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In this issue, the Ambassador of Tajikistan to Malaysia, H.E Ardasher S. Qodiri, writes on the efforts to further enhance Malaysian-Tajik relations in an exclusive for VOICE OF ASEAN.
“Malaysia is considered a reliable friend and partner in the fast-growing region of Southeast Asia, and bilateral cooperation is one of the priority directions of Tajikistan’s foreign policy. We believe that there is a strong potential for wider development and expansion of bilateral relations between Tajikistan and Malaysia, particularly for cooperation in economic, scientific, technical, cultural, and humanitarian sectors. In order to achieve this, Tajikistan and Malaysia need to intensify official visits at the highest level.
Visits to Strengthen Friendships
The President of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Emomali Rahmon, has twice visited Malaysia. Once in October 2003 for the 10th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and then later as part of a state visit in June 2014.
During this visit, he had constructive meetings with His Majesty, the then Agong Abdul Halim Muadzam, then Prime Minister H.E Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and other high-ranking officials. These meetings gave fresh impetus to the development of bilateral ties.
In February 2020, just one month before the worldwide pandemic outbreak, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Sirojiddin Muhriddin was received in Putrajaya by invitation of H.E. Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs.
During the visit, our Minister handed an official invitation to His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa, to pay a state visit to Tajikistan. The Prime Minister of Malaysia was also invited to take part in the Second High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018 – 2028. This was scheduled to be held on 18-20 June 2020 in Dushanbe, but was later postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are absolutely convinced that following the visits of Tajikistan’s President in June 2014 and the Minister’s in February 2020, the subsequent high-level visits of Malaysian officials will play a critical role in further expanding cooperation between our two countries.
Ensuring Balance of Trade
In 2014, the two governments signed an agreement on economic, technical and scientific cooperation, where they agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Joint Commission (IJC). In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding was also reached to develop relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
However, till now the level of our bilateral trade is small. I would actually say that it is insignificant. In 2019, the volume didn’t even exceed RM24 million. In addition to this, the direction of the trade has been absolutely in Malaysia’s favour. We have mostly been importing edible oil, furniture and electronics.
I believe now is the time to consider increasing our turnover by multiple folds. According to tradingeconomics.com and Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, Malaysian investments overseas have rebounded to RM26.1 billion. Malaysian companies have largely been investing in the service sector,
specifically in financial activity, followed by industry and mineral products. Referring to Chief Statistician, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, Malaysian companies received six sen for every RM1 investment abroad; while in reality, pursuing investments in Tajikistan could provide significantly more profits to investors, considering that this Central Asian country is at its most promising stage of attracting foreign investors.
Opportunities in Mining and Agriculture
In 2019, Malaysia forked out more than RM80 billion to import some base metals (lead, zinc, nickel, copper), iron, aluminium, ores slag and ash. Malaysia spent more than RM10 billion for agricultural products and RM2 billion for cotton that can alternatively be imported from Tajikistan or its neighbouring countries. It is also worth noting that some of Malaysia’s neighbouring countries (Thailand and the Philippines) import the same goods (minerals, cotton) in larger volumes and in this case, Malaysia could play a vital role as the trans-shipment base for re-exporting.
At the same time, agriculture remains important for Malaysia’s economy. In 2019, agriculture industry’s contribution to GDP was estimated to be a little more than 7 percent and provided employment for more than 10 percent of the population. Malaysia’s total volume of agricultural product imports in 2019 reached nearly RM72 billion. A notable part of this sum was for fruit and vegetables.
In our case, agriculture contributes to about a quarter of the GDP, and around half of our nation’s workforce is employed in this sector. The export of cotton, vegetables and fruit is one of our main sources of income. We propose that we could be among the exporters of these goods to the Malaysian market.
We also invite Malaysia to consider the possibility of creating a trading and logistics hub in Tajikistan, both for exporting its goods to Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, as well as for pre-processing and importing products to Malaysia and the rest of the Southeast Asian region from Tajikistan.
Tajikistan can play the role of a trade gateway for Malaysia to Central Asia, Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries. At the same time, Malaysia can be a connecting link for Tajikistan with ASEAN countries.
In conclusion, I would like to reemphasise that the Republic of Tajikistan is constantly striving for enhanced cooperation with Malaysia. I hope that joint efforts will ignite a new momentum for bilateral and multilateral relations between our two countries, as we serve to further strengthen the friendship between the people of both countries.”.