Malaysia out to build on China bonds

By XU WEI | China Daily Global
Updated: April 8, 2022
Production of a COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinovac Biotech is carried out at a Malaysian pharmaceutical company on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on Oct 5. [ZHU WEI/XINHUA]

From joint vaccine efforts to BRI role in green transition, envoy outlines potential

Malaysia, the first country to ink an intergovernmental agreement with China for vaccine development, is looking to attract more Chinese pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases, the nation's ambassador in Beijing said.

Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin said China has shown a strong commitment to helping the developing world, including Malaysia, in fighting the pandemic, and he is optimistic for heightened bilateral cooperation in this field.

The country has so far secured about 30 million doses of Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccines, including locally made doses, as the two sides scale up efforts to boost vaccine development. Of the doses sent from China, 1.5 million have been donated.

"The commitment by the Chinese government (to make its vaccines global public goods) is very real. We have seen the commitment in Malaysia, in the ASEAN and the developing world," he said in an interview.

He notes that the foreign ministers of the two nations, in a meeting in December, pledged to explore cooperation in the research and development of upgraded vaccines and anti-COVID-19 drugs, as well as strengthen cooperation in the entire chain of vaccine clinical trials, procurement and production.

Sinopharm, a Chinese State-owned drugmaker, has developed a partnership with Malaysian pharmaceutical company Duopharma Biotech to produce vaccines in Malaysia.

Important role

The Malaysian envoy said China has an important role to play in facilitating Malaysia's recovery from the pandemic, noting Malaysia's distinction as the first country to establish a high-level committee on post-pandemic cooperation with China.

Malaysia, a key partner for China in cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, is also looking to explore further potential for bilateral cooperation in green development, he said.

He highlighted the significance of the initiative's expansion from infrastructure to green transitioning and health cooperation, saying that more work can be done to promote the mutual recognition of technical standards.

Trade between the two nations received a significant boost after the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership came into force in Malaysia in March.

China is Malaysia's largest trading partner, and bilateral trade reached $176.8 billion in 2021, jumping 34.5 percent year-on-year.

"With the RCEP, I expect the situation to become even better," Abidin said, adding that the global economic recovery could also bolster bilateral trade.

Gaston Chee, a board director of the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China, said he believes the free-trade agreement can help usher in heightened cooperation between Malaysia and China in investment, education and healthcare.

"We look forward to more opportunities brought about by the RCEP to businesses of its member economies," he said.

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