The Australian government is keen to work closely with Malaysia, particularly the Sarawak government, in various fields to further strengthen cooperation and ties between Australia and Sarawak.
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Rod Smith said while both Australia and Malaysia enjoyed a strong foundation in relations and cooperation, they could still further strengthen cooperation in many fields.
In Sarawak, he said, oil and gas, goods and agriculture, vocational education and training as well as healthcare sectors were among new areas that had considerable potential for Australian businesses to invest in.
Smith said these were areas he was actively encouraging Australian businesses to explore in Sarawak, given the considerable economic potential apart from the very strong historical ties between Australia and Sarawak.
“We think there is a great deal of potential for us to do more. This is something we are talking to the Sarawak business community during the dinner on Monday and later today (yesterday). We’ll be using that to explore opportunities for growth in trade and investment,” he told reporters here yesterday.
Smith said during his meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas yesterday, they discussed the possibility for Australia and Sarawak to collaborate in helping the state address some agriculture development and modernisation challenges that it was facing.
“That is something we will pursue and I think there are many that Australia can contribute as a country, which has a large, well-established and very efficient agriculture sector.”
In noting that Sarawak was very strong in the oil and gas sector, he said Australia, as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, had expertise in the (oil and gas) sector. Therefore, there would be a lot of potential for both parties to cooperate in that sector.
“Food and agriculture is another area we think that has the potential for further growth. Australia has a fantastic reputation for the quality of its food and agriculture products. They are processed in a very clean environment and that is what we think is always appreciated by the discerning Malaysian consumers.”
In education, Smith noted of a strong connection between Sarawak and Australia, with many Sarawakians benefitting from the Colombo Plan scholarship.
He said the establishment of two Australian university campuses in Sarawak – Swinburne University of Technology here and Curtin University Sarawak in Miri – had about 4,000 students in each campus.
Smith said 24,000 Malaysian students had enrolled to Australian universities this year, and 270 Australians in Malaysia, through the new Colombo Plan scholarships.
As Australia already had a strong foundation in higher education sector in the country, particularly in Sarawak, Smith said the other area of growth would be on vocational education and training.
“We are also very strong in vocational education and training and that is one of the real growth areas. We are very keen to work with Malaysia and Sarawak to see how our expertise in vocational education and training can help.”
Smith said with Malaysia heading towards an ageing population like Australia, there would be opportunities for Australian businesses to explore into the healthcare and age-care sector to cater for new ways of supporting the senior citizens, and also in dealing with some of the healthcare challenges.
He said with many well-known Australian retail brands doing very well in Malaysia, including in Sarawak, there were many opportunities for other companies to bring their retail products to the country with the growth in the domestic consumer sector.
Smith also said there were tremendous people exchanges between Australia and Malaysia, with about 500,000 Australians visiting Malaysia for tourism and business, while some 300,000 Malaysians visited Australia to meet friends and relatives, for education, tourism and also for business last year.
On investment, Smith said total Malaysian investments in Australia was about RM29 billion.
Honorary consul for Australia in Kuching, Datuk Philip Ting, was also present at the press conference.
Jonathan Chia, firstname.lastname@example.org