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Sino-Malaysian trade has maintained a robust growth momentum despite a gloomy world economy in 2012, evidence of strong bilateral ties, said Malaysia's ambassador to China.
Iskandar Sarudin made the remarks in an interview with China Daily. China's top political adviser Jia Qinglin is currently on a visit to Kuala Lumpur.
Sarudin said trade volume between the two countries rose by 9 percent to $53.4 billion from January to November in 2012, noting that China has been Malaysia's largest trade partner since 2009, and that Malaysia is now the largest trade partner to China among ASEAN countries.
"China's imports from Malaysia include palm oil, electric and electronic components and crude rubber while China's major exports to Malaysia are machinery, appliances and chemical products," he said. "If we perform well in these sectors, I am optimistic that bilateral trade will continue to increase in 2013."
Sarudin said the positive trade results were secured amid risks and an unstable world economy, thanks to solid relations between the two governments.
"Sino-Malaysian relations are based upon a very strong foundation, upon traditional friendship with mutual respect, equality and peaceful coexistence," he said.
As a sign to show closeness, Jia Qinglin, China's top political adviser, has been leading a delegation of 60 people on a three-day visit to Malaysia since Monday.
Sarudin said Jia's visit to Kuala Lumpur, his second in 10 months, is special for Malaysia because it marks the first high-level visit by Chinese leader in 2013.
Jia attended the opening ceremony of the Malaysia-China Industrial Park in Kuantan, on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia on Wednesday.
"As a ‘twin park' to the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park opened in April 2012, the Kuantan park will give priority to industries such as automobile, machinery, gas and petroleum," said Sarudin. "Both governments attach great importance to the parks."
"We have a joint committee between the two countries, directed by Ministers of Trade, senior officials and shareholders from both countries," he said. "The committee will ensure the progress of the work and monitor policy direction, including mapping out incentives such as tax policies to attract investors."
It is estimated that by the year 2020, the jointly built park will attract investment worth $6.4 billion and provide 5,500 job opportunities, he added.
On Thursday, Jia will visit the Zheng He Museum in Malacca. Zheng, an historically famous Chinese admiral and voyager, stopped at Malacca five times during his seven great expeditions.
"Malacca and Zheng He remind us that friendship between China and Malaysia dates back almost 700 years," said Sarudin. "It is important that China and Malaysia take advantage of these close ties and work together to implement what is agreed to by our leaders."
Cooperation between China and Malaysia also extends beyond economy to a wide range of areas such as tourism, education and youth communication.
In 2012, Malaysia sent a group of 100 students to visit China and China is working on sending even more students to visit Malaysia.
"We need to encourage people-to-people exchanges, especially of the younger generation, not only in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, but also in second- and third-tier cities," said Sarudin.