KOTA KINABALU (3 July 2024): Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor has called upon the public and private sectors in Sabah to leverage the strong economic ties with China and Asean to foster economic synergy in shaping future regional collaboration and economic development.
He said China is still Sabah’s largest trading partner chalking a bilateral trade value totalling RM10.7 billion last year. `In 2023, Sabah’s total trade was valued at RM41.463 billion, with main exports comprising Palm Oil at RM15.291 billion, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) at RM5.051 billion, Crude Petroleum at RM2.548 billion, Palm Kernel Oil at RM1.289 billion, and Palm Oil-based Oleochemicals at RM1.123 billion.
He added, Sabah’s economic ties with China were driven by strong trade, investment, and collaborative projects across sectors.
“Out of this, our bilateral trade with China totalled RM10.654 billion, making it Sabah’s largest trading partner,” he said at the Malaysia-China Summit (MCS) 2024: Networking Engagement Series in Sabah here today. His speech was delivered by Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan
MCS 2024 is organised by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and Qube Integrated Malaysia Sdn Bhd for 17 – 19 December 2024. It will feature a three-day International Trade and Investment Expo with over 500 exhibitors from Malaysia, China, and ASEAN, and a two-day Leadership Conference promoting regional cooperation and economic growth.
Anchored by five thematic pillars covering 21 sectors, the summit is themed “Prosperity Beyond 50”, and celebrates 50 years of Malaysia-China relations

Hajiji added: “For the manufacturing sector, our state has received RM3.07 billion in investments from China to date, which have created 3,086 jobs. These investments involved solar glass manufacturing, silica and processing, food manufacturing, rubber products, wood-based products, and plastic products,”.

He also highlighted that the palm oil sector is one of Sabah’s economic cornerstones and as a leading producer of the commodity in Malaysia, Sabah plays a critical role in meeting the global demand for this versatile commodity.

Sabah contributed 24 per cent of Malaysia’s total crude palm oil production at 4.5 million tonnes, which is a significant national contribution and showcases the state’s leadership in driving and playing a key role in enhancing our trade and investment for this important commodity, he said.

In line with the global environmental standards, 80 per cent of palm oil plantations in Sabah have achieved the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification as of last year, he said.

Besides that, Hajiji said there are ample opportunities for investors from China and Asean in green technology, high-tech agriculture, and mixed developments.

Sabah is also pitching to Chinese investors to explore the state’s Blue Economy
concept, which involves the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs. 

“We look forward to increased cooperation with China in green energy, manufacturing, high-technology agriculture, and smart city construction, among other areas, to promote mutual benefits and win-win partnerships.

“While oil and gas remain important revenue streams for Sabah, we welcome investors also to explore solar and storage technologies, hydro, geothermal, and carbon market opportunities,” he added.

Meanwhile, Hajiji said China is the largest source of foreign tourists to Sabah with 135,855 of the 396,564 international arrivals for the first four months this year from the People’s Republic of China. 

He believed the Malaysia-China Summit 2024 represents not only a significant platform for strengthening bilateral trade and investment but also an excellent opportunity to highlight and further develop Sabah’s thriving tourism sector. 

“Our two countries have had a long history of good bilateral relations and in the past few years, we have experienced remarkable progress in exchanges and cooperation in various fields – trade, investment, education, culture, tourism, and beyond. 

“Sabah supports this initiative as a platform to further enhance our bilateral relations and shared prosperity to include ASEAN, thereby strengthening our regional economic integration,” he said.

MATRADE Board Member Dato Mohammad Medan Abdullah thanked the state government for its support in participating  at MCS 2024 with a dedicated pavilion.

“This summit will provide opportunity for Sabah to highlight its strengths in key sectors for trade and investment, including in its aim to develop renewable energy,” he said.

Highlighting Sabah’s strategic importance, he added, “As a vibrant economic hub, Sabah offers unique opportunities and plays an integral role in Malaysia-China relations, bringing essential perspectives for trade diversification and resilience.”

He also noted that Sabah’s innovative solutions and sustainable practices are highly valued in international markets and that the state’s presence at MCS 2024 will highlight its innovation and sustainability across sectors.

“Sabah’s high connectivity makes it popular among Chinese tourists, enhancing trade opportunities. Businesses can forge new partnerships, tap into cutting-edge technologies, and attract investments to catalyse growth at the summit.

“We believe MCS 2024 will create significant opportunities for Sabah companies as we aim to unlock RM2 billion in potential trade and investment,” Mohammad Medan added.

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