More foreign investors turning to Malaysia due to trade war

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 5, 2018.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The ongoing US-China trade war has spurred increasing interest among foreign investors to move their regional operations to Malaysia, said an international trade and industry ministry (Miti) official.

“With the prime minister’s recent visit to China, there was already some excitement and some companies there enquired on setting up manufacturing facilities here, so they could still penetrate the US market,” said Miti secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak.

Isham said Miti had also formed a task force to monitor opportunities and risks of the trade war to Malaysia.

“Companies that typically show interest in coming here are those faced with high tariffs. The first batch was iron and steel companies. Now we also see many solar companies interested in coming to Malaysia.

“But the full cycle of the trade war is not yet complete, so there are still many analyses that these companies need to do to decide whether it is viable to move their operations,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the InvestKL Merdeka Dinner last night.

Isham was representing Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking. Also present were Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh.

Isham said Miti is working on launching a new Industry 4.0 policy come October, focusing on leapfrogging current industries to embrace new technologies of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. It would also be good to address issues on the hiring of foreign workers, he added.

“We were supposed to launch this in September but we are finding it difficult to get the prime minister’s date. We hope to launch it in the second week of October.”

Isham said the policy is also necessary to continue attracting foreign investors in future. To date, Malaysia has attracted more than 5,000 foreign companies from more than 40 countries, he said.