Our relationship with Malaysia

New Zealand’s relationship with Malaysia is one of our oldest in South East Asia. We celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2017.

Our long-standing friendship is based on strong ties in trade, education, security and defence, and tourism.


New Zealand’s first Malaysian Colombo Plan students arrived in New Zealand in the 1950s. They later returned home to make a big impact in Malaysia and on the world stage. Malaysia’s first astrophysicist was a Colombo Plan recipient who later became the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna, Austria.

Since then, the education relationship between our two countries has continued to grow and the New Zealand Government continues to welcomes a number of high-quality Malaysian post-graduate students every year. The New Zealand Government also welcomes students from Malaysia to study in New Zealand under the New Zealand-ASEAN Scholarship Awards and Commonwealth Scholarships. These are funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme.

Find out more about the Colombo Plan (external link)

Defence and security

New Zealand contributed to Malaysia’s defence and security through our deployments during the “Malayan Emergency” (1948 – 1960) and the “Confrontation” period in the 1960s. Our defence forces work closely together, both bilaterally, and through membership of the Five Power Defence Arrangements since 1971.

In 2015 and 2016, Malaysia and New Zealand served together as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.


New Zealand is an increasingly popular destination for Malaysians. In 2016 50,160 Malaysians visited New Zealand – a 48% increase from 2015. Malaysians do not require a visa to enter New Zealand. Malaysia is also a popular country for New Zealanders travelling in South East Asia or on their way to other parts of Asia or Europe. Malaysia Airlines is one of only three South East Asian airlines with direct flights to New Zealand.


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


US$296.5 billion

GDP per capita US$9,565 (NZ GDP per capita is US$38,345)
GDP growth 4.2%  

Malaysia is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing export markets and one of our top ten largest trading partners. Our trade relationship is underpinned by two free trade agreements: the Malaysia NZ Free Trade Agreement (MNZFTA) and the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). Since MNZFTA came into force in 2010, two-way trade has increased by 57%.

There is plenty of scope for trade to continue growing. There are more opportunities for cooperation in the education, forestry, health, biotechnology and agri-technology sectors.

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 between 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
  • December 2017: Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy visited Malaysia to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations
  • May 2017: Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell visited Malaysia with a Maori Business Mission
  • April 2017: Trade Minister Todd McClay visited Malaysia to meet Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed and to mark 60 years of bilateral relations
  • March 2017: Minister Finlayson visited Singapore and Malaysia for a series of ministerial meetings about countering terrorism and senior law officer matters
  • January 2017: Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse visited Malaysia on a refugee selection mission
Malaysia to New Zealand
  • April 2017: Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin visited as an ASEAN PM's Fellow
  • 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

News & Events

ANZAC Day Service in Malaysia, 25 April 2019


In commemoration of the 104th anniversary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, the New Zealand and Australian High Commissions will host a joint ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Tugu Negara (the National Monument), Jalan Parlimen, Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday 25th April, 2019.