REDEFINING ECO­NOMIC GROWTH

Malaysia will ben­e­fit from greater con­nec­tiv­ity, says Na­jib

New Straits Times - - News -

PRIME Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak will ar­rive in China to­day, join­ing 27 other world lead­ers at the two-day Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion (BRF) at the in­vi­ta­tion of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

The fo­rum, to be opened on Sun­day here, is the high­est-level di­a­logue since the vi­sion for the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) ini­tia­tive was shared by Xi in 2013.

The ini­tia­tive aims to re­de­fine the global econ­omy by in­te­grat­ing the economies of Europe, Asia and Africa through an un­prece­dent­edly pow­er­ful net­work of trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture.

Na­jib, in a blog post, said the fo­rum was an im­por­tant agenda in en­sur­ing Malaysia reaped the ben­e­fits of the OBOR ini­tia­tive which could po­ten­tially boost the na­tion’s econ­omy through greater con­nec­tiv­ity.

“Malaysia’s strate­gic lo­ca­tion is an as­set which will en­able us to play an im­por­tant role in this ini­tia­tive, and I am con­fi­dent the peo­ple will en­joy the ben­e­fits from more holis­tic con­nec­tiv­ity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.”

Na­jib will have meet­ings with Xi and Chi­nese premier Li Ke­qiang ahead of the fo­rum.

He will also visit the home base of China e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

He will call on its founder, Jack Ma, who is also the dig­i­tal econ­omy ad­viser to the Malaysian gov­ern­ment.

“I will ful­fil the in­vi­ta­tion of my friend, Jack Ma, and see for my­self the suc­cess of Alibaba which has cre­ated more than 36,000 job op­por­tu­ni­ties and changed the in­dus­trial ecosys­tem in China into one which is more dy­namic and in­clu­sive.

“Through Alibaba’s dig­i­tal econ­omy ecosys­tem, en­trepreneurs in ru­ral ar­eas can also reap the ben­e­fits of a bor­der­less world.”

Na­jib said Ma’s ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise would def­i­nitely help boost the na­tion’s econ­omy as well as cre­ate 60,000 job op­por­tu­ni­ties through the Dig­i­tal Free Trade Zone launched in March.

He also ex­pressed con­fi­dence that his work­ing visit would bring re­sults to both na­tions, not just in terms of bi­lat­eral ties, but also co­op­er­a­tion in in­vest­ment, trade and busi­ness.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trad­ing part­ner since 2009. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial trade fig­ures, bi­lat­eral trade amounted to RM240.91 bil­lion last year, a 4.4 per cent in­crease from the pre­vi­ous year.

Malaysian am­bas­sador to China Datuk Zain­ud­din Yahya said the visit was a show of the coun­try’s sup­port for China’s OBOR ini­tia­tive, as well as to en­hance and strengthen bi­lat­eral ties and co­op­er­a­tion.

“It is also a tes­ti­mony to the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween Na­jib and Chi­nese lead­ers.”

Zain­ud­din said Na­jib, dur­ing his visit to Hangzhou, was ex­pected to wit­ness the sign­ing of a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing be­tween Malaysia Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Cor­po­ra­tion Sdn Bhd (MDEC) and Hangzhou Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment and Alibaba (China) Com­pany Lim­ited.

Na­jib was also sched­uled to re­ceive a cour­tesy call from the Party Sec­re­tary of Zhe­jiang Prov­ince Che Jun there, said Zain­ud­din.

To­mor­row, Na­jib will meet Xi and Li ahead of the BRF.

“Three gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment MoUs are set to be signed and ex­changed.”

They are Pro­mot­ing Mu­tual Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment through China’s Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road Ini­tia­tive; Co­op­er­a­tion in the Field of Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture; and, Pro­to­col of Phy­tosan­i­tary Re­quire­ments for the Ex­port of Pineap­ples from Malaysia to China.

Na­jib will be ac­com­pa­nied by his wife, Datin Seri Ros­mah Man­sor, cabi­net min­is­ters, chief min­is­ters as well as se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials dur­ing the visit, his sev­enth to China since be­com­ing prime min­is­ter.

