U.S Presidential Election: What will be the impact on Malaysia?

By Hamka Rosli

The U.S presidential election is just around the corner. For the U.S citizens it is an important event for them as they wanted the country to thrive more and bring stability economically and politically. But in the meantime, the rest of the world are also observing the U.S presidential election.

It seems like their presidential election is somewhat important to us as it may have some beneficial or adverse effect. As we know now the two candidates will run for the U.S presidential, which are Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. The former is a real estate mogul and a Republican nominee, while the latter is a former Secretary of State and a Democrat candidate.

At this moment we cannot say who will win the election but we already know by far what has been said by both candidates in their speeches, rally and also debate. The most controversial statements, of course, as we all know came from Trump. His statements can somewhat be categorised as outrageous. Some of Trump’s opponent even said he is not fit to become the President of United States. But even so, he still commands strong support from the public in U.S.

Before we can say the U.S presidential election can cause effects on Malaysia, let’s first examine the relationship between the two countries. As most economists know, United States is one of the largest foreign investors in Malaysia, with a cumulative value of some 15 billion dollars of U.S private investments in Malaysia, mainly in the manufacturing sector. Nearly 200,000 Malaysian workers are employed by American companies, particularly in energy, electronics, and manufacturing sector. The figures can tell that these two countries trade actively for economic purpose. So, any political uncertainty can give impact on economic aspect and this is what the U.S presidential election do by providing uncertainty into the marketplace. Traders and investors do not appreciate any uncertainty.

To be fair, let’s look at the possibility of anyone of the two candidates becoming the president of United States. On the most controversial side, Trump is being labelled as incompetent to become the next president due to his lack of knowledge in foreign policy. This is what has been stated by the current president of U.S, Barack Obama. Trump’s famous slogan for the election is ‘To Make America Great Again’, and he has vowed to protect U.S economy at all costs.

According to Nomura’s chief Indian economist, Sonal Varma, Malaysia’s exports will become weak to trade disruption if Trump follows his policy. Nomura is an Asia-based financial services group. In one article of Free Malaysia Today (FMT), she stated that “Malaysia’s manufactured exports to the US had increased to 13 per cent of total exports and this made the country’s economy vulnerable to any trade disruption.” Due to Malaysia being an open economy there is bound to have some impact on Malaysia’s economy. In addition, Trump had made it known of his intention to withdraw U.S from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) –  a free-trade agreement covering 12 countries from Peru to Malaysia and that accounts for 40 per cent of the global economy. Failure to ratify the treaty will definitely affect investment security in Malaysia.

It looks like Trump’s policy will surely harm Malaysia economically, but he also wanted to have an open trade policy where every country has the freedom to trade with other countries. This is good that we now can trade freely with all countries. The only problem with this policy is that it could create a stiff competition from countries around the world, and our local business will be the most affected.

Now we go to the possibility of Clinton becoming the President of United States. We already know that she is the former Secretary of State and she did have vast experience and good knowledge of foreign policy. For Malaysia, having to cooperate with someone who has the sense of foreign relations is a good thing.

Besides, Clinton is a Democrat’s candidate in the same party as President Obama. So, she may continue the administration of Obama, especially in the policy of ‘Pivot to east Asia.’ This policy is one of Clinton’s task when she was still the Secretary of State back in 2009-2013 and it is positive for Malaysia as one of the countries in east Asia.

This is not to say that Clinton is a better choice than Trump as a whole, but in terms of the impact that can happen to Malaysia, these are some of things that need to be considered. As my lecturer, Dr. Mazlan Yusof said, “whatever happened to the west, will eventually have an effect on us”.

As the Americans geared for the presidential election, we hope that Malaysia will not be hard hit or adversely affected domestically and internationally.***

photo taken from Yahoo !
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