The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP


Media Release

FA152 - 23 October 2002                                                           

Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner to Malaysia

I have today announced the appointment of James Wise as Australia's next High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Mr Wise will replace Peter Varghese, who has been High Commissioner since February 2000.  Mr Wise is expected to take up his appointment next year.

Malaysia and Australia enjoy a strong and diverse bilateral relationship.  We have well-developed people-to-people links, supported by our extensive education relations.  This year, there are an estimated 25,000 Malaysians studying Australian education programs (both here and in Malaysia), with a major alumni network dating back to the Colombo Plan.

Trade and investment links also are strong, as are defence cooperation, tourism links, and cooperation to combat people-smuggling, terrorism and narcotics.  Australian and Malaysian Ministers hold regular talks in a range of bilateral and multilateral meetings, including through our bilateral Joint Trade Committee (JTC), the Malaysia Australia Dialogue process, WTO meetings and a range of APEC gatherings.  Our extensive defence cooperation encompasses valued bilateral links as well as cooperation through the Five Power Defence Arrangements. 

In 2001 Malaysia was Australia's third-largest trading partner in ASEAN and our 11th largest partner overall.  Two-way goods and services trade was worth A$8.1 billion.  Malaysia was our 10th largest source of imported goods and our 12th largest export market for goods.  Major Australian exports include dairy and other food products, sugar, wheat, copper, aluminium and non monetary gold.  Major imports from Malaysia include computers, crude petroleum, integrated circuits, telecommunications equipment and radio receivers.  We also have a dynamic services trade with Malaysia, focused on education and tourism. 

Mr Wise is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently First Assistant Secretary of South Pacific, Africa and Middle East Division.  Other positions he has held include Assistant Secretary, Staffing Branch (1999-2001); Assistant Secretary, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea Branch (1998-99); Director, Russia, East Europe and Central Asia Section (1994-95); and Senior Analyst, Office of National Assessments (1991-94).

Overseas, Mr Wise has served as Minister (Deputy Head of Mission) and Permanent Representative to ESCAP in Bangkok (1995-98), Second and First Secretary in Moscow (1987-91) and Third Secretary in Port Moresby (1983-85).

Educated at the University of Tasmania, Mr Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with first class Honours in History.  He is married with two children.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny 02 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02-6261 1555


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