KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Afghanistan, which desires to deepen its ties with Malaysia, view this country as a potential partner to realise its economic aspirations, said its Ambassador to Malaysia, Atiqullah Atifmal.

He said currently, Afghanistan was looking for more foreign investments, especially from countries like Malaysia, to help it further develop and achieve a better future.

The ambassador welcomed the participation of Malaysian investors in Afghanistan’s mining, agriculture, agro-processing, infrastructure development and information technology sectors.

Investors in these sectors enjoyed 100 per cent ownership of their investments and long-term lease of land up to 100 years, he said.

Atiqullah said Afghanistan also has up to US$3 trillion (US$1 = RM4.28) worth of proven untapped mineral deposits, “which could make it one of the richest mining regions in the world”.

“Afghanistan is richly endowed with natural resources that could pave the way for its economic growth,” he told Bernama at the 98th Afghanistan Independence Anniversary celebrations here yesterday.

According to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), bilateral trade between Malaysia and Afghanistan was expected to increase 10 per cent this year from the US$85.1 million recorded in 2016, driven by enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry, Ahmad Maslan, was reported as saying last May, that palm oil and palm-based agriculture products were Malaysia’s significant exports to Afghanistan, accounting for 90.6 per cent of the total for 2016.

He said companies from Afghanistan had participated in two manufacturing projects worth US$2.28 million here, which created 166 jobs.

Malaysian investments in Afghanistan, on the converse, were valued at US$1.05 million, primarily in Islamic financial and insurance or takaful activities.

Atiqullah said Afghanistan’s strategic location as the “Heart of Asia” could potentially enable his country to play a major role in intra-regional trade transit, thus could make it an important transit hub in the region.

“Afghanistan’s unique geographical location makes it an important link between South and Central Asia,” the ambassador said.

He said Afghanistan was an export destination with huge opportunities in the palm oil, electronic and chemical products, and optical and scientific equipment sectors.

The envoy said Afghanistan was grateful to Malaysia in welcoming the country to be a member in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2015, describing it a milestone that moved the nation’s economy.

“The membership has helped our nation in integrating into the global economy and contributing towards the economic and political stability.

“It is worth stating that Afghanistan is thankful that Malaysia welcomed the membership of Afghanistan in the WTO,” he said.

Afghanistan’s participation in WTO was approved in 2015 and it officially joined the organisation on July 29, 2016, as its 164th member, after nearly 12 years of negotiating its accession terms.

Atiqullah said the embassy here, in collaboration with MITI and other agencies, had organised the first Afghanistan-Malaysia Business Forum here last May.

A memorandum of understanding was also signed to set up the Malaysia-Afghanistan Business Council, which aimed to strengthen the trade relations, he said.