No signs of slowdown in trade volume amid US-China tensions, says Ong

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MALAYSIA will continue to study the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, as the country’s preliminary trade volume have yet to react negatively to the initial rounds of tariff hikes by Washington DC.

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming said the country has also planned for trade expansion to new markets, as a buffer to the potential negative impact from the escalating trade war.

“We are currently monitoring the situation closely from our office in Washington and are evaluating the possible effects, both negative and positive, that may affect our key industries that have exposure to the US and China, (namely) solar panels and electrical and electronics,” he said.

Ong was speaking to reporters after witnessing a memorandum of agreement (MoA) signing ceremony between SEGi University & Colleges and Mimos Bhd yesterday.

“We are, however, encouraged by the fact that the initial rounds tariffs imposed did not affect our trade volumes in a negative way, according to the numbers shown.

“So, we will remain cautiously optimistic that the increased tariffs will not carry a negative effect,” the deputy minister added.

On Monday, China announced its decision to raise tariffs on US$60 billion (RM252 billion) in US goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to raise duties on US$200 billion in Chinese products to 25% from 10%.

Beijing will increase tariffs on more than 5,000 products to as high as 25%, while duties on some other goods will increase to 20%. The increase is sharp compared to its prior rates of 5% or 10% previously.

The world’s two largest economies have struggled to sign a trade deal and end a widening conflict that threatens to damage the global economy.

Meanwhile, Ong said the government will hold sector-specific dialogues in July to discuss and alleviate key concerns among key players in major economic industries.

He said the ministry is aware of opinions voiced by some business chambers who were unhappy with the direction and policies of the Pakatan Harapan government since May 2018.

“We are open to having suggestions from them, including on how to improve the system. The time frame has not been set, but it will be sometime in July,” he said.

He said the key players will be engaged in a series of dialogues and will not be stopped as a onetime session.

“We are fairly confident that once the processes are in place and dialogues are on, we will have a much better communication system with the various chambers so they can discuss with us, and we can help them resolve those issues,” he said.

The MoA inked between SEGi University & Colleges and Mimos is for a collaborative partnership to launch the SEGi-Mimos Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The agreement aims to bridge the gap between basic research and the development of technology through collaborative research in AI, as well as develop a pool of human resources competent in the area of AI for the Malaysian job market.

SEGi University & Colleges director of research innovation management centre and institute of graduate studies Dr Mahadevan Supramaniam said the university has invested RM1.2 million for the next two years that will be invested into the development of AI.

The university has also submitted documents to the Education Ministry to offer a Bachelor in Cyber Security programme.