Malaysia hopes to forge closer ties with Saudi Arabia in various sectors including trade, tourism, the halal sector and in developing small-medium enterprises. International Trade and Industry (MITI) minster Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said he hopes that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed yesterday in the field of trade and investment will promote closer trade ties and investment relations between Malaysia and Saudi.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia hopes to forge closer ties with Saudi Arabia in various sectors including trade, tourism, the halal sector and in developing small-medium enterprises.

International Trade and Industry (MITI) minster Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said he hopes that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed yesterday in the field of trade and investment will promote closer trade ties and investment relations between Malaysia and Saudi.

The MoU involves five key areas, namely healthcare, construction, education, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the halal industry.

"Malaysia and Saudi Arabia enjoy very close and special ties both on personal and official levels.

"This (King Salman's) historic visit (to Malaysia) will further cement the already close ties betwen both countries and we hope this forum will further enhance the ties," he said in his speech at the Malaysia-Saudi Business Forum at the JW Marriot Hotel here today.

The forum is held in conjunction with the state visit of Saudi Arabia ruler King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Mustapa said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has known Malaysians through Umrah and Haj and he hopes to expand the relationship by collaborating in SMEs and halal economy, among others.

"Malaysia is open to investments and is keen on fostering partnership with Saudi Arabia. Trade, tourism and SMEs are among the important sectors for Malaysia.

"A deal had been reached between Saudi Aramco and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) yesterday. This is the biggest investment of Saudi to Malaysia to date.

"Moving forward, we hope to bring in more Saudi investors and boost Saudi-Malaysia economic ties."

Mustapa said the forum aims to bring together leading businessmen in Malaysia and Saudi to develop closer business ties and partnership and work towards enhancing the livelihood of the people in both countries.

"Malaysia and Saudi are going through a crucial process of transformation. Let us build a strong foundation by expanding our ties to economic relations, trade investments, SMEs and tourism.

"Hope this will provide the basis of improving the lives of people in both countries."

King Salman's is on a historic four-day state visit to Malaysia.

The Saudi ruler’s visit is at the invitation of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V.

The last state visit by a King of Saudi Arabia to Malaysia was in 2006 by the late King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The late King Faisal Abdulaziz Al-Saud made a state visit to Malaysia in 1970.

Saudi Arabia is Malaysia's second largest trading partner in the Middle East. Nearly 60 per cent of Malaysia's total exports to Saudi Arabia are related to palm oil and palm-based agricultural products, machinery, equipment and parts, processed food and electrical and electronic products.