KUALA LUMPUR (April 16): Malaysia’s trade policy adjustments and refinements are expected to result in a higher engagement with Chinese companies, particularly after the recent renegotiation on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said the latest development on the ECRL would have cleared uncertainties among investors and Chinese companies over the country’s trade policies.
“(Prior to this), these companies might have some reservations about coming to Malaysia, but I believe there will be more Chinese companies engaging with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad following the recent renegotiation,” he told a press conference after a forum titled “PM Revisit China: Expectations and Opportunities” held today.
The forum was held in conjunction with the upcoming China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum in Beijing, scheduled to take place on April 25 and April 26, which would be attended by Dr Mahathir.
“(His attendance) will send a strong signal to other countries participating in the BRI project,” Ong said.
He said other Ministers, namely International Trade and Industry Minister Darrell Leiking, Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook and Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, would also accompany the Prime Minister on the trip to China.
Meanwhile, one of the forum panellists, Dr Ngeow Chow Bing of the University of Malaya's Institute of China Studies, said Malaysia’s agreement to attend the BRI forum symbolised Malaysia's support for the initiative.
Dr Mahathir announced yesterday that China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) will refund RM1 billion of the RM3.1 billion advance payment under the original contract for Phase 2 of the ECRL project to the Malaysian Government within a month.
The refund follows the signing of a supplementary agreement between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and CCCC on April 12, in which the 640-km project will proceed at a lower cost of RM44 billion compared with the original price tag of RM65.5 billion.
Ong said Malaysia should also explore the co-funding models for infrastructure project, and the re-negotiated joint venture model of ownership and operations between Malaysia and CCCC should also be an option for certain projects so that the Chinese contractor was not merely a turnkey contractor.
“Rather, the long-term financial sustainability of these projects should be part of the economic calculations,” he said.
Asked whether China would buy more palm oil from Malaysia post-ECRL renegotiation, he said the commodity, as well as agriculture as a whole, was an important part of bilateral activities for the country and the Ministry hoped to see continued support for Malaysia’s palm oil products.
“But I don’t know if there is a specific target in terms of palm oil exports to China,” he said, adding that he believed the matter would be discussed with China during the upcoming bilateral meeting.
He, however, was unaware if there would be any deal to be signed on palm oil.