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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: abdulruff
Full Name: Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal
User since: 15/Mar/2008
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Malaysia and Turkey lie nearly 5,000 miles in two continents- Asia and Europe - and seven time zones apart. They have different historical experiences and state structures. The role that Islam plays in their public life also differs markedly. Yet Malaysia and Turkey have more in common than is widely acknowledged.


Both Malaysia and Turkey are newly industrialized, middle-income, predominantly Muslim countries and mid-sized powers in their respective regions. Both are also expected to assume a greater regional and global role in the coming years.


In recent years, senior officials from both countries have recalled their historical ties and have trumpeted the bilateral relationship’s potential, especially in the economic sphere. Some envision Turkey serving as Malaysia’s diplomatic and economic gateway to Europe, with Malaysia becoming Turkey’s entry point to the Asia Pacific region. 


Malaysia and Turkey have a long tradition of interaction. During the Ottoman era, the Ottoman caliph’s influence extended far eastward into Southeast Asia. There are numerous accounts of regular interactions between the Malay Sultanates and the Ottoman Empire, mainly involving the former’s request for military assistance and political support from the latter, as opposed to da`wa or maritime trade. 


Turkey-Malaysia relations have solid foundations. Turkey has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Ankara. Both countries are the full members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).


Malaysia is an active member of various international organizations, including the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It has also in recent times been an active proponent of regional co-operation.


 


The people of the Malay Archipelago had generally favorable views of the Ottoman Empire, which they called “Rum” (great world kings). However, there are a number of impediments that might disrupt these relations, from domestic issues to regional as well as global challenges. Nevertheless, as time goes by, Malaysia and Turkey will likely continuously work together to promote a positive example of moderate-democratic Islam to their global audience. 


Economic relation


As Malaysia and Turkey are now modern nation states, the pattern of their relationship is inevitably bound by the contemporary practice of diplomatic interaction. Their bilateral relationship holds great promise in diplomatic, economic, and religious-political terms.


Diplomatic relations began between Malaysia and Turkey in 1964 with the arrival of Turkish Ambassador Hasan Istinyeli to Kuala Lumpur. Then followed several high-level official visits, beginning with Prime Minister Tun Hussein’s trip to Turkey in February 1977. Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan visited Malaysia in 1996. Erbakan was widely acknowledged for his success in forming the Group D-8 (Developing 8), which functioned as an intergovernmental cooperation for development among eight member countries, including Malaysia.


 


Despite many pledges following the high-level diplomacy between the countries, the expansion of economic relations has yet to occur. The total trade volume between Turkey and Malaysia remains modest, amounting to $1.75 billion in 2011. Furthermore, bilateral trade is skewed in Malaysia’s favor, with Malaysian exports to Turkey amounting to $1.56 billion and Turkish exports to Malaysia at a mere $182 million in 2011.  Another delicate matter is that Turkey has diplomatic relations with Israel, while most Muslim countries, including Malaysia, do not. Turkey also prevents the wearing of the headscarf in certain public spaces, unlike Malaysia. However, Malaysia considers these issues Turkey’s internal matters, and they do not ultimately hamper harmonious relations.


 


In terms of trade composition, Malaysia’s major exports to Turkey include electrical and electronic products, textiles, chemicals and chemical products, and crude rubber and rubber products. Turkey’s chief exports to Malaysia are iron and steel products, chemicals and chemical products, machinery, appliances and parts, and electrical and electronic products.


 


During the period 2002-2011, Malaysian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Turkey amounted to $54 million, while Turkish FDI in Malaysia was only $0.5 million.  However, in late 2012, several investment projects got underway, including Turkey’s leading soap and personal care products manufacturer, Evyap, committing $130 million to build a palm oil factory in Malaysia.


