Malaysia has secured a record MYR170 billion ($38.4 billon) worth of investment commitments from China, according to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The amount, the biggest so far from China, is from a total of 19 memoranda of understanding (MOU) sealed between businesses in China and Malaysia, national news agency Bernama reported on Saturday (Apr 1).

“We have achieved the commitment of MYR170 billion in investments from China. I must thank the investors for giving their cooperation and for giving us confidence. This is historic. It is good for Malaysia and the future,” he said when announcing the news at the Malaysia-China Business Forum 2023, which was attended by some 1,000 business leaders from both countries in Beijing on Saturday.

The prime minister was on the last of his three-day visit in China to deepen strategic bilateral political and trade relationship with China.

Earlier, in his keynote address at the forum, Anwar has urged Chinese investors and business leaders to leverage the strong bilateral ties and seize the vast opportunities being offered by the current government to invest in Malaysia.

“I assure you that under my watch, we will ensure that the ease of doing business and undertaking investments in Malaysia will be at optimal level. So, build more partnerships with Malaysian companies, particularly in strategic sectors to advance deeper interlinkages,” he was quoted as saying.

China remains Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, with total trade of $110.6 billion in 2022. On the investment front, China was the biggest foreign direct investor in Malaysia last year, with investments amounting to $12.5 billion.

According to statistics from Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, total exports to China increased 9.4 percent to MYR210.62 billion ($47.84 billion) in 2022, while total imports from China stood at MYR276.50 billion ($62.78 billion) in the same year, or an increase of 20.7 percent compared to the previous year.

Anwar, who is also the finance minister, said Malaysia’s position as the preferred investment destination has been solidified further with the presence of renowned Chinese companies such as Risen Energy, Huawei, Longi Solar, Bytedance, Jinko Solar, EVE Energy, Alliance Steel, Alibaba Group, Geely Auto Group, Xiamen University and many others.

“It is my hope that these companies, which have invested in strategic areas, will continue to expand their presence and work with local partners, as well as the government to build new capabilities, develop key industries, and create high-paying jobs for Malaysians,” said the prime minister.

He said Malaysia will continue to work with China to deepen existing cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and to expand economic cooperation in new growth areas, such as green development and digital economy.

Anwar also said Malaysia will work closely with other Asean member states to ensure that the Asean-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) benefits all parties involved.

He said the timely upgrade of the ACFTA will not only deepen trade and investment within the region but also broaden economic benefits with the inclusion of new sectors, namely digital economy, green economy, competition and consumer protection, as well as micro, small and medium enterprises.

“At the same time, the Straits of Malacca will be kept free and safe for economic and trade flows and international stability. It is our moral and historical duty to keep it that way,” he added.

The prime minister has also witnessed the exchange of 19 MOUs between the companies involved.

Among notable MOUs were the heads of agreement between DRB-Hicom Bhd and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co, Ltd on a proposed joint venture on the development and commercialisation of an automotive high-technology valley in Tanjung Malim, Perak, for new energy vehicles, and one between the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia and the China Chamber of Commerce for import and export of machinery and electronic products.

Other MOUs sealed were between Digital Way Group Sdn Bhd, China Silk Road Group Ltd and China Kairous Capital to jointly establish a Malaysia-China digital and development fund in China and Malaysia, as well as one on a proposed development of a waste-to-energy plant in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s DRB-Hicom partners China’s Geely to develop Automotive High-Tech Valley in Malaysia