KUALA LUMPUR: Ukraine is ready to step up engagements and widen cooperation with Malaysia across all sectors as the eastern European state works to rebuild its economy destroyed by Russian invasion over the past two years.

Charge d’Affaires at the Ukrainian Embassy in Malaysia Denys Mykhailiuk (pix) said there is huge potential of cooperation for both sides, particularly in the agriculture and agrofood industry, artificial intelligence, and security and defence system technology.

“As we begin to reconstruct our country and economy internally, we are also actively looking for partners externally to help us to accelerate our economy growth,” he told Bernama in an interview here.

He said despite the circumstances over the past years, Malaysia-Ukraine bilateral trade has gained good traction in 2023 compared to a year before.

Following the onset of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24, 2022, bilateral trade between Ukraine and Malaysia significantly decreased after a positive trend over the previous six consecutive years.

Throughout 2023, the embassy continued systematic work to implement the goals of Ukraine's foreign policy strategy in supporting external trade and investments, by providing external policy support and organisational-consultative assistance to Ukrainian exporters in expanding their presence in the Malaysian market.

“Remarkably, the total trade volume in 2023 returned to almost the pre-war level,” he said.

The overall value of trade between Malaysia and Ukraine for the first eleven months of 2023 was US$ 374.8 million (RM1.76 billion), up 30 per cent from 2022, according to data from the State Customs Service of Ukraine.

The combined value of trade between the two nations in 2022 was US$90.68 million, a startling 77.6 per cent less than the US$405 million reported in 2021.

Ukraine also seeks to work closer with Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) on Halal certification.

Mykhailiuk said, currently there is only one halal certification centre in Ukraine that was certified by JAKIM and he hoped the Malaysian agency will consider to certify one or two more of such centres in the country.

He emphasised that Malaysia’s halal certification system is well recognised and widely sought after worldwide.

“With Ukraine as a top exporter of agriculture products and foodstuff to the African and Gulf countries, I am optimistic this partnership will benefit both sides,” he said.

Additionally, he anticipated increased commerce and trade between the two nations this year.

“We hope to see more of Ukrainian agriculture producers tap into the Malaysian market and likewise for Malaysian enterprises, for instance, tropical fruits exporters to increase export to Ukraine,” he said.

He also expressed optimism that preparations for collaboration in education, which had been put on hold since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, would finally get underway this year.

Malaysia and Ukrained forged formal diplomatic relations on March 3, 1992. -Bernama

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