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BEIJING: Malaysia and China have agreed to strengthen and elevate bilateral relations, driven by deeper and meaningful cooperation in various aspects.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pix) said this strategic cooperation includes politics, trade and investment.

He also described his maiden official visit to China as an achievement that brought about great benefits to the country and the people of Malaysia.

Anwar said the focus given by the Chinese government and leaders as well as the response from Chinese business and industry figures to his visit reflects the close relationship enjoyed between the two countries.

“The hospitality received and focus given were great and extraordinary. I consider this a very positive development. This visit is of great benefit to Malaysians,” he told Malaysian media in a press conference at the end of his official visit to China here yesterday.

The prime minister said during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his counterpart Li Qiang, both sides agreed to boost trade relations and economic cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including expediting the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.

As for joint venture projects, he said China agreed to use local skilled workers and professionals as opposed to previous practice.

“They have agreed to use local workforce. Only for areas of specialisation that are not available in Malaysia, they will bring in from China.

“This will apply to all other projects,” he said.

Anwar said both parties have also agreed to explore new areas of cooperation, including new-generation car manufacturing and the halal industry.

He said Malaysia and China also agreed to enhance cooperation in the development of vaccines as well as research and development (R&D) of high technology and digitalisation of the economy, the entry of Malaysian agricultural products into China, increase in the frequency of flights and the entry of tourists in both countries as well as in the field of TVET education.

The prime minister's official visit to China also saw Malaysia securing a record RM170 billion worth of investment commitments from China.

The amount, the biggest so far from China, is from a total of 19 memoranda of understanding (MOU) sealed between businesses in China and Malaysia in various fields, especially green technology and the digital economy.

China remains Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, with total trade of RM487.13 bilion (US$110.6 billion) in 2022, up 15.6 pct from 2021.

Anwar's visit to the country is also in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Malaysia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while the two countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2024.

In this regard, Anwar said he had extended an invitation to Xi and Li to visit Malaysia next year as a way to celebrate the countries’ historic relations.

Meanwhile, on regional and international issues, the prime minister said that the Chinese leaders expressed their support for ASEAN Centrality.

“(During the meeting), we also opined that ASEAN needs to remain as an independent and impartial bloc to avoid enmity and ambitions of great powers,” he said.

He said that in his meeting with Xi, the President also acknowledged the role and contributions of Malaysia to the Islamic world and proposed that Malaysia and China cooperate for the benefit of not only the two nations but also all other Islamic countries, such as in the halal industry.

Anwar said that he also asked Xi to use his influence to help resolve the political upheaval in Myanmar.

The Malaysian delegation to China was joined by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming, International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Chang Lih Kang and Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing. -Bernama