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Malaysia-Australia work on mutual economic prosperity

by Adrian David

MELBOURNE, 5 MARCH – Cooperation on economic prosperity, community and technology, as well as defence and security are the key emerging sectors Malaysia and Australia are exploring.

The agenda also encompasses trade and investment, education, youth and sport, digital economy and cyber security as both countries enter a new progressive era to welcome their 70 years of diplomatic ties next year.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese concurred on working closely to achieve their desired goals and elevate their nations’ long-forged ties to a higher level.

“We have already built a solid cooperation in various fields.

“These ties were further strengthened by the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in 2021, which provides an action plan to develop cooperation in various fields.

“Renewable energy, green technology and food security are equally important to us and this has become a pressing need for many countries, including Malaysia.

“As for education, there are many Australian institutes of higher education and national universities which have set up campuses in Malaysia, which we welcome.

“It is our job and commitment to facilitate and expedite the process,” Anwar said during a joint press conference with Albanese after the ‘Malaysia-Australia Annual Leaders Meeting 2024’ at the Government House in Victoria.

Anwar was welcomed earlier by Victoria Governor Margaret Gardener and Albanese as he arrived from Kuala Lumpur with his entourage that included Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, and Youth and Sport Minister Hannah Yeoh.

Anwar’s visit is also in conjunction with the ‘Asean-Australia Special Summit’.

During his meeting with Albanese, they witnessed four memoranda-of-understanding involving both countries.

The MoUs involved practical arrangements on cooperation in the areas of science and technology, their applications for the implementation of the ‘Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)’; Cyber Security and Critical Technology; sports; and higher education.

“As for economic prosperity, we agreed that there remains much to be explored to boost trade between both nations despite the impressive bilateral trade numbers recorded in the last few years.

“Australia is Malaysia’s 10th largest trading partner and we agreed that both parties will prioritise efforts to renew and modernise the Australia-Malaysia cooperation to ensure that both countries are developed, safe and digitally resilient.

“Malaysia welcomes the participation of Australian companies in manufacturing and developing industries, especially in renewable energy and agro technology, as well as establish joint ventures to develop midstream and downstream businesses,” Anwar said.

Anwar, who is also Finance Minister, later engaged business leaders and top executives from 18 Australian companies and encouraged them to expand their businesses and investments in Malaysia.

The company executives were from the manufacturing sector, including medical devices and metals, as well as the services sector such as data centres, finance, and trading.

“Malaysia has implemented clear and effective policies leading to unprecedented levels of investment.

“Our political stability is a major factor in attracting investors to Malaysia.

“We have introduced new policies with clarity and as a result, we have secured both domestic and foreign trade investments, the highest ever in our history,” Anwar pointed out.

Anwar just last month had announced that Malaysia’s approved investments hit RM329.5 billion last year, which was 23 per cent higher compared to 2022, the highest in the country’s history.

“Of the total investment, foreign investment was the main contributor, accounting for 57.2 per cent as compared with domestic investment at 42.8 per cent.

“In 2023, Malaysia and Australia’s bilateral trade stood at US$18.57 billion (RM84.64 billion), with Australia being Malaysia’s 10th largest trading partner.

“As of last December, Australia had approved investments in Malaysia involving 582 projects, with realised investments involving 366 projects.

“Australian companies investing in Malaysia seems to be growing and we welcome them to participate in high-technology manufacturing projects and emerging industries such as smart manufacturing, digital economy, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, critical minerals, artificial intelligence, halal industry and renewable energy.

“This shows the sign of confidence they have in Malaysia,” said Anwar.

Anwar said in the community and technology area, Malaysia and Australia affirmed their commitment to improve multi-sector cooperation as a response to changing business needs, including the vaccine ecosystem and clean energy transition.

He also expected higher education – involving technical, vocational education and training (TVET) – would further boost research and high-technology-based cooperation between universities from both countries.

