NANNING: Asean and China’s collective efforts must focus on regional peace, stability, prosperity and fostering bilateral and multilateral trade relations, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

This is in the face of the post-pandemic challenges, geopolitical tensions and a host of other destabilising factors, said Anwar, who is also the Finance Minister.

He said Asean will remain as one of the fastest-growing regions in 2023 and it’s vital for Asean and China to diversify their trade and investment strategies as the world is making progress.

“Despite global economic challenges, Asean remains an attractive destination for international investment, charting an economic growth of 5.5 percent in 2022, with 4.6 percent (of growth) projected for 2023.

“This trajectory places Asean well above the global average, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast at 3.5 percent for 2022 and three percent for (both) 2023 and 2024,” he said in his opening remarks at the 20th China-Asean Expo (Caexpo) and the China-Asean Business and Investment Summit (CABIS) here, today.

Anwar also greeted the distinguished guests in Mandarin, saying ge wei lai bin da jia hao (hello, dear guests) before delivering his speech.

Meanwhile, Anwar also urged Asean and China to intensify their cooperation in digital economy to empower the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive in this digital age.

He said the MSMEs contribute 85 percent to employment, 44.8 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) and 18 percent to national exports in Asean.

“Hence, their role in contributing to value-added activities, innovation and inclusive growth cannot be overstated,” he said.

On the Asean Economic Recovery Framework, he said it outlines the importance of uninterrupted supply chain connectivity and the facilitation of essential goods and services by eliminating trade barriers.

“With robust infrastructure, I am confident there will be seamless continuation of trade activities, contributing to regional economic recovery,” he said.

On China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), Anwar said Malaysia, as an early supporter, envisions this initiative as a gateway to new connectivity horizons and growth opportunities across Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

Citing the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) and China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (CMQIP), developed under the “Two Countries, Twin Parks” concept, the Prime Minister said the parks are exemplary BRI projects.

“We deeply appreciate China’s unwavering support, particularly in ensuring that economic growth translates into shared prosperity,” he said.

On the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he said it is a testament to Asean and China’s commitment to economic integration, ensuring supply chain resilience and market openness during global challenges.

Touching on the Caexpo, Anwar said over the past 19 Caexpo editions, Malaysian companies have achieved commendable outcomes in China and Asean markets.

He is optimistic that Caexpo will continue to serve as a catalyst for Malaysian businesses, fostering trade collaboration and stimulating economic recovery as this platform not only acts as a means for business networking, but also as a hub for innovative cooperation and entrepreneurial ventures.

“As we look to the future, Malaysia is confident that our trade and economic relations with China will only grow stronger through various strategic initiatives.

“As we embark on this journey of enhanced cooperation, let us seize the vast business opportunities of Caexpo 2023 to explore and foster new relationships and accelerate progress across the board,” he said.

Also present were Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Local Government Development Nga Kor Ming, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Mohamad Alamin and Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Chan Foong Hin. - Bernama

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