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Seminar on Malaysia-China Trade and Investment: Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward

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On 6 March 2019, the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR) organised its first seminar of the year under its Economic Diplomacy Series entitled, “Malaysia-China Trade and Investment: Challenges, Opportunities and the Way Forward”. This event brought together experts from the government and private sectors to deliberate about the impacts of China’s trade and investment on the Malaysian economy.

The event began with the welcoming remarks by YBhg. Datuk Mohamad Sadik Kethergany, Director General of IDFR. In his speech, he highlighted how the rapid growth of the historical relationship between Malaysia and China has reflected in the encouraging trade and investment trends in recent years. YBhg. Datuk also expressed his hope for greater mutual benefits and a stronger strategic partnership between both countries amidst a challenging global economic landscape compounded by the US’ nationalistic and protectionist trade sentiments.

The panellists for the first session entitled, “Malaysia-China Trade and Investments from the Government’s Perspective” were Mr. Unny Sankar Ravi Sankar, Director of the Belt and Road Initiative National Secretariat (BRINS Malaysia) at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Malaysia, Ms. Li Yabin, First Secretary at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Malaysia and Dr. Tham Siew Yean, Senior Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. Ambassador Mohammad Azhar Mazlan, Director of the Centre for Political Studies and Economic Diplomacy (PSED), IDFR acted as moderator. An overview of current trends, policies, challenges and opportunities with regard to Malaysia-China bilateral economic relations was presented by the panellists. During this session, Mr. Unny Sankar reiterated the commitment of the Malaysian Government to participate in and benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Apart from that, trade dispute settlement mechanisms, capital flows and trade facilitation were discussed.

In the second session entitled, “Malaysia-China Trade and Investments from the Private Sector’s Perspective”, the panellists were Mr. Lee Heng Guie, Executive Director of the Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC), YBhg. Dato’ Ong Chong Yi, Chief Executive Officer of Port Klang Free Zone Malaysia, Mr. Ong Chee Tat, National Deputy President of the SME Association of Malaysia and YBhg. Dato’ Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan, President of the Malaysia-China Friendship Association. It was moderated by YBhg. Datuk M. Supperamaniam, Distinguished Fellow of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. The theme focused on the experiences of Malaysian SMEs in the Chinese market and outlined the contributing factors to the hurdles these firms face to conduct business in China. Consequently, the speakers recommended solutions that could facilitate better trade cooperation, including offering beneficial tips to Malaysian SMEs on how to enhance their business practices and competitiveness. The session also examined the role of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) in defining trade incentives for SMEs.

The aforementioned seminar was attended by representatives from the relevant Malaysian Ministries and Agencies as well as the diplomatic missions in Kuala Lumpur, IDFR course participants, think tanks, and students from various public universities. Judging from the Q&A session and feedback from the audience, the event succeeded in meeting its objectives.

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Prepared by:
Centre for Political Studies and Economic Diplomacy (PSED)

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