KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- China's Belt and Road Initiative could help bridge the infrastructure and connectivity gap in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said Tuesday.
The Belt and Road Initiative has opened up doors for Malaysia to its ASEAN neighbours and the rest of the world, said Azmin amid the launching of the joint report on "Belt and Road Initiative and Southeast Asia" by the ASEAN Research Institute of Malaysia's CIMB Bank and LSE IDEAS, the foreign policy think tank of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
"Indeed, Malaysia supports this vision of a connected ASEAN, and as a developing country and trading nation, infrastructure connectivity is of paramount importance to Malaysia so as to facilitate seamless movement of goods, services and people," he added.
Proposed by China in 2013, the initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
"The vision of Belt and Road Initiative is being promoted at a time when ASEAN too is moving towards greater integration, with the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community," said Azmin.
The motivation for the regional connectivity agenda is also fuelled by the rapidly increasing demand of the digital economy, which has the potential of adding 1 trillion U.S. dollars to ASEAN's current combined GDP by 2025, he added.
According to him, ASEAN has annual infrastructure needs of over 110 billion U.S. dollars, which is two to six times of historical annual expenditure on infrastructure.
The minister also reiterated that Malaysia welcomes investments from China, particularly foreign direct investments that would bring capital, technology, value creation and jobs and skills transfer for Malaysians.
China is an economic giant with which Malaysia has enjoyed enduring diplomatic relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1974, he said.
China has been Malaysia's top trading partner since 2009. It was also estimated that the value of Chinese investments in Malaysia came up to a total of 134 billion U.S. dollars as of 2017.