 


In 2009, Malaysia and Turkey began negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) in an effort to boost bilateral trade. Since 2010, seven rounds of talks have been held. In addition, as a result of the latest visit by Najib to Turkey in 2011, both sides agreed to sign bilateral agreements in tourism, trade, business, transportation, and construction. They also agreed to lift the visa requirements for their respective citizens to visit the other country and to increase the volume of annual bilateral trade to $5 billion in the near future


The relations between the two countries can be traced back during the Malay sultanate era and the Ottoman Empire. From 19th century, relations between the Malay Sultanates and the Ottomans remained intact, bolstered by close personal ties between SultanAbu Bakar of Johor, who made several visits to Istanbul. On the occasion of Sultan Abu Bakar’s visit in 1890, he and his brother, Engku Abdul Majid, married Turkish women. These marriages has further strengthened the bilateral relationship and produced mixed Malay-Turkish descendants such as Syed Muhammad Naquib al-AttasUngku Aziz and Tun Hussein Onn.


A factor that might discourage economic expansion between Malaysia and Turkey is an economic policy that is common among many developing countries, that is, the tendency to emphasize forging economic cooperation with developed countries in order to seek technological know-how and access to wider markets. Such a policy may mean that Malaysia and Turkey look elsewhere than to each other for economic collaboration.


As with bilateral trade, there has been relatively little cross-investment as both look elsewhere, towards the West,  for investments.  


Future


The bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Turkey signals much promise. The countries have enjoyed interaction with one another since the fifteenth century, and their current leaders are also invested in a bilateral relationship.


Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogen arrived in Malaysia and is paying a day- long official visit. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak held a meeting on January 10 Friday with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowing to strengthen the bilateral ties of the two countries. Najib said the two countries aim to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in April, adding that negotiations for the final round of the trade pact will be held in Ankara. He said the two countries have set a target to increase their bilateral literal trade from the current value of 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to 5 billion in five years. Moreover, he said the two countries are also working on abolishing the visa requirement between each other.


Turkey and Malaysia are both targeting to increase bilateral trade by more than two-folds to US$5 billion in five years from US$1.5 billion at present, said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "There are countless opportunities for us and we can take joint steps to explore the energy, automotive, information and communication technology and infrastructure fields.  "Malaysia and Turkey are now in the spotlight given their rising economies which is attracting a lot of investment potential," Erdogan said after holding bilateral talks with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak .

Describing his two-day visit as fruitful, Erdogan said both leaders have agreed to issue a joint declaration on the framework for strategic cooperation between Malaysia and Turkey. "We just signed a strategic cooperation action plan document which would pave the way for cooperation in the coming years. "Malaysia has become the fifth country to sign this high-level strategic document with us after China, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan," he added. The joint declaration essentially outlines the possible areas of cooperation for both countries in trade and investment, defense, tourism, sports and youth, energy, culture and higher education.


Both countries currently are forging greater cooperation in trade and investment especially linkages in the Islamic financial industry between the two markets. Turkey also currently looking on Malaysia to become one of its trading partner in the ASEAN region. Some economic agreements have been establish between the two countries such as Strategic Framework Agreement and Free Trade Agreement. Besides,  the visa requirements for both countries visits also have been abolished. 


Malaysia and Turkey are also putting more emphasis on bolstering their regional economic blocs, particularly ASEAN and its European counterparts, respectively. Turkey is trying to become a negotiation party in the ongoing talks between the European Union (EU) and the United States in regard to the establishment of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP). Many predict that once the pact is concluded it will have a significant impact on Turkey’s ties with the United States and Europe, essentially allowing Turkey’s goods preferential access to the US market


 


Currently, the Turkish defense industry company has sign several accords with Malaysian partner which worth around $600 million deal for armored vehicles production. The other Turkish firms also has signed deals with Malaysian partners to modernize the Malaysian military systems


One can clearly envision Malaysia and Turkey—as both stable and successful moderate Muslim countries—working together to promote global peace and understanding.



Focus on Malaysia-Turkey relations


 


-DR. ABDUL RUFF COLACHAL 


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Map indicating locations of Malaysia and Turkey

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