KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 (Bernama) — Association of Southeast Asean (Asean) envoys based in Malaysia are looking forward towards the establishment of the “Asean Community” (AC) in 2015, marking the year when Malaysia will chair the 10-member bloc.
They are confident that under Malaysia’s chairmanship, Asean members would reach a new level of cooperation. The AC is expected to materialise by December 2015.
Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno said that both Indonesia and Malaysia have been preparing for the setting up of the AC in 2015, especially the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
“That year will be very important for Malaysia as it is when the country will assume the Chairmanship of Asean. We are fully confident that under Malaysia’s chairmanship, all Asean member states are prepared to enter a new era as a community,” said the envoy in his “New Year Message” on bilateral ties.
The Asean Community has three key pillars — Political and Security community, Economic community and Socio-Cultural community. All three aspects are closely intertwined and mutually reinforcing, aimed at ensuring durable peace, stability and achieving a shared prosperity in the region.
However, the envoy noted that the focus was on the AEC which would see the region emerging into a dynamic single market and production base.
Other key characteristics of the AEC include a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and one fully integrated into the global economy.
Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia Ong Keng Yong said that Singapore was looking forward to working together to realise the aspirations of the Asean Community as Malaysia takes over the chairmanship of the association.
“Malaysia is already preparing to take cooperation within Asean to a new level,” he told Bernama in an email interview.
Next year, it will be Myanmar’s turn to chair the 10-member association comprising Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Brunei was the chair for 2013.
On bilateral cooperation, Ong said that Malaysia also continued to participate in Singapore’s development and growth, including through joint projects, noting that Malaysian companies have invested in the Singapore market as they expanded their global operations.
In addition, he said that Singapore businesses are looking at investing in economic corridors elsewhere in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.
Meanwhile, European ambassadors said they hope to enhance trade relations with Malaysia.
Norwegian Ambassador Hans Ola Urstad said that he was very optimistic that direct trade between Malaysia and Norway will expand, especially in the oil and gas sector.
Norwegian interest in Malaysia’s service sector stood at nearly RM4.5 billion in 2013, he said in an email interview when asked to comment on his hopes for 2014.
Urstad also said that the Norwegian “Government Pension Fund Abroad,” which is now the world’s largest fund with international assets totalling around RM2 trillion, has invested in nearly 80 Malaysian businesses valued at RM5 billion.
The envoy hoped to see further development in trade, services, businesses and investments between Malaysia and Norway in 2014, pointing out that the Norwegian economy had withstood the financial crisis “very well” and that Norway is now the 24th largest economy in the world.
Poland’s Ambassador to Malaysia Adam W Jelonek said his country would like to see more connections with Malaysia and better exchange of experiences, mainly in the halal industry and higher education.
“To just open the Malaysia market to the Polish, I think it is the easiest part of work. For me, it is an ideal situation if we could exchange our bilateral efforts to form joint venture companies and exchange experiences in both fields,” said Jelonek in an interview with Bernama about his aspirations for the New Year.
On the halal industry, Jelonek said that Poland would want to cooperate with Malaysia to access the country’s halal industry, explaining that Poland not only produces halal food but also has a variety of halal cosmetic products, which are already gaining popularity in the Muslim world.
“As both countries have engaged through the exchange of expertise between Malaysia’s Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) and the Mufti of Poland, we hope Poland’s window or European market for the halal industry will bring more advantages to all of us,” he said, adding that Poland was among the few European countries which were granted Jakim’s halal certificate in 2011.
Danish Ambassador to Malaysia Nicolai Ruge noted that Denmark and Malaysia have been listed in the World Bank’s annual report as being among the easiest countries in the world to do business in, scoring 5th and 6th spots respectively.
Amid such positive ratings, he said that more Danish companies are encouraged to start exploring potential markets in Malaysia.