Zahid, Tillerson discuss security, human trafficking and bilateral relations

KUALA LUMPUR: Security issues, including human trafficking, and bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United States were among the focus of discussions between Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today.

Ahmad Zahid said they discussed and exchanged views on security developments, and regional and international issues of common interest.

"Hopefully, interaction between the leaders of both countries can strengthen bilateral relations and be a catalyst to enhancing relations and understanding between Malaysia and the United States," he said in a statement today.

Tillerson, who is on a two-day working visit to Malaysia from today, is the first US high official under President Donald Trump's administration to visit Malaysia since being appointed as Secretary of State on Feb 1.

In combating threats of transborder crime including human trafficking, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia needed to forge cooperation with its strategic partners including the US.

He said Malaysia's initiatives in tackling these issues had been recognised by the US Department of State in its 2017 Annual Report which had placed Malaysia at Level Two.

"This is thus far the best achievement by Malaysia since it introduced the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants Act in 2007," he said, adding that Malaysia was targeting Level One in the US Department of State Report for 2020.

On bilateral relations, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia and the US had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in addressing transborder crime on July 17, 2012 and another MoU on immigration cooperation on on Oct 1, 2014.

In combating terrorism, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia and the US had also signed a document on sharing information on terrorism (Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-6) on Oct 8, 2015 which listed individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism.

On the US visa waiver which has enabled Malaysians to enter the US and stay there for a period not exceeding 90 days as tourists and for business without a visa, Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia had taken the initiative to fulfil six of the seven conditions set to participate in the programme.

The condition that has not been met is the US visa rejection applications from Malaysians of less than three per cent annually, while the rate was at 3.65% in 2016. — Bernama