Dinner speech in Honour of South African Deputy President, F.W. de Klerk, 13 February 1995

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to welcome your Excellency and distinguished members of your delegation on your first official visit to Malaysia. I recall our first informal meeting at Langkawi, a few months ago, when your Excellency and Mrs. De Klerk were on a private vacation.

Bilateral relations between our two countries have developed rapidly since the establishment of the Government of National Unity in South Africa last May. This is evident in the frequent exchanges of visits between leaders and officials of our two countries. Your visit, therefore, is another manifestation of the close relations that now happily prevail between our two countries.

Efforts on both sides to promote bilateral relations and cooperation have brought about positive results. The conclusion of an air services agreement between our two countries was a pioneering accomplishment. It facilitated the establishment of an air bridge which promoted people-to-people exchanges. More than five thousand Malaysian tourists and businessmen have since visited your beautiful country. In return, we hope to play host to an increasing number of South African visitors.

There has been a distinct increase in bilateral trade between Malaysia and South Africa. In the first two months of 1994 alone, the volume of trade had nearly equalled the total for the whole of 1993. The scope for a further expansion in trade is indeed promising. Officials from both sides are working closely to conclude an avoidance of double taxation agreement. A memorandum of understanding on trade signed by our two Trade Ministers last year is a forerunner to a broader trade and investment protection agreement which would further increase the volume of trade between our two countries.

We congratulate the people of South Africa for their wisdom, courage and determination in bringing about, successfully, the peaceful transition to democracy. The challenge ahead is a more difficult one - that of healing, of confidence-building, and ensuring economic development.

Malaysia follows with great interest the efforts by the Government of National Unity at restructuring, and in promoting economic development. We understand and fully support the motivations behind your country's reconstruction and development programme - your framework plan to bring about social re-engineering and the economic upliftment of the less privileged communities. Malaysia's own development experience, especially in the early years following independence, has some similarity, that is, the urgent need to narrow the income gap between the haves and the have-nots. We have worked very hard to expand our economic pie, so that growth and wealth distribution are possible without disrupting the national economy nor upsetting the country's political stability.

Malaysia welcomes the interest shown by the South African Government in our development experiences. We are happy to share whatever relevant experiences that South Africa may find useful in your efforts to bring about greater economic development and the social upliftment of the majority of your people.

Malaysia has offered to provide training to your affirmative action intake officers in relevant areas of Development planning, financial administration, and in diplomacy. We are awaiting confirmation of your requirements and hope that we will soon have your trainees in Malaysia.

The business communities in our two countries have also begun to show interest in promoting trade and investments. Malaysian conglomerates have ventured into South Africa, and have invested in property development that would provide job-creation. Interests have extended to trading activities and into banking. Malaysian and South African partners have combined in cooperation arrangements to seek out joint venture opportunities in our two countries as well as Overseas where the partners operate. South African companies have begun participating in tenders to supply South African products and services to Malaysia. These, your Excellency, are welcome developments which augur well for the strengthening of bilateral relations and future cooperation.

Malaysia believes in the potentials of South Africa and is optimistic about its future. Strategically, South Africa lies in an ideal geo-economic location, almost equidistant in time by air to the markets in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas, as well as being within easy access to the emerging markets in the Indian Ocean Rim, including the Indian sub-continent and the middle East countries. Within the Southern African region, South Africa, with its wealth of natural resources, well- developed infrastructure in roads and communication networks, and a sophisticated banking sytem, has the best fundamentals to become the engine of growth for the upliftment of the economy in the southern half of the African continent.

Malaysia believes in the long-term potentials for trade and cooperation with South Africa and the larger markets within the southern African crescent. We believe that the cooperation we are now nurturing would be naturally beneficial for our two countries and we look forward to the further strengthening of cooperation and joint venture activities.

The visit by your Excellency is therefore a very important beginning. I wish to take this opportunity to once again, welcome you to Malaysia.

Thank you.