The idea was to cultivate talented and interoperable workforces, as Malaysia continued to be a popular destination for Australian New Colombo Plan scholars and Australia a popular destination for Malaysian students.

On defence and security, he said they had agreed to continue and improve cooperation under the Malaysia-Australia Joint Defence Programme (MAJDP), maritime cooperation, eradicating terrorism, transnational crime as well as cyber security.

“Malaysia also made known its concern on numerous regional and international issues, especially the Palestine-Israel crisis, the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the internal turmoil in Myanmar in which Malaysia has strong stand on humanitarian issues.

“The MoUs with Australia are of course a remarkable milestone in charting a more progressive future, and they underscore the substantive success and outcome of our meetings,” Anwar said.

As for sports, Anwar said many of Malaysia’s outstanding athletes were currently being trained in Australia towards securing some success in the forthcoming Paris Olympics this year.

To maintain the progressive momentum and further strengthen bilateral relations, Anwar urged more exchange visits at all levels, from the public to private sector.

“These can involve active links, especially among the youth, to forge closer friendship and understanding between both countries,” said Anwar.

Anwar updated Albanese on Malaysia’s Madani agenda, which laid the way forward for a Malaysian society that encapsulated the values of justice, sustainable living and creative and innovative ways of thinking.

In response, Albanese said youth and sports cooperation would provide great opportunities for the next young generation of Australians and Malaysians to train and develop side by side.

“The MoU on CTBT will enable data sharing, capacity building, and nuclear non-proliferation between Malaysia and Australia.

“We also discussed our joint commitment to better manage cyber threats and going forward, Australia and Malaysia will be able to engage in more comprehensive information sharing and cyber skills development and work closely together on immigration and border issues,” said Albanese.

Albanese added Malaysia was one of Australia’s oldest and most important friends in the region, and both nations bound together in so many ways, from family ties and close economic connections to the tens of thousands of students and tourists each year, are drawn to Australian and Malaysian shores.

“Above all, we share the same aspirations for the region we call home. We believe in an Indo-Pacific region that is open, stable and prosperous, and where sovereignty is respected and differences are settled through dialogue and agreed rules and norms.

“My meeting with Anwar emphasised the steadfast commitment to the vision and a shared desire to bring our people and our economies closer still.

“Australia stands ready to play a bigger role in Malaysia’s pursuit of economic opportunity, investment, development and growth.

“Our comprehensive strategic partnership gives us a framework to do just that, as does Australia’s South-east Asia Economic Strategy,” said Albanese.

He added that he agreed with Anwar to prioritise efforts to energise and modernise the Australia-Malaysia partnership, to ensure both economies were digitally advanced, safe and resilient.

The leaders acknowledged Australia and Malaysia’s close cooperation in advancing the ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity’ (IPEF) that led to the first-of-its-kind ‘IPEF Supply Chain Agreement’, ‘IPEF Clean Economy Agreement’ and ‘IPEF Fair Economy Agreement’.

Other areas both leaders concurred on were the outcomes from the ‘13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization’ (WTO) in February 2024.

They reaffirmed the importance of the multilateral rules-based trading system with the WTO at its core and reiterated their commitment to strengthen and reform the WTO, including by restoring a fully functioning dispute settlement system this year.

The Leaders also welcomed growing economic integration through the upgraded ‘Agreement Establishing the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area’ (AANZFTA), the ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’ (RCEP) and the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (CPTPP).

The Leaders highlighted the two countries’ complementary, comprehensive, and resilient trade and investment relationship, based on a common interest in free, fair and open trade through the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Anwar and Albanese also welcomed the ambitious outcomes of ‘COP28’ (28th United Nations climate change conference) and reaffirmed their respective commitments to address climate change, including by transitioning to net-zero by 2050.

They welcomed an expansion of bilateral cooperation on green shipping, maritime decarbonisation and the clean energy transition. – airtimes.my

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