating terrorism, it is imperative that a multifaceted approach is taken by addressing the root causes and underlying contributory factors that support terrorism, including funding and supply of weapons. Malaysia believes that the approach to counter the threat of terrorism is not only with the punitive rod of enforcement but also with the power of enlightenment. Malaysia also believes that winning the hearts and minds approach must also be fully considered in the common endeavour to counter the terrorist threat.
Moderation is also an important value to counter extremism in all forms.  It is a tool that can bridge differences and resolve disputes, since it calls for mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance, understanding, dialogue, compromise, and justice - which should be embraced globally.
After the Jakarta attacks in January 2016, Malaysia is acutely aware that the acts of terrorism are insidiously random, always violently ruthless and equally destructive. Terrorism is not only a regional threat, but it has become a serious global concern that could pose threat to the stability and security of nations.
Malaysia strongly opposes any form of terrorism, especially terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam. We condemn the blatant misrepresentation of Islam when the terrorists claim that their sadistic brutality, torture and murder of innocent men, women and children - Muslims and non-Muslims alike - was justified in the name of a religion that is truly one of peace, justice, tolerance and compassion.

T.D.L.: Malaysia’s term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council themed ‘Peace and security through moderation’ will end in December 2016. Based on your experience as former Ambassador of Malaysia to Syria, how did this vision materialize in Malaysia’s stances on the situation in the Middle East? More generally, how do you perceive the challenges of this responsibility?

H.E.D.I.A.: Moderation to Malaysia is not new. Since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, our leaders have always adopted the principle of moderation in our domestic policies. This can be seen as to the peace and stability that Malaysia has enjoyed in nearly six decades. Our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society has been our source of strength. These principles continue to guide Malaysia as we seek to promote international peace, security and prosperity. It is my firm belief that the practice of moderation can contribute towards mediation efforts and the prevention of conflicts.
Malaysia is convinced that the United Nations Security Council remains the best hope for establishing lasting peace; a peace that will create the necessary conditions for economic and social development, in order to allow peoples everywhere to live in peace, freedom and dignity especially in the Middle East. Malaysia believes that moderation and through effective mediation as well as working with interested actors in the United Nations towards a common effort to maintain international peace and security is the best approach in bridging differences and resolving conflicts peacefully. That is the background as to how Malaysia came about with the theme “Peace and Security through Moderation”.
I am convinced that the moderation approach in resolving conflicts has proven its successes in the Southeast Asian region. Malaysia played a facilitative role in the Mindanao Peace Process guided by the principle of moderation. This finally led to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on 27 March 2014 between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Malaysia has also been involved in similar efforts in other parts of the region. Malaysia’s offer to mediate and assist is a genuine desire to ensure that peace prevails in the region.
In such efforts, Malaysia has placed priority on inclusivity, consultations and consensus, which are essential pillars in moderation. Malaysia believes that the principle of moderation that is practiced in Malaysia and Southeast Asia could also be successfully applied to the rest of the world. The only challenge I foresee is the sincerity and political will of the parties concerned to want to resolve their differences towards achieving a lasting peace.

T.D.L.: Then Prime Minister, current French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault made a visit called ‘historic’ to Malaysia in July 2013. In view of the Franco-Malaysian close defence cooperation, what are the priorities of the reinforcement of the strategic dialogue between the two countries? How do you view the potential development in bilateral economic exchanges and in which sectors? In this regard, which opportunity could the Partnership and Cooperation framework agreement initialled by Malaysia and the EU on 6 April 2016 provide?

H.E.D.I.A.: Indeed Malaysia and France in recent years have seen greater collaborative efforts especially in the defence industry with the supply of French Scorpene submarines and the training of their crew. Exchanges of high-level visits with the last being made by the Malaysian Defence Minister in December 2014 to France and the French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of tourism and French Nationals abroad in April 2015 to Malaysia indicate healthy and warm bilateral relations between the two countries.
Currently, Malaysia enjoys good trade and investment as well as education opportunities with France. Malaysia is the second largest economic partner in ASEAN for France and there are approximately 260 French companies operating in Malaysia. Other areas of cooperation that Malaysia is interested to further collaborate with France are in the fields of aerospace industry, renewable energy, transportation and biotechnology.
As to the Malaysia and European Union (EU) Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (MEUPCA), I believe it covers a broad field of common interest in economic and non-economic sectors for Malaysia and the EU. It serves as a catalyst to the strengthening of bilateral relations between Malaysia and the EU and the enhancement of cooperation in wide-ranging areas including political relations, trade and investment, energy, transport, agriculture, finance, maritime affairs and other areas through dialogue and exchanges of information. As such it is an umbrella agreement that will pave the way for the conclusion of other agreements.
The conclusion of the PCA will provide for Malaysia to pursue the Malaysia-EU Free Trade Agreement (MEUFTA) negotiations which will allow Malaysia to take advantage of the EU market estimated to be worth more than USD40 billion. MEUFTA would give access to Malaysian products and services in the EU’s huge market base of 500 million people. No doubt, the EU could be the number one platform to get Malaysia integrated into the global economic chain.     

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