Fresh Malaysian durians to be shipped to China as trade deal signed during Premier Li Keqiang’s visit – Queen City News

In this photo released by the Malaysian Information Bureau, Chinese Premier Li Qiang (left) shakes hands with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim before meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Malaysian Information Bureau via The Associated Press)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Fresh Malaysian durians will soon be exported to China after the two countries signed a series of trade and economic agreements Wednesday as Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited China to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

Before meeting the delegation, PM Li held informal talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the country’s administrative capital, Putrajaya. The two leaders witnessed the signing of various agreements, including a new five-year economic and trade cooperation agreement that officials said will strengthen industrial linkages in priority areas such as high-standard manufacturing and the digital economy.

Anwar’s office said the two countries also signed a protocol on measures to allow Malaysia to export fresh durian to China, a prickly, strong-smelling tropical fruit known for its creamy flesh.

Exporting fresh durian to China would open up a new market for Malaysia, as it has sold durian pulp and paste to China since 2011 and frozen whole fruits since 2018. Malaysia said its frozen durian exports to China surged from 170 million ringgits ($36 million) in 2018 to nearly 1.2 billion ringgits ($255 million) last year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived from Australia late Tuesday for a three-day visit in his first visit to Malaysia since 2015. After receiving a red carpet welcome, Li said upon his arrival that the 50th anniversary of the two countries’ relationship was a new starting point for deepening ties and increasing exchanges.

“China is promoting China’s modernization in all aspects through high-quality development. Malaysia is promoting national development under the vision of Malaysia Madani. China is ready to cooperate with Malaysia,” Li said in a statement carried by state-run Bernama news agency.

Premier Li Keqiang, China’s No. 2 leader after President Xi Jinping, last week became the first Chinese premier to visit New Zealand and then Australia in seven years.

Other agreements signed aim to boost investment in the digital economy and green development, fight international crime, and promote housing and urban development, higher education, people-to-people exchanges in science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation, according to Anwar’s office.

Trade with China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, accounted for 17 percent of Malaysia’s global trade last year, worth $98.8 billion, Trade Minister Zafrul Aziz was quoted as telling Bernama last week.

The talks focused on trade, but Malaysian Foreign Minister Mohamad Hassan said the thorny issue of territorial claims in the South China Sea could also be raised.

Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan all contest Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea, but unlike the publicized clashes between the Philippines and China, the Malaysian government prefers diplomatic channels and rarely criticizes Beijing even when Chinese coast guard vessels pass near Malaysian waters, in part to protect economic ties between the trading partners.

“That is why we need to further strengthen the good cooperation we have had since 1974. With the good relations we have had since then, any issues can be managed and resolved amicably,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Hassan told The Star ahead of Li’s visit.

Anwar, who visited China twice last year, has sought to grow closer to Beijing while engaging the US as a key ally. Speaking at a forum in Tokyo in May, Anwar stressed that Beijing is too close, important and strategic to ignore.

Ahead of Li’s visit, Anwar told Chinese media that Malaysia plans to join the BRICS alliance of developing countries, but gave no details. The plans were confirmed on Monday by Zafrul and Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan. The alliance’s core members are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and they seek a fairer world order than is currently dominated by Western countries. The alliance expanded this year with invitations to join for Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Around 40 countries have also expressed interest.

“Joining BRICS will not remove Malaysia’s strategic ambiguity between Beijing and Washington, it will simply give it an additional platform to have a stronger voice as a middle power,” said James Chin, professor of Asian studies at Australia’s University of Tasmania.

Li is also scheduled to have an audience with Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar Sultan. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said Li and Anwar will also attend a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of the East Coast Rail Link, which will connect Malaysia’s west coast with regional states in the east and is a key part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

The project was suspended in 2018 after Malaysia’s long-ruling coalition was toppled in historic general elections over a massive corruption scandal. It was then restarted after Chinese contractors agreed to cut construction costs by a third and is now on track to be completed by the end of 2026.

The two leaders will also attend a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. They will also meet business leaders at a luncheon before Prime Minister Lee returns to China on Thursday.


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