KUALA LUMPUR — There is still great potential in Chinese investment in Malaysia and ASEAN, though China is already the largest trading partner of the region, Suhaimi Ilias, chief economist of Malaysia’s leading bank Maybank, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
According to Suhaimi, China has accounted for 15.7 percent of Malaysia’s combined values of exports and imports, and 14 to 15 percent of ASEAN total trade, exceeding other major economies like EU, Japan and the United States.
“However, the same is not seen and cannot be said when it comes to investment,” Suhaimi said, adding that China’s investment in this region is still relatively low compared with other major and regional economies.
Seeing the great potential in Chinese investment in the region, the Malaysian economist said that greater bilateral investments can be an additional catalyst to expand and enhance the economic cooperation between China and the Southeast Asia.
Noticing that China’s direct investment in Malaysia is on a rising trend, Suhaimi said that China could make Malaysia as its “base” for trade with the rest of ASEAN as well as with other key destinations like Australia, India, Middle East and Europe, by taking advantage of and leveraging on Malaysia’s strategic position in the global trade and maritime routes.
“In this regards, we noted with interests of investments from China in trade-and-commerce-related areas,” he said, mentioning the ongoing joint development project between Malaysia and China at the Kuantan Port in Malaysia’s state of Pahang, which faced the South China Sea and will be developed into a deep-water port that will double its handling capacity, as well as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park.
“And just recently, in September 2015, a MoU was signed between the Malaysian State Government of Melaka and Chinese province of Guangdong to develop a maritime industrial park, the Guangdong-Melaka industrial estate for the manufacturing of electrical consumer goods, and the construction of a deep-sea port in Melaka right at the heart of the international maritime trade route of Straits of Malacca,” he added.
Regarding the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), whose establishment will be announced by year-end, Suhaimi said that it will offer a single market, a production base and an asset class for China’s businesses, industries and investors to consider.
It is also hoped that the South China Sea issue can be amicably resolved, as peace and security is important for the AEC, he said, adding that South China Sea should be seen as a platform for economic cooperation instead of a source of conflict.