KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 ― China and Malaysia signed a slew of deals today, renewing a five-year economic co-operation pact and allowing exports of fresh durians, during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Qiang to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Li met Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, following his arrival in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“China is ready to work with Malaysia,” Li said in a statement, adding that focus areas included development strategies, mutually beneficial co-operation, and exchanges to promote the building of a China-Malaysia community.

After today's closed-door meeting, Li and Anwar witnessed the signing of more than a dozen pacts on co-operation in areas ranging from the digital economy to green development, housing, tourism, and communications, among others.

The new five-year pact that runs until 2028 provides for strategic collaboration in areas such as trade and investment, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure and financial services, a statement after the meeting showed.

The five-year programme was first introduced in 2013.

China also agreed to allow imports of fresh durian from Malaysia after it meets sanitary requirements, the statement added.

Malaysia, one of the world's biggest producers of the spiky, smelly fruit, was previously allowed to ship only the whole frozen fruit and its products to China, with exports valued at RM1.19 billion in 2023.

The two countries also vowed to review visa-free travel arrangements set to expire in coming months.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, and the foreign ministry said total trade was valued at US$98.9 billion (RM465.7 billion) in 2023.

Li is on the third leg of a trip that has included New Zealand and Australia, as China looks to expand influence and investments in the Asia-Pacific region amid tension and competition with the United States.

He is also expected to meet Malaysia's King, Sultan Ibrahim, and attend a ground-breaking ceremony at a construction site for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, on Wednesday.

The 665-km (413-mile), RM50-billion railway will link peninsular Malaysia's east and west coasts by the end of 2026. ― Reuters