KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 20): Malaysia’s ties with strategic partners such as the United States (US) and European Union (EU) have continued to strengthen despite challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dewan Negara was told on Wednesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said bilateral trade between Malaysia and the US increased by 27.1% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM121.01 billion, while trade with the EU expanded by 26.66% y-o-y to RM79.94 billion from January to July this year.
“The US and the EU are Malaysia’s third and fourth largest trading partners, respectively, after China and Singapore.
“In 2019, the value of bilateral trade between Malaysia and the US stood at RM165.22 billion, while bilateral trade with the EU was valued at RM159.35 billion,” he said during a question and answer session in the Dewan Negara on Wednesday.
He said this in reply to a question from Senator Datuk Zaiedi Suhaili, who wanted to know the outlook on the strategic and economic cooperation with the European economic bloc and the US.
Kamarudin said in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), the focus would be on strategic and high-impact industries, including tourism, electrical and electronics (E&E), global services, aerospace, creative industries, halal industries, biomass industries and smart agriculture activities.
To strengthen the Malaysia-US Comprehensive Partnership, he said the ministry will increase cooperation in areas such as vaccine production and distribution (including Covid-19 vaccines), renewable energy, green economy, digital commerce, cybersecurity, health tourism, robotics, aerospace and sustainable development.
Other measures include inviting more US companies to relocate their business operations to Malaysia and exploring cooperation in the field of digital technology with the country at the ASEAN level.
At the same time, efforts have also been made to strengthen the strategic and economic cooperation with the EU, including the signing of a Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation, and the government is also contemplating the resumption of negotiations on the Malaysia-EU Free Trade Agreement, said Kamarudin.
“We will also enhance air and trade connectivity between the two regions, ASEAN and the EU.
“The measures also include promoting Malaysia as a strategic location for investment and tourism under the regional cooperation relationship at the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) level and to propose the recognition of the Covid-19 reciprocal Vaccination Certificate between Malaysia and the EU,” he said.
He added that the government remains committed to further strengthening Malaysia’s cooperative ties with the aforementioned countries, led by ministries such as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC).
“This is to ensure that the value of trade between Malaysia and the EU and the US as well as tourist arrivals from both countries continue to increase despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis and the challenging economic situation,” he said.
To this end, Kamarudin said Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali has embarked on a trade and investment mission involving three European countries, namely Germany, France and the United Kingdom, which ends on Oct 22.