New British High Commissioner aims to strengthen UK-Malaysia ties and boost trade relations

British High Commissioner-designate Ailsa Terry begins her role in Kuala Lumpur, focusing on enhancing UK-Malaysia ties, trade partnerships and climate cooperation through CPTPP.

The British High Commissioner-designate to Malaysia, HE Ailsa Terry CMG, has officially commenced her new role at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, marking a significant milestone in the ever-growing relationship between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

Ms Terry’s arrival comes at a crucial juncture as the two nations prepare to benefit from their inaugural Free Trade Agreement, established through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK joined just last month. The agreement is expected to enhance bilateral trade and further solidify the ties between the two countries.

Commencing her appointment on August 10, 2023, Ms Terry is set to succeed Charles Hay MVO as the British High Commissioner to Malaysia. As part of her official duties, she will present her credentials to His Majesty The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong later this month, formalising her role in fostering diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Upon her arrival, Ms Terry expressed her enthusiasm for the UK-Malaysia relationship and her determination to reinforce various aspects of cooperation. She highlighted the potential for expanded trade, education and technology partnerships, as well as joint efforts to address the climate emergency and uphold international norms. Ms Terry also acknowledged the opportunities for enhanced defence collaboration, particularly through the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA).

“Malaysia is a global biodiversity hotspot, and our UK-Malaysia Climate Partnership Memorandum of Understanding will enable us to work more closely together,” Ms Terry stated.

She continued: “I also look forward to working with Malaysia on important issues affecting regional security, stability, and prosperity, especially during the Malaysian chairmanship of ASEAN in 2025.”

Before her appointment as the British High Commissioner, Ms Terry served as the Director of the FCDO’s Sanctions Directorate from 2022 to 2023, where she played a pivotal role in the UK’s response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Her extensive diplomatic experience also includes being the Foreign Affairs Sous-Sherpa and Director during the UK’s Presidency of the G7 in 2021.

With a background that spans various diplomatic postings, including Islamabad and the UK Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Ms Terry brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge to her new role. She also served as the Political Adviser to the EU Special Representative to Afghanistan in 2011.

Ms Terry’s aspirations for fostering stronger UK-Malaysia ties are matched by the economic potential of the new Free Trade Agreement. The UK’s accession to the CPTPP on July 16, 2023, opens up easier access to the world’s fifth-largest economy and a consumer market of over 67 million people. For Malaysia, this represents a significant opportunity to strengthen bilateral trade and investment relationships.

The UK became a CPTPP member on 16 July 2023. Its accession provided bloc members with easier access to the fifth-largest economy in the world and a market of 67 million consumers. For Malaysia, this will be its first free trade agreement with the UK and an opportunity to improve further bilateral trade and investment ties.

The UK–Malaysia bilateral trade in goods and services was valued at approximately £5.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of 2022 (4Q22). The UK currently has a near-five per cent share of the Malaysian market in services (compared to less than 2% in goods), mainly in the travel, transportation, financial and other business services sub-sectors.

Given the UK’s strengths especially in services, there is significant potential for growth in Malaysia and in UK players’ interest in utilising Malaysia as a hub in the wider region. Likewise, for Malaysian businesses and investors in the UK, the government stated in a press release last month.

However, there have been limited studies conducted on the specific opportunities in Malaysia and in the UK for both nations’ goods and services trade and investments. Hitherto, studies have focused on the broad or aggregated benefits of trading to the economies of both countries.

To fill this gap, research is now being proposed to focus on how the UK’s accession to the CPTPP could benefit the different UK and Malaysian trade and services exporters as well as investors, the release further stated.

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