Whoever wins US presidential election, Malaysia-US ties to remain strong, say analysts

A combination picture shows US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaking during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio September 29, 2020. ― Reuters file pic
A combination picture shows US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaking during the first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland, Ohio September 29, 2020. ― Reuters file pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 2 — The bilateral relationship between Malaysia and United States (US) has been growing in strength over the past six decades in every sector, and this will most likely be unchanged regardless of whoever wins the US presidential race tomorrow, according to analysts.

Associate Professor Dr Muhamad Takiyuddin from the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) said both countries are working together to maintain beneficial relationships in achieving mutual benefits in terms of trade.

“Based on insignificant changes during former US President Barack Obama from the Democratic Party and Donald Trump’s presidency towards Malaysia-US ties, I can conclude that whoever wins the election tomorrow, Malaysia-US relations will be most likely unchanged,” he told Bernama in a phone interview.

The 2020 US presidential election, scheduled for tomorrow, will be the 59th quadrennial presidential election, which will see a hot contest between Republican President Trump who will be defending his post for a second term, and his rival from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden.

Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the US was established on August 31, 1957, when the US elevated its Consulate General in Kuala Lumpur to the status of Embassy.

Commenting further, Muhamad said Obama’s pivot policy has helped to strengthen the bilateral relations between Washington and Kuala Lumpur, whereas Malaysia-US relations continued to flourish and remain solid during Trump’s era despite the ups and downs on certain issues.

“Both countries are continuing to maintain their beneficial relationships with each other especially in terms of trade.

“Malaysia and the US have set aside their dissimilarities and disagreements towards certain issues in order to achieve economic prosperity for both parties,” he added.

The US is Malaysia’s third-largest trading partner.

According to WorldCity analysis of the latest US Census Bureau data, Malaysia’s trade with the United States rose to US$35.44 billion (RM147.2 billion) through the first eight months of 2020.

Regarding the support of the US towards Malaysia in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute, Muhamad said in terms of SCS, the US seems to be the right actor to balance China’s dominance in SCS and “without the US, China keeps widely broaden(ing) their hegemony in SCS with no limit”.

Legal Advisor of UKM and an expert in International Law, Associate Professor Dr Salawati Mat Basir, said she intends to see the newly-elected US president relax the trade restrictions imposed on developing countries in terms of trading purposes.

“If possible, bring back non-quota for developing countries (for trading purposes) as (what was) done during Obama’s administration,” she added.

Commenting on US and Malaysia’s cooperation in terms of military exercises, she said Malaysia is often invited to the annual Cobra Gold military exercise co-hosted by the United States and Thailand.

Cobra Gold is currently the largest Indo-Pacific, multinational military exercise held in Thailand every year.

However, prominent geostrategist Prof Dr Azmi Hassan offered a different perspective.

In his view, if Biden wins, he will bring more positivism towards the dynamic of the relationships.

“If Biden wins, Kuala Lumpur-Washington bilateral relationship will be “more fair and balanced”,” he said.

Azmi said on international issues, he believes that Biden will be more rational and listens to his experts, and will not act on a whim.

Azmi said Biden is also expected to soften the US’ stance towards China, and a more rational and progressive approach towards the South China Sea issues.

“A cordial US-China relationship, for example, will be good for us...it will open up more market for our exports and no doubt during Biden’s era, US involvement in the SCS will be more coherent and not because the US president wants to score a point with President  (China’s President) Xi (Jinping),” he said. — Bernama

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