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Malaysia’s New Economic Model:
Risks and Rewards
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AseanAffairs Magazine May - June 2010
CONTENT • BEYOND ASEAN 
 • ASEAN BAZAAR • FEATURED COMPANIES
 ASEAN MANAGEMENT  • INSIDE OUT
  • ASEAN MONEY • OPINION
• ASEAN TRAVELLER  • MALAYSIA IN FOCUS

Prime Minister Najib Razak vows to take Malaysia forward and transform it into a high income nation through economic and social reforms. Initial responses to this ambitious drive are mixed, details are scarce and investors play wait-and-see.Yet, Najib insists he’s got support to push ahead.

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US President Barack Obama meeting with Southeast Asian heads of government at the US-Asean summit, Nov 2009, Singapore
There have been mixed views on the US’ strategic interests in Southeast Asia in the wake of China’s rapid emergence as an economic powerhouse and the creation of world’s biggest free trade area (by population) between China and Asean. There is a persistent view in Asean that the US no longer puts Asean on its list of priorities although it insists otherwise. Some analysts see the need for the US to redefine its interest in Asean, which nevertheless remains among the US’ top trade and investment partners. Certainly, the US cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as the Asia Pacific, with Asean counter balancing the rise of China and India, takes the centre stage in global trade and investment. For those doing business in Asean, be they local or global, are in for a new landscape that keeps changing as the region witnesses new FTAs, both regional and bilateral. Opportunities galore and challenges abound.

ASEAN AND THE EMERGENCE OF
A NEW TRADE LANDSCAPE

US-Asean Trade and Investment

Nicholas S. Zefferys

American firms have invested heavily in a number of Asean countries of which Malaysia has been a prime beneficiary. The largest Malaysian investments have been in the petroleum and the E&E sectors, but these investments cut across a broad range of other industrial sectors and services.

....

Mirzan Mahathir

I believe that the current relationship between Asean and the US has not been of high priority to the US. During the previous administration, I think President Bush did not even visit the region during his eight years in power. He was more concerned about matters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Member states also did not figure in any US strategy let alone Asean as a whole.

....

 

Assessing US’ Asean Strategy

Nicholas S. Zefferys

My understanding and viewpoint is not that the US government favours one country over another except in cases where sanctions exist with countries ruled by rogue governments. The US government role is a facilitative one and an avid promoter of global trade and a level playing field of opportunity. It is America’s private sector and their Boards of Directors who decide where to invest, trade, and how much. These corporates see China, India, and Asean as huge consumer market opportunities with over 2 billion new consumers. It is not a matter of choosing one over the other, but rather, a matter of seizing the best business opportunities.

....

Mirzan Mahathir

The US has not had a clear approach to the mix of nations that make up Asean for a long time and also not developed a coherent strategy for Asean as a whole. We have never felt that we are strategic partners of the US with shared goals. The unpopularity of the US administration especially after September 11 and the invasion of Iraq has also hampered governments from treading a course closely allied to the US. China, on the other hand, was regarded as an up and coming Asian power that understands the needs and wants of under-developed and emerging economies. Furthermore, there are local Chinese communities in each Asean member state that look to establish or re-establish ties with China for mutual benefit.

....

The ‘Threat’ of China’s Domination

Nicholas S. Zefferys

The “Cold War” is over. The “World is now flat.” Talk of dominant powers is “old think”. The “new think” is markets, business models, resources, talent, and opportunities in a new world driven by enterprise. If one wishes to equate dominance with size, the dominant players in Asia are China, India, and Indonesia. Not just China. What do these three large countries represent? Opportunities for market expansion and diversification.

....

Mirzan Mahathir

China serves as a wake up call for Asean. She pushes Asean governments to evaluate their nation’s current and future competitiveness and in the more effective regimes, prods them into restructuring and transforming their economic and legal systems in order to find a place for long term prosperity. Trade between Asean and China is growing and will continue to grow.

....

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