US$2b gas pipeline payment ‘very small’ for China, says PM

Daim will once again lead negotiations with China after a successful renegotiation on the ECRL in April


THE government’s push to recoup US$2 billion (RM8.38 billion) from a Chinese state-owned firm over two axed pipeline projects in the country will not hurt the world’s second-largest economy, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture).

Malaysia is attempting to reclaim monies paid for two gas pipeline projects from state-backed contractor China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering Co Ltd after discovering that only 13% of the work has been completed, although 80% of the loans have been disbursed.

“I don’t think it (the amount asked) is too much. For China to give US$2 billion is very small,” Dr Mahathir told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

The projects involved are the 600km Multi-Product Pipeline and the 662km Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline, whereby the former was to have been built along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and the latter in Sabah.

Tun Daim Zainuddin, the government’s principal advisor, will once again lead negotiations with China after a successful renegotiation on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in April.

Separately, Dr Mahathir said the #BoycottMalaysia campaign on Indian social media is not expected to have any repercussions on bilateral trade and relations between the two countries.

“We have not received any official statement (from the Indian government). I have already spoken to PM Narendra Modi, that if there is anything, he can communicate with us. As of yet, we have not received anything from them,” Dr Mahathir said.

The boycott on Malaysian products was a result of Dr Mahathir’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, in which he called on India and Pakistan to work together to resolve the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir.

India is Malaysia’s 10th largest trading partner, with total trade anticipated to hit US$15 billion. Putrajaya is also aiming to attract 780,000 Indian tourists to Malaysia next year.

Dr Mahathir has maintained that his stance was neutral and did not favour any parties. Malaysia’s policy is to resolve issues via negotiations, arbitration or through a court of law, rather than to resort to violence, he said, adding that the issue was raised when he met Modi in Vladivostok, Russia.

Speaking in the Dewan Rakyat, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the boycott calls have waned and will not affect Malaysia’s standing internationally.

“We maintain a foreign policy where we want to be friends and trade with all nations and not interfere in the internal affairs of a country. However, in certain issues, we will make a stand. An example would be the Rohingya issue in Cambodia.

“While bilateral relations on politics, economy and sociocultural are important to us, our diplomatic ties will not limit us from taking a proactive stance on issues where people have been found to be oppressed, not just Muslims. On this, we will voice our concerns,” Saifuddin said.