Dr M meets Wang as status of US$20b projects still hanging

Malaysia intends to renegotiate some of the ‘unfair’ deals inked by the former govt with China


Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday as Putrajaya presses for fair and balanced arrangements with Beijing, and both nations seek to write a new slate in their relationship.

Wang’s visit came at a critical time when Malaysia intends to renegotiate some of the agreements signed by the former government with China, which the new administration deemed as unfair and would strain the country’s financials.

Putrajaya has already suspended two China-financed projects — the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and two gas pipeline projects under Suria Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd, the Multi-Product Pipeline and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline.

Malaysia had said that the agreements related to the projects were unfair and were too expensive for the country to bankroll.

The cost of the 688km ECRL had ballooned to RM81 billion compared to the RM55 billion initially announced by the previous government.

The new Pakatan Harapan government has been revising projects, renegotiating contracts and reducing the sizes of some initiatives as part of managing the country’s finances, which have been hit hard by excessive spending.

The Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin met with Wang in Beijing last month as he hoped to find ways to resolve matters related to deals inked with China.

Daim also met Li Keqiang and delivered a letter from Dr Mahathir to the Chinese premier.

It is believed Malaysia has stressed the historical values of the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing relationship, carved for many decades.

Malaysia was among the few nations that had defended China when Western powers were wary of the country’s global trade presence.

Dr Mahathir, who had visited China many times during his first spell as the PM, is expected to visit Beijing this month.

Despite the suspension of projects worth US$20 billion (RM81.21 billion) with China, Malaysia has supported the former’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, Wang said China is confident that Malaysia will continue to flourish and develop under Dr Mahathir, according to state-owned news agency Bernama.

Since Dr Mahathir took office on May 9, Wang said China, being a good friend of Malaysia, was happy to see the achievements that Malaysia had made, and these would promise the people of Malaysia to stay united and achieve a glorious progress.

“We respect the choice made by the Malaysian people and we support Malaysia in full path of development that suits Malaysia’s own development conditions. We are happy to see that since the assumption of office by Dr Mahathir, many dimensions had been opened up for the national development of Malaysia.

“As Malaysia’s good friend, China is happy to see these achievements that Malaysia has made and we have confidence under the leadership of Dr Mahathir, the people of Malaysia will stay united and achieve new glory, and Malaysia is bound to play a more active and important role in regional and global affairs,” Wang said at a joint press conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

Wang earlier met Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. Both leaders held talks for almost three hours at Wisma Putra, said Bernama.

Wang, via a translator, said his visit was to make preparations together with his Malaysian counterparts for Dr Mahathir’s upcoming official visit to China in mid-August. — TMR