Political relations between Malaysia and Germany are principally based on the two countries’ intensive economic relations. Germany sees Malaysia as an important and stable partner in Southeast Asia, a leading member of ASEAN and a moderate representative of the Islamic world. Germany values Malaysia’s role within the United Nations and its conciliatory regional stability policy.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met former Prime Minister Najib Razak several times during his time in office (from April 2009 to May 2018). Then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s most recent meeting with former Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman took place in Berlin in June 2015.
Economic relations between Germany and Malaysia have been very close for many years and are an essential element in the good relations between the two countries.
Joint bodies and institutions include the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the German-Malaysian Institute (both established in 1991), which is engaged in vocational training.
The principal economic accords between the two countries are the agreement on investment protection (1963), the air transport agreement (1968), the double taxation agreement (2010) and, at regional level, the cooperation agreement between the European Community and ASEAN (1980). The EU and Malaysia commenced negotiations on a free trade agreement in 2010; these have officially been on hold since 2012. The new Malaysian Government is currently focusing on negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). RCEP is a proposed free trade partnership between the ten ASEAN member states and six other states with which ASEAN has free trade agreements. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was signed by the previous Government, but has not yet been ratified.
For many years, Malaysia – along with Singapore – has been Germany’s principal trading partner among the ASEAN countries. In 2018, bilateral trade was worth EUR 14.1 billion.
Germany’s principal imports from Malaysia are electrical and electronic goods, machinery, instruments and technical devices, edible and industrial oils and fats, rubber products and chemical products. Its main exports to Malaysia are electrical and electronic goods, machinery, motor vehicles, and optical and pharmaceutical products.
Malaysia attracts foreign direct investment thanks to its favourable investment climate. At the same time, investment ensures technology transfer, which provides an economic stimulus. This applies in particular to German industry. In total, a good 400 German companies are based in Malaysia, many of which run production plants and export the goods manufactured there worldwide. Malaysia is also being increasingly used by German companies as a regional hub for Southeast Asia and beyond. The advantages of Malaysia as a location for business and investment include its political stability (the situation in the country also remained calm after the change of government in May 2018), its good infrastructure on the west coast, the widespread English-language skills in the population and access to ASEAN.
Thanks to Malaysia’s positive economic development, the Federal Government has now ended development cooperation with the country. The last commitments in the field of technical cooperation were made in 1999. Major technical cooperation projects in dual vocational training, rainforest protection and air pollution control have been successfully concluded.
However, Malaysia continues to be an important partner of Germany in regional and trilateral development cooperation projects, including measures to build efficient institutions within ASEAN.
Cultural cooperation between the two countries focuses on education and language work. Nearly 650 people are enrolled in Goethe-Institut Malaysia’s language courses. The Malaysian-German Society in Penang also offers German language courses. In addition, German is taught at 50 secondary schools in Malaysia. Two state universities offer bachelor’s programmes in German as a foreign language. As well as a specialist university teacher for German as a foreign language seconded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), there are numerous teachers of German as a foreign language working at various universities and colleges in Malaysia.
In higher education, more than 90 cooperation agreements exist between German and Malaysian universities and universities of applied sciences. Over 1,000 young Malaysians – many of them on Malaysian government scholarships – are studying at German universities. Technical and engineering subjects are the most popular courses among these students. In addition, there are an increasing number of double degree programmes leading to degrees that are recognised in both Germany and Malaysia. This has also led to an increase in the number of German guest students in Malaysia.
Cooperation in the area of vocational training is becoming increasingly important. The previous Government had already explicitly mentioned the German concept of “Meister” (master craftsperson) as inspiration for a “Malaysian Meister” in a basic strategy blueprint, the 11th Malaysia Plan, and in its campaign prior to election the new Government called for the nationwide rollout of the German dual system of vocational training. The German dual vocational training model, which was implemented for the first time for two professions in summer 2014 under the auspices of the bilateral chamber of commerce, is actively supported by a number of major German companies and has since been further expanded. The partners in this pilot project are the German-Malaysian Institute (GMI), which was set up with substantial support from what was then the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) – now the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) – in 1991 and the Penang Skills Development Centre. The GMI offers practical and theoretical vocational training courses under one roof for currently almost 3,000 graduates.
The German School Kuala Lumpur, which was founded in 1979 and has been run as an all-day school with an integrated kindergarten since 2008, has offered the German International Abitur examination since 2009. It was awarded the title Excellent German School Abroad again in 2015.
Some of Germany’s political foundations support socio-cultural as well as education- and media-oriented projects in Malaysia. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung has its own office in Kuala Lumpur.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.