More China-Malaysia engagement after ECRL revival, says Ong


The revival of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project can lead to more engagement between China and Malaysia and potentially more investments into Malaysia, said Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming.

The minister believes the rail deal sends a positive signal to investors and lead to an increase in Chinese investments here.

“I believe there will be more Chinese to engage with our prime minister following the revival of the ECRL,” he told reporters at a forum organised by Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce (MCCC) on expectations and opportunities ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum 2019 (BRF 2019).

Ong said the Malaysian government’s priority remains on transparency.

“More transparency helps deal with a backlash, in case questions are raised about financing,” he said, adding that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) involves the greatest mobilisation of men and capital since World War II.

This is why policy adjustments and refinements from a transparency and financing standpoint should be an important area of focus in the upcoming BRF, the minister argued.

“For China, having more transparent standards will minimise the risk of local backlash if any of the projects run into financial challenges,” he said.

Ong added that the Malaysian government should also highlight and focus on the specific areas of strategic cooperation and interest concerning Malaysia.

The Pakatan Harapan government has to play a major coordination role, so that government-linked companies and other large local companies can find strategic business opportunities in the BRI.

“It is imperative for our government to play a role, so we can position Malaysian construction and infrastructure companies to partner with Chinese companies to undertake BRI projects abroad.

“This will allow small and medium enterprises, including service providers to follow suit and be part of the larger value chain,” he added.

While the BRF 2019 is an important platform to set the learner strategic objectives of the BRI, Ong noted that each country involved has to work strategically with China and multilateral institutions in order to get ‘the best’ out of the BRI.

The ECRL, which is among the large-scale infrastructure projects under the BRI, will commence after the developer agreed to cut the cost of the project by RM21 billion.

President Xi Jinping first proposed a New Silk Road in 2013 and later referred to it as “One Belt, One Road” before settling on the “BRI”.

Measured in today’s dollars, it already cost more than the US Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

The BRI is aimed to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.

It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, with total trade volume reaching a historic high of US$108.6 billion (RM445.26 billion) last year when the number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia increased 29% to 2.94 million visitors.

It has also become Malaysia’s largest source of foreign direct investment for three years in a row as of 2018.