International Trade and Industries Minister, Malaysia
Date of Birth: 15\05\1947
Muhyiddin Yassin is one of three vice-presidents of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the leading member of the Barisan Nasional
(National Front) coalition, and as Trade Minister, one of the most
important figures in Malaysia's burgeoning trade with Africa.
The coalition of ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indian parties has ruled since Malaysia gained Independence from Britain
in 1957. UMNO was hit hard in the March 2008 elections, losing its
two-thirds majority in parliament. Further damage came this month when
it lost crucial parliamentary by-elections in Terengganu, a heavily
Malay area. Slowing economic growth helped the opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and cost the UMNO the seat.
After that disaster, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi
will step down in March - and the succession battle is on. When the
UMNO General Assembly meets on 24-28 March, its Deputy President Najib Abdul Razak
expects to move uncontested into the presidency - and therefore the
premiership of Malaysia. Muhyiddin and others are vying for Najib's
job. The party's deputy president becomes vice-premier of the nation.
It is not Muhyiddin's first attempt: a 2004 run was lost in an upset.
Bright but not especially charismatic, Muhyiddin has spent recent years
honing his reputation. His lack of international experience hamstrung
his 2004 candidacy, but the International Trade and Industries post has
dramatically raised his profile. And this month, the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development reported that Malaysia had won
US$12.9 billion in foreign direct investment in 2008, far outperforming
its Asian neighbours.
On 5-6 January, Yassin hosted Egypt's Trade and Industry Minister, Rachid Mohamed Rachid.
Bilateral trade is small but growing. The state car manufacturer,
Proton, plans an assembly plant in Egypt and hopes to make gains in the
Egyptian market. Rachid courted Azman Mokhtar, Director of the state investment corporation Khazanah Nasional Berhard. Egypt wants to lure Malaysia's construction and telecommunications firms into public-private infrastructure projects.