Bangkok Post – China, Malaysia renew economic pact, reconsider visa-free travel

China expands influence in Asia-Pacific amid geopolitical tensions

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (left) walks with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during a meeting with him in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Wednesday (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (left) walks with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during a meeting with him in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Wednesday (Photo: Reuters)

KUALA LUMPUR – China and Malaysia on Wednesday committed to renew a five-year economic and trade cooperation agreement and review the visa-free travel pact between the two countries during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Qiang to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

PM Lee, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday evening, met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the administrative capital Putrajaya on Wednesday. After the meeting, PM Lee and PM Anwar witnessed the signing of several bilateral agreements, including on the export of fresh durian from Malaysia to China.

The deal will see Malaysia, the world’s top producer of the pungent fruit, join Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand and Vietnam in exporting fresh durian to China’s multi-billion-dollar market. Malaysia was previously only allowed to export durian wraps and frozen durians to China.

The trip marks Li Keqiang’s third visit to the region, which also includes visits to New Zealand and Australia, as China seeks to expand its influence and investment in the Asia-Pacific region amid ongoing geopolitical tensions and competition with the United States.

PM Li will also meet with Malaysia’s King Ibrahim and on Wednesday attend a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of the East Coast Rail Transit (ECRL), part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The 665-kilometer (413-mile) railway, costing 50.27 billion ringgit (US$10.7 billion), is expected to link the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia by the end of 2026.

The rail link, first proposed in 2017, is being built by the Malaysian branch of China Communications Construction Co. Malaysia said in March it would consider extending the China-backed project to the Thai border.

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