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Our relationship with Malaysia

We have a close and significant relationship with Malaysia including strong ties in trade, education and security. Our two countries have a history of friendly and constructive links based on a shared membership of the Commonwealth, the Colombo Plan and shared security interests as part of the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand deployed troops twice to Malaysia - during the "Malayan Emergency" (1948-1960), and during the "Confrontation" period in the 1960s.

From these early connections our relationship has grown, and today Malaysia is important to New Zealand for strategic, political and economic reasons. 

 Find out more about the Colombo Plan (external link)

New Zealand and Malaysia are celebrating 60 years of formal diplomatic relations in 2017.

People and education

Almost 4,800 Malays live in New Zealand, and a further 1,850 immigrants who identify as Malaysian Chinese have made New Zealand their home. More than half live in Auckland.

Education has long been a feature of our relationship and around 1,800 tertiary students from Malaysia study in New Zealand each year. We're working to attract more Malaysian students here and make New Zealand a first choice for foreign study. In 2013 the Arrangement on Higher Education Cooperation was signed between our two countries. 


2016 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$2.6 billion


Exports to Malaysia

$848 million 

Top exports: milk powder, butter and dairy spreads, malt extract

Imports from Malaysia

$1.5 billion

Top imports: crude petroleum oil, oil cake, televisions

GDP (2015)

US$303 billion

GDP per capita (2015) US$9,768 (NZ GDP per capita is US$36,801)
GDP growth (2015) 5.0%  

Malaysia is our ninth largest trading partner and our second largest within ASEAN. 

Two-way trade has increased 57% since the Malaysia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2010. There is plenty of scope for trade to continue to grow and for businesses to take further advantage of the benefits of the FTA. 

Free trade agreements with Malaysia

Our trade relationship is helped by our two free trade agreements:

We've finished negotiating another free trade agreement that includes Malaysia:

We're also negotiating one more regional free trade agreement that includes Malaysia:

NZ Inc ASEAN strategy

As a member of ASEAN, Malaysia is included in the NZ Inc ASEAN strategy. NZ Inc is the Government’s plan to strengthen New Zealand’s economic, political and security relationships with key international partners.

Find out more about the NZ Inc ASEAN strategy

Working Holiday Scheme

New Zealanders aged beteen 18 and 30 can apply for a 12-month working holiday visa for Malaysia.

To apply, you can go to the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington.


Recent official visits

New Zealand to Malaysia
  • January 2017: Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse visited Malaysia on a refugee selection mission
  • November 2015: Prime Minister John Key visited Malaysia to mark the 40th anniversary of New Zealand’s partnership with ASEAN
  • August 2015: Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully visited for the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN-New Zealand Ministerial Meeting
Malaysia to New Zealand
  • February 2016: Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed visited for the TPP signing ceremony
  • June 2015: Sarawak State Minister for Land Development, YB Tan Sri Dr James Masing, visited New Zealand
  • November 2014: Rural and Regional Development Minister YB Dato' Seri Hj. Shafie Hj Apdal visited New Zealand

News & Events

Mt Albert by-election Saturday 25 February

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A by-election to elect a new Member of Parliament for the general electorate of Mt Albert will be held in New Zealand on Saturday 25 February 2017.

Important post earthquake information

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Information for Foreign Missions to New Zealand, visitors to New Zealand and concerned families overseas.