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Map of Malaysia

Map of Malaysia.
flag of the Federation of Malaysia

Federation of Malaysia


Malaysia is important to New Zealand for strategic, political and economic reasons. It is one of the Southeast Asian countries best known to New Zealanders. There is a history of close and friendly links, stemming originally from Commonwealth ties, the Colombo Plan and shared security concerns. New Zealand deployed troops in the country during the "Malayan Emergency" (1948-1960), and during the "Confrontation" period in the 1960s. These early connections have been built on and enhanced.

Recent developments


Bilateral links with New Zealand

Trade and economic relationship

Malaysia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (MNZFTA) provides for improved market access and greater certainty for New Zealand's eight largest trading partner. Two-way trade has grown rapidly over recent years. Malaysia currently ranks as New Zealand's seventh largest source of exports, with milk powder, malt extract, butter and dairy spreads and sheep meat, comprising over 50 percent of them. Malaysia is also our seventh largest source of imports, comprising largely crude petroleum oil and electronic products (televisions, computers and telephones/cellphones). Malaysia continues to enjoy the surplus of trade it first gained in 1998.

New Zealand Trade (year ended Dec 2012)


NZ’s eight largest trading partner

NZ Exports

NZ$888 bil (FOB)

Main exports

Dairy (NZ$448 mil), meat ($71mil) and scrap metal ($66 mil) 

NZ Imports

NZ$1.84 mil (CIF)

Main imports

Crude petroleum oils and oil cake ($911 mil), computers and televisions ($257mil) and palm oil ($54 mil)

*Source is the Stats NZ's Global NZ International trade

 These figures understate the value of New Zealand’s commercial relations with Malaysia, as a proportion of New Zealand exports enter Malaysia via Singapore.  More significantly, they do not recognise the significant activities of New Zealand services suppliers in Malaysia. Both countries face a similar challenge to move economic activity up the value chain. To this end, New Zealand firms are seeking to develop higher value added services partnerships in education and training, sustainable agricultural technology, biotechnology research, specialised ICT applications, creative content industries, and sustainable tourism growth. 

Investment is another aspect of the New Zealand/Malaysian economic relationship.  About 20 New Zealand companies have significant investments in Malaysia covering a wide variety of sectors, including food/food technology, ICT and telecommunications, electronics, software, information technology, and building products.  Malaysian businesses have invested in the hotel and property sectors, forestry, fisheries, engineering and food processing in New Zealand as well as in a major consultancy group.  Business Councils are established in New Zealand and Malaysia and provide excellent sources of local networks and contacts for businesses in each market.


During New Zealand Week, from 9-14 March 2013, Minister Steven Joyce together with his Malaysian counterpart, signed an Arrangement on Higher Education.  Malaysian students contribute an estimated NZ$80 million per annum to the New Zealand economy. In 2012, there were a total of 2,300 international fee-paying Malaysians studying in New Zealand.  They are also New Zealand’s third largest source of international PhD students.   A substantial proportion of these are sponsored by the Malaysian Government.  

Many thousands of Malaysians have been educated in New Zealand, originally through the Colombo Plan, and many now occupy senior positions in business, the professions and government administration.  The Chair of Malay Studies is well established at Victoria University.   EducationNZ has appointed a Regional Director for South East Asia,  based in the New Zealand High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. See http://www.educationnz.govt.nz/markets-research/malaysia

Tourism and Air links

In year end to 2012, 29,424 Malaysians visited New Zealand, contributing an estimated NZ$75 million to the New Zealand economy.  A Working Holiday Arrangement allows for up to 1150 young Malaysians each year to live and work in New Zealand for up to six months. The “Open Skies” Air Services Agreement dates back to 1998.  Malaysia Airlines operates daily non-stop return services between Auckland and Kuala Lumpur, over the summer peak period (from 24 November 2013 to 27 January 2014), and six days a week during the rest of the year. 


Political and cultural links

Malaysia's political system is a Federal Constitutional Monarchy and its national legislature is based on the Westminster system. The last general election took place in May 2013. Malaysia's Prime Minister (and Finance Minister) is Dato' Sri Najib Razak and its Deputy Prime Minister (and Education Minister) is Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. The Barisan Nasional (BN) is the governing 13-party coalition, Its main parties are the United Malays National Organisation, Malaysian Chinese Association, Malaysian Indian Congress, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu and the Sarawak United People's Party. It holds 133 of the 222 seats in the lower house. The BN has the simple majority that it needs in order to pass legislation, but not a two-thirds majority to enable it to amend the constitution. The Opposition coalition is led by Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim leader of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, together with the Democratic Action Party and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia.


New Zealand's defence relationship with Malaysia goes back to initial, very substantial, deployments during the "Emergency" and "Confrontation" in the 1950s and 1960s. Today its foundations are in common membership of the Five-Power Defence Arrangements - FPDA (1971) - and the bilateral programme of co-operation and assistance begun in 1964. Our two countries' defence forces continue to work well together in multinational peace-keeping operations, most recently in Bamyan, Afghanistan and in Timor-Leste and in Lebanon. In Bamyan, the 40 strong Malaysian Defence Force medical contingent made a significant contribution to the NZ-led PRT efforts, to improve the quality of life for the Bamyan people.


Regional and multilateral links

Malaysia has considerable influence in regional and international affairs, both bilaterally and through multilateral forums such as the UN, APEC, ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asia Summit (EAS), and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Malaysia remains central to New Zealand’s participation in ASEAN as our recent ASEAN Dialogue Partner (2010-12) and the ASEAN chair in 2015, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of NZ’s relationship with ASEAN also that year.

New Zealand and Malaysia are well connected institutionally in the implementation of MNZFTA and the Agreement establishing the ASEAN-Australia-NZ Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), which entered into force in January 2010. Malaysia joined the negotiations for an expanded Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement in October 2010, now called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is participating in the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, launched by EAS Leaders in November 2012



High-level visits from and to Malaysia, have cemented the bilateral relationship.

Recent visits to Malaysia include:

Recent visits from Malaysia include:

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Travel advice

The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Malaysia [external link].

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Page last updated: Thursday, 04 December 2014 17:16 NZDT