Malaysian Prime Minister visits Viet Nam to enhance the synergy in post-COVID-19 cooperation

According to Mr. Neermal Shunmugam, Chargé d'Affaires of Malaysia to Viet Nam, the official visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dato 'Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob aims to further strengthen the bilateral relations, enhance the synergy in post-COVID-19 cooperation.
Malaysian Prime Minister visits Viet Nam to enhance the synergy in post-COVID-19 cooperation
Mr. Neermal Shunmugam, Chargé d'Affaires of Malaysia to Viet Nam.

Mr. Neermal Shunmugam, Chargé d'Affaires of Malaysia to Viet Nam, gave an interview to the World and Vietnam Report on the eve of the upcoming visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob to Viet Nam.

Would you please tell our readers the significance of the Malaysian Prime Minister's visit to Viet Nam?

The official visit of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to Viet Nam on 20-22 March 2022 is part of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s introductory visit to ASEAN countries. It will be his inaugural visit to Viet Nam as the Prime Minister of Malaysia since assuming the post in August 2021.

The visit aims to further strengthen the bilateral relations, enhance the synergy in post-COVID-19 cooperation, explore new facets of bilateral cooperation, deliberate on regional and international issues of mutual concerns and elevate trade and investment activities between the two nations.

The visit also would be an excellent platform for the Prime Minister of Malaysia to build closer personal rapport with his Vietnamese counterpart, H.E. Pham Minh Chinh. A close personal relation between the leaders of the two countries would definitely contribute positively to the enhancement of Viet Nam-Malaysia bilateral relations in the long haul.

Could you share some impressions on developments of Viet Nam-Malaysia bilateral relations in recent years? What are your expectations of the relation after the visit?

As countries with close geographical proximity, long-standing history, and robust people-to-people engagements, Malaysia considers Viet Nam as an important partner in this region. Hence, since 2015, our ties have been elevated to Strategic Partnership level. Our bilateral relations are further complemented by our close engagement in ASEAN, where we have been working together to advance ASEAN’s interests and goals worldwide.

The Strategic Partnership is operationalised by a Plan of Action. Recently, we have adopted the Plan of Action 2021-2025 which will be the blueprint to further strengthen our bilateral ties. Malaysia is encouraged by the breadth and depth of cooperation achieved in recent years. A highlight of the POA 2021-2025 would be on post-COVID-19 cooperation, where both countries resolved to cooperate to revive economic sectors affected by the pandemic, and embark on collaborative activities in the areas of research and development of vaccines for communicable diseases.

Another important milestone would be the new total bilateral trade target set between the two countries, which is 18 billion USD by 2025. We are confident that with the increased business and investment exchange between the two countries, this trade target would be achieved by 2025, if not sooner.

As of 2021, Viet Nam is Malaysia’s 11th largest trading partner and Malaysia is Viet Nam’s 9th largest global trading partner. Malaysia is also the 8th largest foreign investor in Viet Nam with more than 12.8 billion USD in investment value.

What next for both countries is to accelerate and expand economic cooperation. Malaysia is interested in advancing the digital economy ecosystem with Viet Nam, intensifing works in high-technology smart agriculture, smart manufacturing, renewable energies, financial technology, and cybersecurity.

The official visit by the Prime Minister of Malaysia to Viet Nam would assuredly reinvigorate and elevate bilateral ties and activities between the two countries in the post COVID-19 era for the mutual benefits of the peoples of the two countries.

Malaysian Prime Minister visits Viet Nam to enhance the synergy in post-COVID-19 cooperation
Malaysian Prime Minister Dato 'Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. (Photo: AP)

What are your comments on the Viet Nam-Malaysia cooperation in ASEAN and other multilateral forums such as the United Nations?

Viet Nam-Malaysia cooperation within the context of ASEAN remains excellent and multi-faceted. Cooperation between both countries encompasses all three ASEAN pillars, which are, the Political and Security Community; Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community.

Collectively, Malaysia and Viet Nam along with the other ASEAN member states continue to focus on ASEAN's community building efforts, regional and international issues of mutual concerns as well as engagement with ASEAN's external partners.

During Viet Nam's ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020, Malaysia extended our full support for the Chair's priorities and key deliverables for the year. Malaysia is confident that we can expect the same level of cooperation and support from Viet Nam when we assume the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2025 as well as in our role as the permanent shepherd of the High-Level Task Force on the ASEAN Community’s post-2025 Vision for the period 2022 until 2025.

Malaysia is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council 2022-2024, while Viet Nam is running for this position for the term 2023-2025. So what experience can Malaysia share with Viet Nam?

Firstly, allow me to express Malaysia’s profound appreciation of Viet Nam’s support for Malaysia’s Human Rights Council (HRC) Membership at the elections last October in New York.

Malaysia’s membership allows the opportunity to renew our commitment to the advancement and promotion of human rights, at home and abroad, as the last time that Malaysia had been an active member of the HRC was 8 years ago.

Malaysia is just three months into the role having assumed membership on 1 January 2022. We look forward to implementing our priorities as outlined in our pledges and commitments. Malaysia had undertaken a whole-of-society approach in developing the voluntary pledges and commitments, when we took the decision to bid for the HRC membership. We have consulted extensively with all relevant stakeholders including our National Human Rights Institution (SUHAKAM), the various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), private sector and academia.

Campaigning for the HRC posed a challenge for us, because of the COVID-19 restrictions. We were unable to do it the traditional way, which would entail physical engagements, visits and high-level participation at HRC meetings. We had to quickly change strategy, relying on social media for our promotional activities. We managed to have good coordination between headquarter and all our missions abroad.

Since assuming membership of the HRC, Malaysia has been taking a consultative and constructive approach. We continue to engage closely with all member states, the United Nations and its mechanism as well as civil society.

As a Council member, Malaysia intends to bring to the table the spirit of constructive and practical engagement, cooperation, inclusivity, transparency, mutual coexistence, and mutual respect. Malaysia also stands ready to play a balanced, non-politicised, and constructive role at the Council to enrich the quality of dialogue, cooperation, and action in protecting and promoting human rights globally, including on country-specific issues.

Although yet to assume Council membership, Malaysia notes that Viet Nam actively participates at all HRC meetings. Malaysia believes that there are many common priorities in the promotion and protection of human rights where we can further collaborate with Viet Nam, among others, women empowerment; children and education; climate change and the environment.

These can be undertaken at all levels, not only through Government led initiatives but also under the cooperation of our National Human Rights Institutions, our ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) representatives, academia and civil society.

We look forward to having Viet Nam on the HRC come 2023 and working closely on issues of mutual interest in our common effort to advance human rights, in our respective countries, in our region and internationally.

We wish Viet Nam all the best for its HRC membership bid. Viet Nam can be assured of Malaysia’s full support.

Thank you!

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