PETALING JAYA: The cooperation between China and Asean has become more important than ever in view of the country’s escalating trade war with the United States, said Malaysia’s special envoy to China, Tan Kok Wai.
He said seeing China and Asean countries strengthening their ties on economic development, improving the people’s livelihood and enjoying common prosperity were vital in view of the global economic slowdown and uncertainty over its recovery process as a result of the ongoing trade war.
Tan said development was top priority as it would benefit both China and Asean in safeguarding the interests of the Asia-Pacific region and having a say in the global economic system.
In his opening speech at the International Forum on Free Trade Zones Development in Haikou City, Hainan Province, on Tuesday, Tan said Malaysia was one of the founding members of Asean and the first Asean country to have bilateral ties with China.
“Malaysia has an abundance of natural resources, good public infrastructure and is politically stable with a well-developed legal system.
“It’s a window of investment opportunity for Chinese investors coming to Asean,” he was quoted by Sin Chew Daily.
Tan said China was Malaysia’s largest trading partner over the past 10 years while Malaysia was China’s second largest trading partner within Asean.
Malaysia’s trading volume with China, he added, was akin to one-fifth of the China-Asean trade, one-fifth of the China-US trade and one-third of the China-Japan trade.
Tan, who is also the Malaysia-China Business Council chairman, said these figures spoke volumes about its close ties with the Middle Kingdom.
“For a small-medium size country with a population of 32 million, the trading volume was quite considerable,” he said.
On Hainan, Tan said Chinese President Xi Jinping had indicated that it would become an example of the nation’s image during a gathering to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the province’s founding and the Hainan Special Economic Zone last year.
Xi had said efforts would be made to develop Hainan into a pilot zone for deepening overall reforms and opening a pilot national ecological zone, an international tourism and consumption centre, and a major national strategic logistics zone.
“In developing Malaysia and Hainan, we must not neglect the ‘software’ development, especially the aspect on human and cultural exchanges through the people’s hearts and minds”.
“This is a two-way flow of ‘deepening’ the economic and trade relations,” said Tan.
On another matter, Tan said he was ‘delighted’ over the announcement that Malaysia was among 59 countries to be given 15-day visa-free access to Hainan Island.
Tan said the bilateral ties between Malaysia and Hainan would be further stepped up in the economic, trade and tourism sectors.
“Malaysian students can seek greener pastures here in key areas such as education, medical care, science and technology, and culture,” he added.