Malaysia’s Zahid and US Tillerson talk security issues, bilateral cooperation

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met  Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Kuala Lumpur for talks as he wrapped up his two-day inaugural visit to Malaysia.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in Kuala Lumpur for talks as he wrapped up his two-day inaugural visit to Malaysia.BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) - Security issues, including human trafficking, and bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United States were among the issues discussed between Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday (Aug 9).

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid said during the 40-minute meeting with Mr Tillerson, they discussed and exchanged views on security developments and regional and international issues of common interest.

“Hopefully, interaction between the leaders of both countries can strengthen bilateral relations and be a catalyst to enhancing relations and understanding between Malaysia and the United States,” he said in a statement issued in conjunction with the meeting of the two leaders in Kuala Lumpur. 

Mr Tillerson, who is on a two-day working visit to Malaysia that began on Tuesday, is the first high-ranking official from President Donald Trump’s administration to visit the country.

In combating threats of transborder crime including human trafficking, Mr Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia needed to forge cooperation with its strategic partners including the US.  He said Malaysia’s initiatives in tackling these issues had been recognised by the US Department of State in its 2017 Annual Report on human trafficking which had upgraded Malaysia to Level Two-status, after it showed a drastic improvement in terms of criminal prosecution under as well as enforcement of anti-human trafficking laws. 

“This is thus far the best achievement by Malaysia since it introduced the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Act in 2007, he said, adding that Malaysia was aiming to achieve Level One-status by 2020. 

On bilateral relations, Mr Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia and the US had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in addressing transborder crime on July 17, 2012 and another MoU on immigration cooperation on on Oct 1, 2014. He said both parties should apply the two MOUs to promote cooperation in identifying current and future transborder crime threats, as well as migration and related issues.

On terrorism, Mr Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia and the US had also signed a document on sharing information on Oct 8, 2015, which listed individuals suspected of being involved in terrorism. He added that Malaysia and the US shared views that terrorism and extremism should be monitored, especially in social media, to curb the menace. 

“Malaysia is prepared to share its experience and expertise in the area of deradicalisation which has achieved a success rate of 97.5 per cent,” he noted. 

The deputy prime minister said since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the US 60 years ago, bilateral ties between the two countries remained good. “The main pillars in this bilateral cooperation are political relations, trade and investment, education, people-to-people relations, defence and security, and science and technology," he said.

According to him, the US was Malaysia’s third biggest trade partner, while Malaysia was the 18th largest trading partner of the US last year. The volume of trade between Malaysia and the US was worth US$32.8 billion (S$44.7 billion) in 2016.