Switzerland and Malaysia enjoy good relations, particularly in trade. Swiss companies benefit from the favourable conditions in Malaysia.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Malaysia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
At diplomatic level the two countries maintain good contact. Malaysian citizens are exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa for travel to Switzerland, an exemption that within the South-East Asia region otherwise only applies for Singaporean citizens. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which Switzerland is a member of, and Malaysia have been negotiating an economic partnership agreement since 2012. Switzerland has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur but consular matters are handled by the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok (Thailand). Malaysia has an embassy in Bern, a Consulate General in Geneva and consulates in Basel and Zurich.
Malaysia is an attractive location for Swiss companies – thanks to its good framework conditions and the easy access it affords to the Asia Pacific market with its 630 million inhabitants. Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Malaysia is Switzerland's third most important trading partner after Singapore and Thailand. In addition to precious stones and metals, Switzerland’s main exports to Malaysia are machinery, followed by pharmaceutical and chemical products. Switzerland mainly imports machinery and electronic devices from Malaysia. Around 135 companies with Swiss ties employ over 20,000 people in Malaysia.
In November 2012, EFTA and Malaysia signed a guidance document defining framework for negotiations for a free trade agreement. These negotiations started in March 2014.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Malaysia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Malaysia is not a developing country, and therefore is not a priority country for the economic and development cooperation carried out by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). However, SECO does provide financial support for projects of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to protect and promote sustainable management of tropical forests in Malaysia.
Swiss nationals in Malaysia
At the end of 2016, there were more than 800 Swiss nationals resident in Malaysia.
History of bilateral relations
Swiss trading companies set up operations in Malaysia as long ago as the 19th century and Switzerland established diplomatic relations with Malaysia in 1963.