Malaysian PM Commits to Build on Existing Ties with Kazakhstan and Central Asia

ASTANA – Malaysia is committed to further enhance cooperation with Kazakhstan in priority areas of trade and investment, education and digitalization, said Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (R) during the interview with The Astana Times correspondent Aibarshyn Akhmetkali (L). Photo credit: The Astana Times

The Malaysian Prime Minister arrived in Astana on May 16 for the start of his first official visit. He met with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and the two sides reviewed ways to bolster ties between the nations in a number of key sectors.

Prime Minister Ibrahim emphasized Malaysia’s commitment to enhancing cooperation with Kazakhstan as well as inter-regional cooperation between the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Central Asian region across many fields.

“I think now, in my discussions with the President [Tokayev] we are committed to focusing on this region, Central Asia, and ASEAN, and between Malaysia and Kazakhstan,” said Prime Minister Ibrahim, noting that Malaysia will assume ASEAN chairmanship next year.

“Of course, we are committed to make sure that in issues of investment, trade, in minerals, in digital, and even focusing on the need to coordinate with Kazakhstan in penetrating into the other markets in the region, and even to the outlying areas. So it’s a really remarkable increase in impetus and focus,” he added.

There is a great potential to expand the framework of economic cooperation between the two countries, according to the Malaysian Prime Minister.

“What is positive is the fact that there has been a 30% increase overall in trade and investments between the two countries in the last year, which means the potential is enormous. We have identified areas where Malaysians can come here, such as minerals or energy transition, or even digital. Similarly, from Kazakhstan to Malaysia, which also includes tourism: both these countries are exceptional. You have beautiful mountains and ski resorts, we have beautiful sea and virgin jungles. So we’ll benefit from both or complement one another,” said Ibrahim.

Kazakhstan and Malaysia also aim to enhance trade by shifting from raw materials to higher-value products. “In my discussions with the President we agreed that we should go on the higher end. If it is now minerals, [then] to processing, to industry development instead of just focusing on the raw materials,” said Ibrahim.

The bilateral meetings will serve as a foundation for developing policies and providing recommendations to businesses and decision-makers back in Malaysia.

“We started discussions here between some local business partners and Kazakh businessmen, but I think when I return back to Malaysia, I’ll have to convene a meeting to explain the possibilities and the fact that we have a great friend in the leadership here and among the people of Kazakhstan,” said Ibrahim.

The Malaysian Prime Minister highly commended the social and political reforms implemented in Kazakhstan under Tokayev’s leadership.

“I told President Tokayev last night that what he has done is impressive because there is, of course, a radical shift from the past in terms of transparency, in terms of family members in business, in terms of the reform to attract investments, which we are doing too. I think here we can really share in common. I combat the very strong drive against corruption in my country. And we can see, for example, the resoluteness and determination of the President in this regard, and we can be great friends,” said Ibrahim.

Other priority sectors include education and digitization, where Malaysia has great expertise.

“There are many students [studying in Malaysia] and we agreed with the President that we will open more avenues for students to study, particularly on AI and digital, where we may have an upper hand. But then we will also share the experiences from Kazakhstan in terms of your institutions, universities and research centers. We should send our professors and students here too,” said Ibrahim.

“In terms of digital, IT and AI, we are fortunate that major investors from the United States, Europe and China, and even Japan are focusing on Malaysia. Now Malaysia is the hub for microchips and supercomputers in the region. There’s a vast increase in investments in that area, which means we adjust our training. (…) These issues, of course, have been shared with your President. He’s also given instructions so that we can benefit from your strength and vice versa from Malaysia’s experience in this,” said the Prime Minister.

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