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Malaysia must be the bridge for ASEAN to increase commercial linkages

1st June, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Given its unique location as the centre of ASEAN, Malaysia must play an important role of becoming a strategic bridge to raise regional trade and investment for its nine other partners, says Qi Group of Companies Founder and Executive Chairman Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran.

“Malaysia currently has a population of only about 30 million people but combined with its ASEAN members there are 600 million. We have to recognise that our strongest fundamental economic strength lies in this region. “With the exception of India and China, ASEAN is one of the largest markets and we are the fastest growing market,” he told Bernama in an interview ahead of the two-day World Economic Forum ASEAN 2016 (WEF), scheduled to begin today.

According to Vijay, each of these countries needed to allow businesses to penetrate each of the ASEAN countries and become fearless of letting outside companies enter their countries.

He cited increased connectivity, infrastructure development, greater liberalisation of commerce and political commitment to tear down barriers as crucial prerequisites for member states to exploit their combined potential to the fullest.

“If let’s say we brought in goods from Vietnam, reassemble it and then send to Indonesia, trade will just explode…however, in order to do so there must be a good connectivity, infrastructure and greater communications,” he said.

He also said that in order for ASEAN to realise its trading bloc, barriers need to be reduced, especially for the agriculture sector.

For a start, ASEAN was reported to eliminate the technical barriers in the automotive sector, in a bid to make it easier and less costly to export components within the region.

“There are still too many barriers for free trade…if we can sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with America, we need to be doing the same within our region and bringing down all the trade barriers,” he said. Intra-ASEAN trade is expected to grow to 30 per cent of total trade by 2020 as the region now has all the ingredients as a great trading hub.

Trade among ASEAN, which currently hovers around 24 per cent, was expected to increase to 30 per cent of their total trade by 2020, driven by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) initiatives.

Intra-ASEAN’s share of total trade stood at US$608.63 billion or 24.2 per cent as of July 2014 from a total trade of US$2.51 trillion recorded in the same period compared with US$458.1 billion registered in 2008 when the AEC Blueprint was first implemented.

Asked about the language barrier between the ASEAN countries, Vijay said English had to be the lingua franca for the region and as of now, Singapore is the only nation that speaks the language well. “English has to be given greater prominence,” he added.

On the upcoming WEF, he urged the ASEAN countries and Malaysia especially, to make it as a platform to talk to the world.

“We must also use it to actually interact with one another, as this is an occasion which gathers all five areas—politics, non-governmental organisations, academics, bureaucrats and corporates.”

It was reported that the WEF, to be hosted by Malaysia for the third time, seeks to bring together several heads of state and captains of industry for the birth of new ideas and policies.

The forum will also aim at discussing policies and ideas that could restore the global economy. Titled “Shaping the ASEAN Agenda for Inclusion and Growth,” the forum will see a total of 587 participations including heads of state and captains of industry mainly from Malaysia as well as the region. –Bernama

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