Will Malaysia’s decision impact trade with Asean?


Malaysia’s trade with Asean member countries would not be impacted after the country decided to break ranks with the Asean chairman’s statement issued by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

The grouping of 10 South-East Asia nations has always maintained a non-interference policy in relation to political decisions made by member countries.

But Malaysia’s disassociation with the chairman’s remark, the first in recent memory, would leave a strong mark to the grouping, which pride itself for unity and consensus in the last 50 years.

Asean countries, which accounts for 600 million population, are expected to reach a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$4 trillion (RM16.8 tril- lion) by 2020.

On Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia would like to disassociate itself from the chairman’s statement which was not made based on consensus.

He said Malaysia’s views were also excluded especially the sufferings of the Rohingyas.

The Federation of Public Listed Cos Bhd president Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas said although Asean prides itself for its consensus, Anifah’s response will not affect business relationships.

“Business people are very pragmatic. Because we are selling good products at good prices, our trade will not be affected by the political views.

“If you look at the situation right now, our trades within the countries are still going strong. Even for the smaller scale of trade, for example in Padang Besar, Perlis — situated on the border with Songkla, Thailand — as well as Sabah and Sarawak that are bordering with Indonesia,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

News report said about 420,000 Rohingya had fled into Bangladesh since the violence started in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

French President Emmanuel Macron had labelled the atrocities in Myanmar as “ethnic purification”.

But Megat Najmuddin shared the view that the killings in Myanmar of Muslim Rohingya as “genocide”.

Anifah in the statement also said “Malaysia strongly urges the government of Myanmar to end the violence, stop the destruction to lives and proper- ties, allow immediate unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas and all affected communities, and to resolve the Rohingya refugee problem”.

Malaysia also wants Myanmar to fulfil its commitment to immediately implement the recommendations of the final report of the Advisory Commission of the Rakhine state.

Economist Tan Sri Dr Ramon Navaratnam said political sentiment would not affect trades between Malaysia and Asean, but it could escalate if the disagreement was prolonged.

“If the different thinking between Malaysia and Asean continues, it will not only affect trades but would impact across the board including defence and security.

“If there is no trust between the Asean countries, it will rather be a divided than a united nation,” Ramon who is also the Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman.

International Trade and Industry Ministry recently reported that Malaysia’s trade with Asean countries increases by 37% in July, the fastest growth since April 2010.

It expanded year-on-year to RM42.59 billion, accounting for 28.5% of Malaysia’s total trade in July. The country’s exports up by 33.8% to RM24.32 billion, while imports rose by 41.3% to RM18.26 billion.