Be­sides the 28 heads of state and gov­ern­ment, the fo­rum, held un­der the theme “Belt and Road: Co­op­er­a­tion for Com­mon Pros­per­ity”, will also be at­tended by 80 lead­ers of in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Other lead­ers slated to at­tend are Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo, Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, Viet­namese Pres­i­dent Tran Dai Quang, Cam­bo­dian Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen and Myan­mar State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi. Also ex­pected are the United Na­tions sec­re­tary­gen­eral, and pres­i­dents of the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and World Bank.

Zain­ud­din said Na­jib had been in­vited to share his views dur­ing the Work­ing Lun­cheon and Lead­ers’ Roundtable based on two themes — “Pro­mote Peo­ple-toPeo­ple and Cul­tural Ex­change” and “Pro­mote Prag­matic Co­op­er­a­tion es­pe­cially in Con­nec­tiv­ity to Achieve In­ter­ac­tive De­vel­op­ment”.

“He will also take the op­por­tu­nity to have bi­lat­eral meet­ings with sev­eral lead­ers on the side­lines of the fo­rum.”

OBOR is China’s long-term vi­sion for greater con­nec­tiv­ity and co­op­er­a­tion among Asian economies. Un­der the ini­tia­tive are the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road.

Reach­ing from east to west, the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt will ex­tend to Europe through Cen­tral Asia and the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road will link sea lanes to Southeast Asia, the Mid­dle East and Africa.

The pro­posal is pre­dicted to en­com­pass ter­ri­to­ries with a pop­u­la­tion of more than four bil­lion, as well as nearly one-third of global gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Re­trac­ing the an­cient silk and spice trade routes, OBOR seeks to re­open the eco­nomic cor­ri­dors and re-en­er­gise the com­mer­cial­ism that once drew prin­ci­pal­i­ties near and far to the Mid­dle King­dom. If ac­tu­alised, OBOR will be­come an in­te­grated eco­nomic zone un­prece­dented in scale, with the po­ten­tial to pos­i­tively im­pact a third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

COLOMBO: In­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi headed to Sri Lanka yes­ter­day on a charm of­fen­sive as New Delhi seeks to re­assert its in­flu­ence on the is­land amid signs of a Chi­nese come­back.

Sri Lanka’s Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena came to power in Jan­uary 2015 promis­ing to loosen ties with China af­ter a decade of hefty fund­ing by Bei­jing un­der his pre­de­ces­sor.

When Modi vis­ited the is­land shortly af­ter, he promised to “script a golden chap­ter in the his­tory of In­dia-Sri Lanka re­la­tions”.

Just two years later, an­a­lysts said Bei­jing’s in­flu­ence was on the rise again as Colombo strug­gles to find al­ter­na­tive sources of for­eign cap­i­tal.

For In­dia, which wants to keep Sri Lanka within its sphere of in­flu­ence, that is a wor­ry­ing sign.

“For Modi to visit again so soon is clearly an ex­pres­sion of In­dia’s con­cerns about China’s deep­en­ing eco­nomic roots in Sri Lanka and the po­ten­tial strate­gic, even mil­i­tary, advantages this might ul­ti­mately bring,” said Alan Keenan of the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group.

Sirisena halted all Chi­ne­se­funded in­fra­struc­ture projects when he swept to power in 2015, oust­ing the is­land’s strong­man leader Mahinda Ra­japakse, who had ag­gres­sively courted Bei­jing.

Now these projects, which in­cluded new high­ways, rail­way lines and a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tower, are back on track.

New Delhi has long been ner­vous of a Chi­nese pres­ence at the Colombo port, a key trans­ship­ment point for In­dian cargo.

Ex­perts said In­dia did not have deep enough pock­ets to take over China’s place as the coun­try’s main fi­nan­cial backer.

“The new gov­ern­ment re­alises its Western al­lies have not de­liv­ered and only China has the deep pock­ets to in­vest,” said Sri Lankan po­lit­i­cal analyst Kusal Per­era.

“The gov­ern­ment un­der­stands this and they are woo­ing China while keep­ing In­dia on board.”

Modi will be guest of hon­our at a ma­jor Bud­dhist fes­ti­val, a move seen as aimed at win­ning the sup­port of the Sin­halese ma­jor­ity, many of whom are sus­pi­cious of In­dia. AFP

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