Malaysia and China share a long history of trade dating back to antiquity when the famous navigator of the Ming Dynasty, Admiral Cheng Ho, first set foot in Malacca.
In the time that followed the Admiral’s arrival, merchants from the mainland had exchanged famous Chinese products such as porcelain, silk and other goods for products of the Malay Peninsula such as rhinoceros horns, ivory, bird’s nests, and spices.
About four decades ago, the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia led to a steady improvement in bilateral trade and in 1985, the first inter-governmental protocol to do away with double taxation was sealed. This was followed in quick succession by bilateral agreements on science, technology, education, economy, trade and others.
These protocols laid a steady foundation for further bilateral exchanges, and trade between the two countries has since experienced fairly rapid growth.
According to statistics released by the Chinese Customs Department, total bilateral trade in 2001 amounted to RM29 billion, rising by 51 per cent to RM44.3 billion in 2002 when Chinese exports to Malaysia were valued at almost RM15.5 billion and imports at RM28.8 billion.
China is now the fourth largest importer of Malaysian goods, and Malaysia is China’s main trading partner in the ASEAN region.
Taking the cue from the long history of trade between the two countries, Sarawak, as a fast developing state in Malaysia, too has established its own trade relations with China albeit in specific commodities such as timber and timber products.
In particular, the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) organised its first trade visit to China, especially Guangzhou, in 2002 with second trip taking place in 2009.
From October 20 to 26 this year, STIDC made another trip to two of China’s most populous cities — Guangzhou and Shanghai.This time, the delegation was led by Industrial Development Minister and STIDC chairman Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan.
Other members of the 40-strong delegation were Assistant Minister of Resource Planning Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais; Environment and Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Promotion of Technical Education) Datu Len Talif Salleh; Assistant Minister of Industrial Development (Investment and Promotion) Julaihi Narawi; permanent secretary to the Industrial Development Ministry Datu Liaw Soon Eng; director of the State Planning Unit Datu Ismawi Ismuni; STIDC general manager Datu Sarudu Hoklai; STIDC officials and the state’s top timber players.