Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia needed a clear break from past approaches as the country’s foreign policy should be about building partnerships that benefited the nation and people.
Opening the biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) here Thursday, Najib stressed that the national interest should always come before personal political interests.
“We in Malaysia believe in reaching out to other states, regardless of political ideology and system, while maintaining an independent, non-aligned and principled stance in regional and international affairs,” he said.
Malaysia, however, did not believe in foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, he said.
“We are firm that the days when imperial powers could tell others how to behave, whether politically, economically or culturally, are over,” he said.
Alluding to a past leader, Najib said Malaysia had decided that its foreign relations would no more be characterised by caustic words and barbed comments and instead, be moderate in its approach.
“This will allow us to reclaim the centre and promote mutual understanding. It is a priority at the national, regional and international levels,” he said.
Najib lambasted the past leader who adopted intentionally confrontational foreign policy positions, perhaps for personal popularity.
In choosing to be different and make a clear break from past approaches, Najib said: “No more insisting on awakening old quarrels or harping on old slights that everyone else had forgotten.”
Najib said that developing relations and economic partnerships with other nations was what promotes peace, security and prosperity for its peoples.
“That has been our approach – and we have seen the benefits,” he said, citing the example on how he had worked to deal with legacy issues with Singapore regarding the resolution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 after a 20-year deadlock.
He also drew attention that Malaysia and Singapore would build a high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to enhance connectivity, economic opportunities and people-to-people contact.
In the Philippines, Malaysia facilitated the negotiations to resolve Asia’s longest running insurgency, he said.
Malaysia’s desire to build bridges was not confined just to Southeast Asia and had built stronger ties around the world with China, India, Russia, the United States, Japan and the European Union among many others, he said.
He noted that Malaysia also believed in open regionalism and expanding free trade and had signed 13 free trade agreements with other countries.
“Indeed, Malaysian relations with our friends across the continents have never been so warm. And these relationships have borne tangible results,” he added.
Malaysia, he said, was also a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on its own terms without sacrificing the national interest.
He said if the TPP went ahead as planned, PricewaterhouseCoopers had predicted it would lead Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by up to USD211 billion between 2018 and 2027, and would bring additional investment of up to USD239 billion.