The United Kingdom, seeking to boost its flagging economy, is keen on doubling trade with Malaysia by 2016.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his British counterpart David Cameron addressed a joint press conference in Putrajaya, where they announced that trade between the two countries was expected to hit RM39.16 billion in the next four years.
Cameron is on a two-day official visit to Malaysia, and said his priorities would be “developing a broad-based partnership based on shared values and strong cooperation on education, skills, trade and defence.”
He pointed out that Malaysia was turning into one of the great emerging powers of the 21st century and admitted that the UK had “neglected” its ties with this key member of the Commonwealth for nearly 20 years. He is the first British Prime Minister to visit Malaysia since 1993.
“Both Prime Minister Najib and I believe that democracy is the route to economic prosperity and as I said this morning in Indonesia, it is strong and vibrant democracy that guarantees our citizens’ safety, prosperity and religious identity,” Cameron said, after arriving from Jakarta on the next leg of his Southeast Asia tour.
He welcomed the Global Movement of Moderates initiated by Najib. “We share the same ambition to reject violent extremism and to create prosperity for our people,” Cameron added.
The British Prime Minister is accompanied by an 83-member delegation, and said he was visiting with “some of the best British companies to showcase what we can offer and how our two countries can work together to create jobs and prosperity”.
Last year, the UK was Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner among European Union countries with a total trade of RM13.03 billion, while Malaysia was UK’s second largest trading partner in Asean.
Both countries already share strong educational links: some 14,000 Malaysian students are studying in the UK and more than 45,000 are studying in Malaysia for UK qualifications. To service this growing demand, several British universities are setting up campuses in Malaysia.
Both leaders are expected to sign a new agreement to enhance this partnership in education and skills training, and will announce the doubling of scholarships for Malaysian students.
With Malaysia’s economy growing 5.1 per cent last year, it’s no surprise that the UK is keen on boosting their partnership. After all, the British economy grew a mere 0.7 per cent in 2011 and is bordering on a recession.
Malaysia too welcomes a stronger partnership with the UK. Its technology and educational standards will be useful in our drive towards high-income status by 2020.