KUALA LUMPUR: Argentina thinks that its current relationship with Malaysia has the capacity to grow strategically, said the South American country’s Vice-President Marta Gabriela Michetti.
Describing Argentina-Malaysia relationship as “very good”, Michetti said Buenos Aires would like to see a reinforcement of its link with Kuala Lumpur, which started with the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1967.
“What we want is to generate a clear symbol of the importance we attach to the relationships between Argentina and Malaysia, as it was defined by our President (Mauricio) Macri for certain strategic countries that had been chosen as ideal partners to associate with. Malaysia happens to be one of the countries which is very important to maintain a sustainable development of cooperation,” she said.
She said this to Bernama International News Service in an exclusive interview. The Vice President was in Kuala Lumpur for a five-day official visit which started last Thursday.
This is the first official visit from the Argentinian side in 22 years since the visits by former President Carlos Menem in 1990 and 1997.
The Argentinian embassy was opened in Kuala Lumpur in 1983 while Malaysia opened its embassy in Buenos Aires in 1989.
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah made a working visit to Argentina in March this year. It was the first high-level visit from Malaysia since 1997, the year Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad visited the South American country.
Michetti stressed that Argentina is not only keen to focus its bilateral ties with Malaysia on trade and investment, but also on the diversification to other areas in order to reinforce existing relationship, as it is now an ideal moment to further strengthen ties and explore new areas of cooperation.
“I think we have now an ideal political moment to take decisions and to do what is necessary to achieve our goals. We want a long term sustainable development between both countries, so as to generate a process that we can maintain in time. This is what we want to achieve with Malaysia,” she said.
Bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to US$1.34 billion (RM5.6 billion) in 2018, with numerous opportunities for expansion especially in the agro-industrial biotechnology and the halal industry.
Michetti cited the joint venture (JV) between Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) and Argentina national oil and gas company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) worth US$2.3 billion (RM9.6 billion) in the next four years as “very important” for bilateral economic cooperation. However, she pointed out that the two countries should boost the (JV) cooperation, as the potential for growth is enormous.
The JV signed in December last year will allow for the development of a shale oil project in the “La Amarga Chica” block in Argentina’s Neuquen province.
“This JV is of great importance to both countries. We would not be doing this investment if we did not clearly see a strong potential in the near future”, she explained.
The Vice-President said that Argentina is taking a pragmatic approach in its view of the world and sees international relations as a multi-experience of integration blocs that can work together, and success can be achieved when there is cooperation.
As such, Michetti said efforts to diversify the existing relations between Argentina and Malaysia should start now, as there is enormous potential in many fields to push the ties forward.
“We want to start what we need to do immediately. We feel Malaysia has the same vision and ideology in what is needed for the people. We want to establish cooperation and avoid the fragmentation that is going on in the world these days”, she said.
She explained that there is already a plan for an agreement between Argentina’s National Agricultural Technology Institute (Inta) and the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi).
“Agreements will be signed within two months, once the negotiations are finalised. Furthermore, both countries have the will to establish a Business Council that will try to identify new sectors for economic and commercial development”, she said.
The Vice-President was also asked about the lack of people-to-people connectivity, mainly due to distance, language and the non-availability of direct flights between the two countries.
However, she said this should not be an obstacle as both sides can explore the possibility of having exchange programmes of lecturers and university students where the culture of Malaysia can be learned and exposed to the people of Argentina and vice versa.
“Of course Argentina and Malaysia are far away. The flights need to have a stopover and (we are) looking into it and studying alternative ways to improve connectivity. Maybe instead of going so far up north and then coming down, to make it more direct we should find a new connection...in the past (it was) through South Africa,” she said.
Malaysia Airlines, the national airline which once flew from Kuala Lumpur to Cape Town in South Africa and then to Buenos Aires, discontinued the route in 2012. — Bernama