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By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Jan 15: Austria is keen to expand its cooperation with Sarawak in various sectors, including healthcare, oil and gas as well as its planned Light Rail Transit (LRT) network.
Austrian Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Michael Postl said there were many Austrian companies with investments and ventures in the peninsula.
With Malaysia serving as the fifth biggest export market for Austrian companies, its government was now setting its sight on strengthening its presence in Sarawak.
“Many Austrian companies have found Sarawak very interesting. There is a lot of potential for cooperation between the two governments.
“We want to look into the potential and possibilities on establishing trade with Sarawak,” Postl told reporters after his courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the State Legislative Assembly Complex here today.
He pointed out that in the oil and gas sector, Austrian’s OMV Aktiengesellschaft (OMV AG) recently entered into a US$1.6 billion venture with Sapura Energy Bhd. Such cooperation has opened the door for Austrian companies to venture into Sarawak, he added.
Postl also mentioned VAMED, a giant Central European and Austrian company in the health sector with its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, as expressing interest to introduce European technologies in the health sector here.
VAMED has been involved in the setting up of a number of hospitals in the country, including the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan, which is now under the National Heart Institute.
He added that Siemens Mobility, involved in the supply and installation of signalling and train control systems for the LRT3 line project in Kuala Lumpur, would be ready to provide assistance in the construction of an LRT network in Kuching.
The scope of Siemens in the new 38km line with one depot project, expected to be completed in February 2021, includes installation of an intrusion prevention system and a platform screen door system.
On his meeting with the chief minister, Postl expressed content with the open discussion on possibilities to penetrate into various business fields in the state.
“We had a fruitful discussion on possibilities of cooperation in various fields, including infrastructure programmes, environment, health sector, the state’s government digital transformation agenda and Industrial 4.0, such as artificial intelligence technology, education and training.
“Other potential projects and future collaboration include green technology, water and waste management. We also talked on issues regarding oil palm, deforestation and timber,” he said.
Postl added that Austria, being a thriving tourist destination, was also keen to offer consultation and exchange of expertise to strengthen the state’s tourism sector.
“Also discussed included the preservation of heritage and sustainable tourism,” he said.
Postl, who is on a four-day visit to Sarawak, said discussion with Abang Johari also included collaboration in the arts and music sector. The chief minister also suggested Austria send artistes to participate in the annual Rainforest World Music Festival.
They also exchanged views on global affairs and bilateral relationship between Malaysia, Austria and the European Union (EU).
Postl said the Austrian government would continue to hold open discussions on EU-Malaysia relations while looking at the possibility of entering into free-trade negotiations between the European Union and Malaysia.
Earlier, the ambassador paid a courtesy call on Governor Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.
Meanwhile, Abang Johari also received a courtesy call from Datuk Kennedy Jawan, the Malaysian Ambassador to Japan, and Ismail Salam, the Malaysian High Commissioner to Brunei.
The chief minister also received a courtesy call from Marianne Clark-Hattingh, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei.
At the visit, Clark-Hattingh briefed the chief minister on various UNICEF activities in Malaysia.