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KUALA LUMPUR: China and Malaysia renewed a five-year economic and trade cooperation pact on Wednesday and pledged to review visa-free travel arrangements between the countries, during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Qiang to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Li, who arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday evening, met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the administrative capital Putrajaya on Wednesday.

After the meeting, Li and Anwar witnessed the signing of several bilateral deals, including for exports of fresh durians from Malaysia to China.

The agreement would see Malaysia, one of the world’s biggest producers of the pungent fruit, join Southeast Asian neighbours Thailand and Vietnam in shipping fresh durian to the multi-billion dollar Chinese market.

Malaysia was previously allowed to ship only durian products and frozen whole durian to China.

Li is on the third leg in a trip where he has also visited New Zealand and Australia, as China looks to expand its influence and investments in the Asia Pacific amid geopolitical tensions and competition with the United States.

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

New Zealand PM says China Premier Li Qiang to visit this week

The 665 kilometre (413 mile), 50.27 billion ringgit ($10.7 billion) railway will connect the east and west coasts of peninsular Malaysia by the end of 2026.

First proposed in 2017, the rail link is being constructed by the Malaysian unit of China Communications Construction Co Ltd.

In March, Malaysia said it would consider extending the China-backed project to its border with Thailand.

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