KUALA LUMPUR: Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said bilateral ties between Malaysia and New Zealand are now stronger than ever, and this is mainly because they understand each other's economic needs and sensitivities.
His Majesty said the strong ties were evident from the visits made by leaders from both countries since last year.
"Malaysia's Foreign Minister and Investment, Trade and Industry Minister have visited New Zealand this year, while we hosted Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta in August last year.
"This exchange of visits has paved the way for closer cooperation related to the economic and halal sectors, as well as the empowerment of indigenous communities.
"It is timely indeed that our multi-faceted cooperation reached a historic milestone with the elevation of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in May 2023," His Majesty said at a state banquet in honour of the Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Cindy Kiro, and her delegation at Istana Negara here Monday (Oct 2).
Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah was also present.
Sultan Abdullah said he was pleased to note that Malaysia and New Zealand had enjoyed robust growth in trade relations, and in 2022 New Zealand remained among Malaysia's top three trading partners in the Pacific region.
"Meanwhile, Malaysia is New Zealand's top three trading partner among Asean countries," His Majesty said.
His Majesty said the bilateral relations covered various sectors, ranging from people-to-people, education and economic fields.
For example, His Majesty said, New Zealand is an important partner of Malaysia in higher education, with over 800 Malaysian students currently pursuing their studies in New Zealand in various fields.
Sultan Abdullah also said Malaysia would continue to extend a warm welcome to all visitors from New Zealand.
His Majesty said more than 15,000 tourists from New Zealand visited Malaysia in 2022, and he hoped this number would continue to increase to reach the pre-Covid level which averaged 56,000 per year.
"We hope more Malaysian students will be given the opportunity to study in New Zealand in the near future," His Majesty said.
Sultan Abdullah said he was elated by the state visit by Kiro, describing it as a sign of the existing close ties between the two countries.
"It is hoped that this state visit will further strengthen the friendship and bilateral ties between Malaysia and New Zealand," His Majesty said.
This is Kiro’s maiden visit to Malaysia and the South-East Asian region after assuming office on Oct 21, 2021.
New Zealand is Malaysia's second largest trading partner in the Pacific region, with total trade between the two nations reaching RM6.32bil (US$1.42bil) as of June this year, an increase of 15.3 per cent from RM5.48bil (US$1.27bil) recorded in the corresponding period in 2022. - Bernama