Taking Malaysia-China relationship to greater heights
The Chairman of the Malaysia-China Business Council (MCBC) Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting who is also the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China gave an interview to the media on October 28, 2011 at which he provided an overview of the Malaysia-China relationship, especially in trade and economic co-operation. While he was very optimistic over the future and enthusiastic about his new mission, he also took note of the challenges ahead. The former Housing and Local Government Minister took over the Chairmanship of MCBC on July 23, 2011and was appointed the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China on Oct 21. He was also appointed Senior Adviser to the Qinzhou Municipality, China just the previous day. Here is the excerpt of the interview.
Question: Tan Sri, how do you see your role as the MCBC Chairman and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China?
Answer: I would say that I could truly feel our Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak’s desire and sincerity in wanting to take the Malaysia-China relationship to a new height, not only in economic co-operation but also in other areas. He had twice met Premier Wen Jiabao this year to discuss ways of enhancing bilateral relationship. I see my role as a complement to our International Trade and Industry Minister, our ambassador to China and other relevant authorities. There is no duplication here.
Question: What are your priority areas?
Answer: The Malaysia-China relationship is growing very well but of course there is room for improvement. China is making tremendous progress in recent decades and is playing a very important role not only in the regional but also the global economy. We Malaysians must quicken our pace not only in penetrating the Chinese market but also in attracting Chinese investments to our country as the Chinese go global. Many of our entrepreneurs have done well in China on their own. While some are already well-established, others are exploring and still apprehensive. On the Government side, our Prime Minister certainly hopes that more could be done to attract Chinese FDI to Malaysia which, at the moment, is still far from our desired level. As such, this would be one of my priorities.
Besides that, I would try my utmost to assist our Government to make the Qinzhou Industrial Park, an iconic joint venture project between Malaysia and China, a success. The project, a mixed development, has the full support of Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak and Premier Wen Jiabao. It will showcase our economic co-operation in the decades to come.
I was requested by our Prime Minister to pay special attention to and to assist in its successful implementation.
Question: How do you carry out your mission?
Answer: I have spent my time visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Nanning, Qinzhou and other cities to forge strategic networking with Chinese leaders, especially those key persons in the relevant authorities and SOEs to understand their needs and how they operate. For example, I have met the top leaders of Sinochem, one of the 10 biggest Chinese conglomerates involved in a wide range of business activities. It is the biggest importer of rubber and palm oil and the biggest fertilizer producer in the world. It is our loss if we do not know them and have no dealings with them. Since we are a leading producer of rubber and palm oil, the potential is great. Furthermore, it would be a big boost if we can attract big Chinese enterprises to invest in our plantation industry as they are involved in both upstream and downstream activities. I hope to play my role as a bridge builder between Malaysia and China not only in trade and economic co-operation but also in other areas.
Our Prime Minister wants to see better ties in all sectors of economic development between our two countries in order to achieve a win-win situation. Our two-way trade has been growing very well, We are China’s biggest trading partner in ASEAN. But there is always room for improvement. Both our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib and Premier Wen Jiabao want to see our two-way trade doubling from US$7.425 billion in 2010 to US$15 billion in 2015. This year alone, we can expect the figure to go up to US$9 billion. All of us should put in efforts to achieve the target.
Question: How do you propose to make MCBC more vibrant and engaging?
Answer: I would like to make MCBC a bridge between Malaysia and China. We are in the process of engaging Malaysian companies with good track records, those already doing well in China as well as those about to go in to be with us in various forms of partnership or as members. From there, we would tap their ideas and feedback as they would know best how we can improve further. And so with these ideas and feedback, we can make recommendations to the Government.
MCBC will also act as a bridge between our Government and private enterprises. We will have more brainstorming and dialogue sessions with our entrepreneurs and government leaders, especially policy-makers, in order to bring up issues in a more direct manner. We will form partnership with all economic development zones where we can invite big Chinese SOEs to come in. The MCBC will strength our R & D, collecting data and information to update our members and potential partners. We will also enhance our linkages via our Website. Furthermore, we will explore areas of interest for our Muslim partners to see how they could enhance their involvement in China trade.