Najib offers investment and security pledges to US

Malaysian PM promises to invest billions of dollars as well as full support in combating terrorism

Mr Donald Trump greeting Mr Najib Razak on Tuesday, during the first visit by a Malaysian prime minister to the White House since 2004. Mr Najib had played golf at Mr Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey, some years ago, and the real estate tycoo
Mr Donald Trump greeting Mr Najib Razak on Tuesday, during the first visit by a Malaysian prime minister to the White House since 2004. Mr Najib had played golf at Mr Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey, some years ago, and the real estate tycoon reportedly gave Mr Najib a picture of them together.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and US President Donald Trump were all smiles at the White House as Datuk Seri Najib promised to invest billions of dollars in the United States, and pledged Malaysia's full support in combating terrorism.

"It's an honour to have you here," Mr Trump told Mr Najib in front of reporters at the start of their meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Hours later, Mr Najib tweeted: "Thank you President... for the warm welcome & hospitality. Much was discussed, from bilateral trade to combating extremism. I look forward to stronger ties between our two nations."

Later on Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines signed a US$3.9 billion (S$5.3 billion) memorandum of understanding to buy eight Dreamliners and eight 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines may buy more planes, Mr Najib told Mr Trump at the White House.

Mr Trump, who has been concerned about US trade deficits, including with Malaysia, told journalists: "We are working on one deal where between US$10 billion and US$20 billion worth of Boeing jets are going to be purchased, General Electric engines will be purchased, and many other things."

GREAT SUPPORTER

He's been very, very strong on terrorism in Malaysia. So that's a very important thing to the United States. He does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, referring to Prime Minister Najib Razak.


ALLAYING CONCERNS OVER 1MDB

I know that some of you will have heard some less positive stories about the Malaysian economy, particularly about 1MDB. Rather than brush the issue under the rug, we ordered investigations into the company at a scale unprecedented in our nation's history. And, when it became clear that there had been failings, I instructed that the company be rationalised. This process is progressing well and many of the assets formerly owned by 1MDB are thriving.

PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK, in remarks to American industry captains.

On Tuesday evening, addressing top executives at a US-Asean Business Council dinner, Mr Najib said: "Last year, trade between our countries amounted to nearly US$33 billion. It used to be considerably more in the past. We need to regain that level of interaction as there are huge opportunities for our two countries to explore."

His visit was the first by a Malaysian prime minister to the White House since 2004. But the two leaders are no strangers.

Mr Najib played golf at Mr Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey, some years ago - where the real estate tycoon reportedly gave him a picture of them together on which he wrote: "To my favourite prime minister."

Mr Najib is reportedly staying at the Trump International Hotel.

"We are talking about trade - very large trade deals," Mr Trump said before the media left the room at the delegation-level meeting at the White House. "Also, Malaysia is a massive investor in the United States in the form of stocks and bonds, and the stock exchange."

On security issues, Mr Trump said: "The Prime Minister has a major role in not allowing (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)... and others to exist. He's been very, very strong on terrorism in Malaysia. So that's a very important thing to the United States."

He added: "He does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important."

Mr Najib opened the conversation with "strong value" propositions, including the Boeing deal, and a promise that Malaysia's Employees Provident Fund - which already had nearly US$7 billion in equities in the US - would invest up to US$4 billion more to support infrastructure development, a cornerstone of the Trump agenda. The sovereign Khazanah fund also planned to increase its investment in high-tech companies, he said.

He also told Mr Trump: "We are committed to fight Daesh, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf - you name it."

As enemies of the US, they are also enemies of Malaysia, which would "make sure that our part of the world is safe", Mr Najib said.

"The key to it is to support moderate and progressive Muslim regimes and governments around the world, because that is the true face of Islam. That is the authentic face of Islam," he emphasised.

Dr Zachary Abuza, professor at the National War College in Washington, told The Straits Times that Mr Najib was "clearly looking for international recognition and approval ahead of the upcoming elections".

Mr Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Straits Times: "Whatever his problems at home, with (corruption) allegations that are very substantive, Najib is a very skilled player."

But the Malaysian Premier swiftly drew blowback at home, with Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali releasing a statement that he was "utterly shocked" that Malaysia would be investing as much as US$24 billion in the US.

"This investment is purportedly to "strengthen the US economy" at a time when our economy is crying out for greater investment, quite apart from the mystery as to why Malaysia needs to help out the world's largest economy," Datuk Seri Azmin said. "We understand that it is Najib's choice that he meets with US President Donald Trump, but leaders cannot mortgage the nation's economic well-being for a photo opportunity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2017, with the headline 'Najib offers investment and security pledges to US'. Subscribe