Chapter 2

Advancing the Economic Relationship

Photo of Andrew Robb and Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed

Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb with Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, 2015.

Malaysia has long been an important trading partner for Australia. In 1934, Malaya was one of the seven countries visited by Australia's first diplomatic trade mission to Asia—the 'Goodwill Mission'. Since that time, Australia– Malaysia trade has been transformed from an exchange of mostly raw materials to a thriving and increasingly complex relationship. Following World War II, Malaysia was one of the first Asian countries with which Australia formalised trade arrangements. Our first bilateral trade agreement was signed in 1958, and then revised in 1974. In 2013 the Australia–Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) entered into force, further strengthening our trade and investment relationship.

When Australia's first diplomatic mission was established in Kuala Lumpur in 1955, goods exports to Malaya amounted to a modest A£9.3 million— approximately A$300 million today.1 In 2013–14, the total value of Australian exports of goods and services to Malaysia was A$7.2 billion which brings our six decades of trade dynamism into clearer focus.2In the past decade, two-way goods and services trade has doubled and diversified such that, in 2014, it was valued at around A$21 billion.3 Malaysia and Australia now feature among each other's top 10 trading partners and investment flows are becoming increasingly important. Malaysia in 2014 was among the largest regional investors in the Australian economy, with total investment of A$21 billion. Though Australia's investment in Asia has traditionally been more modest, at A$9.6 billion, Malaysia is nonetheless a significant destination for Australian investment in Southeast Asia.4