‘Look East Policy 2.0’ brings Malaysia and Japan together

One year ago today saw Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad reinstated as Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Malaysian government is implementing policies to drive economic growth and encouraging investors to look at the country with a renewed sense of confidence.

Makio Miyagawa, Ambassador of Japan to Malaysia  |  © Japanese Embassy

Over the past twelve months, Malaysia has undergone a period of increased stability and economic growth through the government’s efforts to work more closely with regional partners, including Japan.

In the early 1980s, Malaysia’s ‘Look East Policy’ brought the country closer to Japan and successfully stimulated the economy. By 2020, Malaysia aims to become a high-income nation and the government’s ‘Look East Policy 2.0’ is further strengthening the country’s ties to Japan.

‘LEP 2.0’ is facilitating access to Japanese capital through ‘Samurai bonds’ and providing Malaysia with investment, skilled labour and technologies from Japan.

“Since the new administration came into power, many things have improved here in Malaysia,” said Dr. Makio Miyagawa, Ambassador of Japan to Malaysia.

“Transparency has been a key policy of the government and this is encouraging foreign direct investment into Malaysia. The new administration has a clear approach to creating confidence in Malaysia and is strengthening the country’s ability to stimulate the economy…”

“Transparency has been a key policy of the government and this is encouraging foreign direct investment into Malaysia. The new administration has a clear approach to creating confidence in Malaysia and is strengthening the country’s ability to stimulate the economy. In the area of consumption, goods and services taxation has been removed which has dramatically improved the lives of low-income earners across the country and has increased the population’s disposable income.”

With the Prime Minister’s numerous trips to Japan following his election victory, it is clear Malaysia and Japan share a close bond. Japanese and Malaysian companies are working ever-more closely and the country’s business leaders are encouraging investors to reassess Malaysia as an investment destination.

“Confidence in Malaysia’s economy is on the rise and we want to encourage the Japanese business community to reassess the long-term investment opportunities the country has to offer,” said Daiji Kojima MD and CEO of Mitsui & Co. Malaysia.

In the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is a formidable power-house economy within the region. The country offers easy access to markets in the region such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan.

“Malaysia is close to becoming a developed nation and continued community development will be key to the country’s future growth,” said Ambassador Miyagawa.

“There is divergence across the Southeast Asian region and this generation has a responsibility to build a prosperous community with share rules and set standards regarding human rights and environmental challenges. Japan and Malaysia can take a lead in these efforts by working together and helping to create a strong community of people within the region. The macro-economic figures are good and unemployment remains low at 3.3 percent. The government has US $100 billion in reserves and while currency depreciation is a challenge, there is a sense that the country is moving in the right direction under the new administration. Malaysians are a very hospitable and industrial people and respect is a very important aspect of Malaysian society. This can be seen across the business community and with the Chinese, Indian and Malay population; there is a deep-rooted sense that Malaysia is comprised of a truly global society. Japanese investment in Malaysia has impacted the development of the economy since the ‘Look East Policy’ was established and there is a very amicable relationship between Japan and Malaysia. Malaysia considers Japan an important partner-nation and Malaysians have a personal interest in Japan. There is a new ‘normalising’ of relations between our two nations. Security remains a key area of cooperation between Japan and Malaysia and is directly tied to the development of the region. Education will play a role in Malaysia’s development and Japan and Malaysia are working together to strengthen Malaysia’s education sector to benefit the country as Malaysia takes on a more prominent role in the region.”


LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS: The Japan – Malaysia Connection

Mai Onozawa, Managing Director of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization), Kuala Lumpur:

“Since March 1958, JETRO Kuala Lumpur has been supporting and strengthening Malaysian trade and investment ties to the Japanese market. We work closely with other organisations to facilitate partnerships and investment projects. With Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh Prime Minister last year, we are encouraged by the Malaysian government’s efforts to strengthen the Malaysia-Japan relationship and welcome investments which will contribute to the development of the Malaysian economy. Japanese company’s interests in Malaysia have grown and diversified and we would like to continue to support Japanese companies doing businesses in various forms in Malaysia. In addition to promoting investment in Malaysia, this year we are encouraging Japanese companies in the food and beverage, textile, handicraft and design industries to reassess the business opportunities we see in the Malaysian market as such products will contribute to new lifestyles in Malaysia. Investment into Japan is also an important target for us. With around twenty success stories of Malaysian companies establishing new bases in Japan, we will show more Malaysian companies the attractiveness of expanding their business in the Japanese market.”


Koichi Horikawa, Director of the Japan Foundation, Malaysia:

Koichi Horikawa, Director of the Japan Foundation, Malaysia |  © Synergy Media Specialists

“We are working to strengthen people to people exchanges and education initiatives play an important role in these efforts,” said Koichi Horikawa, director of the Japan Foundation, Malaysia. “We support Japanese-language educational establishments in Malaysia. Since the beginning of launching Look East Policy (LEP) by Malaysian government, we have been dispatching Japanese-language experts to Special Preparatory Program to Enter Japanese Universities at Universiti Malaya to support LEP. A recent survey indicated that there are 33,000 Japanese-language learners in Malaysia. Among them, currently around 17,000 students learn Japanese-language in Malaysian secondary schools. We would like to encourage more to learn more about Japan, its culture and its language. Japan and Malaysia are working closely together to enhance cultural and educational initiatives across Southeast Asia. The two countries are strong regional partners and we see many opportunities for us to work more closely together.”


Kensuke Fukawa, Chief Representative of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), Malaysia office:

“Leading the world with trust is JICA’s mission and we want to do more for the next generation in Malaysia. JICA is playing its part in education initiatives to cultivate an even better sense of understanding between Japan and Malaysia. Our predecessors held firm in Malaysia and developed a relationship which is today deeply rooted and based mutual trust. We are building on the hard work done over the years and we look forward to an even stronger relationship between Japan and Malaysia in the future. Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Malaysia began in 1956 and by 2014, US$8 billion had been provided for various development projects across the country. JICA works closely with Malaysia in various fields including road and water infrastructure, industrial development, energy, maritime security, higher education, urban environment and volunteer work. We have invited 17,000 Malaysians to Japan over the years and have brought 3,600 Japanese expats to Malaysia to facilitate a better understanding between our two peoples.”

“The Malaysian government is enhancing the administrations capacity, ensuring people are becoming more highly educated and developing infrastructure and society and Malaysia is on track to becoming a high-income country. Japan has played a significant role in the country’s development and we will continue to do so. Today Malaysia is a partner with Japan rather than simply a recipient of development assistance and we are working together closely to further enhance Asian ties. Malaysia’s ‘Look East Policy’ (LEP) has played a key role in the country’s economic development and this second LEP wave which the government is re-invigorating is further strengthening Malaysia-Japan ties.”


Hiroyuki Imizu, President of JACTIM (Japan Chamber of Trade and Industry, Malaysia):

“My feeling is that our cultures complement each other well as Japanese are very disciplined and Malaysian’s very flexible. The Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry, Malaysia (JACTIM) has been active in Malaysia for 36 years and along with organisations such as MITI/MIDA act as a window into the Malaysian economy for Japanese investors. There is strong communication between the Japanese embassy, Malaysian government, the Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry, Malaysia (JACTIM) and Japanese companies which helps us to co-ordinate our efforts to achieve goals faster and more comprehensively with a better understanding of the market environment.”


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