Malaysian PM Mahathir calls for increased investments, trade with Philippines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 7) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday called for ways to boost trade, investments and cooperation with the Philippines in his separate meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte and Filipino business leaders.

Facing the media together with Duterte after their bilateral meeting in Malacañang, Mahathir said businesses from both nations should invest in each other's countries.

"We would encourage private sectors from both countries to explore opportunities of collaboration and venture in new cooperation and investments," he said.

The visiting Malaysian leader cited the areas of infrastructure, tourism, education and health care as trade opportunities.

"We have the opportunity to increase and appraise ourselves in the areas of tourism, health and education, including the investment of our private sectors," Mahathir said, adding that he looks forward to a pending memorandum of understanding between the Philippines and Malaysia on health care.

Mahathir said the Philippines is Malaysia's 15th largest trading partner in the world, and its 4th largest trading partner among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

Bilateral trade has been growing but has been largely in favor of Malaysia, he said, adding that he and Duterte "strongly believe that trade and investment between the two countries could be further strengthened in the coming years."

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman told CNN Philippines that Mahathir's earlier meeting in the morning with business leaders in Makati was "very productive."

"It is very positive. We would like to congratulate Malaysia for its stellar economic growth last year... both Philippines and Malaysia are considered economic bright spots in ASEAN," Macatoman said.

Macatoman, who attended the private forum said that Mahathir pushed for Malaysian and Philippine businesses to invest in each other's countries.

He said that there is also an opportunity to strengthen trade in Halal, or food products that are prepared as prescribed by Islamic law.

"The Halal industry is untapped right now in the Philippines," Macatoman said.

Malaysia helped facilitate the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an effort that has culminated to the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

According to Macatoman, Malaysia was the fifth largest source of approved foreign investments in 2018, followed by China, Singapore, Japan, and the Virgin Islands.