KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Argentina is looking forward to an increase in bilateral activities — covering areas such as trade, economic and investment — that will follow after Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah’s five-day working visit to Argentina starting Monday.
Argentinian Ambassador to Malaysia, Manuel Balaguer Salas, said the high-level delegation will be the first from Malaysia since 1997 - the year Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad visited the South American country.
“Following Tun Mahathir’s visit and former Argentinian President Carlos Menem’s visit to Malaysia back in 1996, our bilateral activities have continued to prosper.
“Of course now, we want to diversify and strengthen the ties, with more partnerships and engagement in many ongoing projects in our country, such as roads, infrastructure, ports, and other areas where Malaysia has the strength.
“With this inaugural visit from the new Malaysian government (especially after more than 20 years), we hope that this will encourage more investors to come and penetrate the potential fields of cooperation offered by the two nations.”
Salas, who took up his post here in 2016, said this in an interview with Bernama International News Service at the news agency’s headquarters here, on Monday, in conjunction with Saifuddin’s working visit.
During the visit, the Foreign Minister is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Argentinian President Mauricio Macri at the President’s Office, Casa Rosada, and hold a bilateral consultation with Argentinian Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Faurie, said Wisma Putra in a statement on Sunday.
Saifuddin will also participate in the Second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40 Conference), besides giving a talk entitled “Malaysia Foreign Policy under the New Government and Its Policy towards Latin America” at the Argentinian Council for International Relations (CARI), highlighting the bilateral relations between Malaysia and Latin America.
Salas pointed out that one of the highlights during the bilateral consultation would be on the latest joint venture (JV) between Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) and Argentine national oil and gas company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), amounting to US$2.3 billion (RM9.37 billion) in the next four years.
The JV, made in December last year, is on the development of non-conventional oil in the La Amarga Chica block in Argentina’s Neuquen province.
“On the economic front (besides Petronas), we would also want to further develop with Kuala Lumpur on the halal food sector. We have been working closely with Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) so that we comply with the halal requirements imposed by the Malaysian government.
“We want to make changes and produce halal beef for the Malaysian market in order to allow the reimportation of our world-renowned beef back to this country, which has been off Malaysian shelves since 2011,” he said.
Salas noted bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to US$1.34 billion in 2018, and there are opportunities for expansion, notably in agro-industrial biotechnology and renewable energy.
Asked on what would be in the pipeline after Saifuddin’s visit, Salas said Argentina’s Vice President Marta Gabriela Michetti Illia will visit Malaysia to ‘complement’ the visit by the Malaysian foreign minister.
“As we are going to have the general election in October, a visit by our Vice President, probably in May this year, would be the follow-up event from this March visit by Saifuddin,” he said.
Malaysia and Argentina established diplomatic ties in 1967. The Argentinian embassy was opened in August 1983, while Malaysia opened its embassy in Buenos Aires in 1989.
Argentina, with a population of about 40 million, is the eighth-largest country in the world by land area. It borders Paraguay and Bolivia to the north, Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast, and Chile to the west and south. — Bernama