PETALING JAYA: Despite the uncertainty in the neck-and-neck race in the US presidential election, Malaysia can continue to look forward to a flourishing bilateral trade with the republic.
However, experts warned Malaysians to prepare for turbulence in the US stock market and those living in the United States to watch out for trouble.
Political scientist Bridget Welsh said although the numbers in several crucial states favour incumbent Donald Trump, his rival Joe Biden had secured the popular vote in the contest.
“The close election results show that the US is divided and will become more inward-looking as a result of this.
“It will be very difficult for whoever wins to bring the nation together owing to the polarisation, ” she said when contacted yesterday.
While the US stock market is likely to react positively to a Trump victory, she said he would face a much harder second term in office if he wins.
“Trump will be going into office with an election result where he did not get the popular vote.
“He has no clear agenda and will face a difficult Congress without any Covid-19 and economy recovery plans, ” she said.
Welsh, an honorary research associate of the University of Nottingham, Malaysia’s Asia Research Institute (Unari) based in Kuala Lumpur, said Malaysia would have to recalibrate its strategies for its own economic recovery.
“There is not going to be a global leader from the US, and Malaysia and Asean will have to look to Europe, Japan or China at this juncture, ” she said.
However, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said that the United States would continue to maintain an open trade policy, regardless of who becomes the US president.
“The US will want to ensure the economic relationship between the two countries remains strong, especially during this critical period amid business recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Although FMM and its members were disappointed that the US decided to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) in 2017, our bilateral trade with the US continues to flourish.
“Trade with the US expanded by 5.6% to RM164.45bil, constituting 9% of Malaysia’s total trade in 2019, ” he said, adding that exports to the United States had continued to grow for six consecutive years.
Soh added that the United States was also one of the country’s largest investors, having pumped about RM62.94bil into the manufacturing, banking, and oil and gas sectors.
The Malaysia Association of America (MAA) co-chairman Jack Liaw said the uncertainties at this juncture would cause the US stock market to fall.
He said the election results had to be resolved quickly instead of dragging on without clear leadership but this could take up to two months.
Liaw expressed concern that discrimination against Asians would increase under Trump’s second term.
Though he still expects discrimination under Biden, he is unlikely to stoke the situation like Trump and may help calm the situation.
“All Malaysians in the US have to stay calm, avoid any street protests as we can be victimised because we look Asian and they could blame it on us, ” he said.
As of press time, a clear winner has yet to emerge in the presidential race.
It may be days before it will be announced if Biden or Trump will be inaugurated as the US president on Jan 20, as mail-in votes have yet to be counted in several swing states.
Trump claimed to have won in several crucial states but demanded for vote counting to be stopped, claiming that his opponents are “trying to steal the election”.
Biden remained optimistic, saying that the final result would be known “after every vote is counted”.
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