Today, I welcomed President Hassan Rouhani on his first official visit to Malaysia and we had the opportunity to exchange views and opinions at two fruitful meetings.
During the two meetings, we discussed how our two countries can elevate existing relations to a higher level.
We agreed that President Rouhani’s visit came at a very opportune time, in view of recent developments, specifically the recently-lifted sanctions.
We can now look at enhancing Malaysia – Iran bilateral relations, particularly economic ties. The key to this is to enable business transactions within the banking systems of our two countries to take place.
I am pleased to note that our two Central Banks will work together immediately to conceive a workable mechanism to enable the private sector of our two countries to conduct business in an efficient and effective manner.
The effect of sanctions have resulted in total trade between Malaysia and Iran to decline by half of what it used to be. This is reflected in our total trade of RM1.03 billion between January to June 2016, half of what our total trade with Iran used to be.
But I am confident that this will change for the better, as President Rouhani and I, agreed that our immediate objective – would be to double our trade, within the shortest possible time and to grow even beyond that, in subsequent years.
We also talked about palm oil and I impressed upon President Rouhani that more than half a million smallholders depend on palm oil. Iran is a big importer of Malaysian palm oil, and I am confident that we have a strong scientific basis that palm oil is safe and healthy – providing a lot of positive nutritional attributes.
I have decided to send a delegation, to be led by the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities as well as the Malaysian Palm Oil Board officials to visit Iran soon. Also, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board has decided to open its regional office in Tehran, by the first quarter of 2017.
We also talked about Malaysia’s interest in participating in Iran’s Oil and Gas sector and their construction of highways. Malaysia also expressed interest in being a supplier in the automotive industry of Iran’s – bearing in mind that Iran imported twelve thousand Proton Sagas, in the past. Also, we have seen a drop in the number of tourists from Iran. We are undertaking measures to enhance mutually-beneficial cooperation in the tourism sector of both our countries.
We also agreed on the need to cooperate at the international level, especially at various international forums to ensure greater stability and peace within the Muslim world. The closer we work together, the better it would be for the Muslim world, because although we belong to different schools of thought, we share the same desire, objective and goals.
I believe that his official visit will usher in a new period of enhanced and deeper relations between Malaysia and Iran. I have also accepted President Rouhani’s invitation to visit Iran.