Malaysia seeks closer ties with UK

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia and the United Kingdom can work closely together on a number of promising areas for further cooperation, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

"Last year, together, we successfully brought the World Islamic Economic Forum to London, and in the spirit of friendly competition and shared prosperity, we were please to see the UK making a play for the Islamic finance market.

"As a global leader in the field, we hope to develop stronger links with British industry and open up wider appreciation for syariah compliant investment," Najib said at a gala dinner held in conjunction with the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (BMCC) 50th anniversary.

Tourism, he said continued to feature high on Malaysia's engagement with the UK.

"As Visit Malaysia Year gets underway, I know you will continue to play your part in encouraging Britons to come here whether for business or pleasure. And in the end, it is good people-to-people contacts that define and enrich our economic relationship."

Najib said BMCC, as one of the leading business networking entities in the country, with an impressive membership that reads like the who's who in British business, had been an invaluable travelling companion, bringing the two nations together by finding common opportunities.

Najib also said UK Prime Minister David Cameron's visit two years ago, signalled the beginning of a stronger economic relationship, founded on closer political cooperation.

"For some countries, history is a barrier. But we prefer to see it as a bridge. And the ties between our two countries are stronger now (more) than ever.

"To sustain this momentum, Prime Minister Cameron and I pledged to increase investment and double the value of bilateral trade to STG8 billion (S$16.9 billion) by 2016. This commitment was needed because our long history of engagement was not reflected in our bilateral trade figures," he said.

He said BMCC had played an important role in helping to deliver the commitment by becoming the local partner for the Overseas Business Network Initiative.

"Your support is vital -- government works best when it facilitates. To see real results, we need the business community to put its shoulder to the wheel. We must continue working together with business organisations, agencies and the BMCC to deepen our relationship," he said.

Malaysia, Najib added was on the verge of becoming a high-income nation with the Malaysian business community making inroads into global markets.

Najib also said Malaysia was home to multinational companies, and leading financial and educational institutions, many of which were BMCC members.

He congratulated BMCC for engaging Malaysian youth in their anniversary celebration, with the presence of 1M4U volunteers.

Present at the dinner were Tengku Mahkota Kelantan Tengku Dr Muhammad Faiz Petra, the prime minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, British High Commissioner to Malaysia Simon Featherstone and BMCC chairman Datuk Larry Gan.

Cameron, in his speech read by Featherstone, said the relationship between both countries was at an all-time high, with cooperation in a diverse range of sectors, such as property and infrastructure investment, advanced manufacturing, football, research and development, Islamic finance, tourism, retail, design, and fashion.

"But we are determined to do more. That is why, when I visited Malaysia in 2012, Prime Minister Najib and I agreed that we would double trade and grow investment between our two countries by 2016.

"There has never been closer collaboration between our two governments."