It was my pleasure to host two prominent US Senators last month in Putrajaya. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman both gave Malaysia glowing reviews, praising the transformation of our country’s economic, political and social climate. This is something we should all be proud of – it has required our collective efforts, and this hard work has clearly caught the eyes of our friends abroad.
The Senators’ visit was also an indication of the positive bilateral relations Malaysia has built with the US. It is a relationship bound by our common values and shared strategic interests. Economically, the US is one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners, with trade amounting to RM127 billion a year. We have more than 600 US companies operating in Malaysia, with many more interested in investing this year. And knowledge is continually shared between our countries – a fact recently demonstrated by the introduction of educational reforms inspired by the US that are helping us to solve school dropout rates.
These bonds have meant that despite difficulties around the world, our relationship has not wavered. This is exemplified by the work of volunteers from the Peace Corps Organization who have done so much to promote the livelihoods of many Malaysians. From the first 36 volunteers who were welcomed to these shores by my late father Tun Abdul Razak over 50 years ago, more than 3,500 American volunteers have now come and worked hand-in-hand with Malaysians and improved lives across Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
But far from being one way traffic, Malaysia also has much to offer the US and the wider world. Our moderate model of Islam is a force for good – and it is from having witnessed the benefits of this approach every day that I decided to call for a global movement of the moderates in which all religions should come together in one voice to solve issues that plague the world today. Here in Malaysia we are also guided by our philosophy of 1Malaysia, which has allowed Malaysians irrespective of ethnic or religious background to move together as one nation in the pursuit of our dreams and aspirations – and I believe it is a philosophy our friends in the international community can learn from.
It is this unique history and culture that has made Malaysia what it is today and – just as Western nations fight to preserve their own traditions – we will remain steadfast in our commitment to our fundamental principles. The strength of our relationship with US has been precisely because we acknowledge and respect our differences, while at the same time identifying our common objectives. And I am confident that this mutually beneficial relationship will continue to thrive, driving progress and advancing both our interests for years to come.