Introductory Speech of MCA President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek at the 3rd World Chinese Economic Forum
YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister of Malaysia
H.E. Dong Songgen, Vice-chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade
Dato’ Dr Michael Yeoh, Chief Executive Officer of ASLI
1. First of all, a very good morning and a big welcome to all delegates, especially those who have travelled from afar to be with us here today.
2. I hope that your stay here will be a comfortable, pleasant and memorable one.
3. A special thank you to you Sir, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia who kindly consented to represent the Prime Minister to officiate this forum.
4. The forum here in Malaysia is the result of a continuous initiative by Asli to gather the various participants around the world to give their input on pursuing growth, maintaining growth and building economic bridges.
5. It also provides a suitable platform for us to exchange and enlarge the networking of the various business sectors to enhance better intra-regional as well as international linkages.
6. Ladies and gentlemen, there are great challenges ahead globally, given the current economic climate which had been plagued by adversities from the financial turmoil in the United States, Eurozone debt, civil wars in the Middle East and catastrophes such as a tsunami ravaging Tokyo, earthquakes in New Zealand, in China, and flooding in Thailand.
7. On this note, it would be good to also take a leaf from the European experience and perhaps learn from those challenges they are facing currently.
Ladies and gentlemen
8. The world is growing, and so will competition among us. Last month the world’s population hit the 7 billion mark, and it has been envisaged that the figure will double in the next 60 years.
9. This would mean that the quality of life may come under strain. Likewise the expectations of countries and its people will become more evident. There may be food and water shortages and climate change.
10. To sustain those demands, we have to start embracing a new culture, initiate a dramatic shift in thinking and innovating new technologies, and developing scientific ways of tackling issues and problems swiftly.
11. These challenges will confront developed nations and emerging economies, and they will become even more complex in time to come.
12. The journey may seem tough but it will test our strengths, resilience and tolerance for us to take the next big step forward.
13. In the words of Thomas Edison, he said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”
14. Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of the forum “Linking East and West in a Globalised World” is most apt and timely to enhance economic cooperation on a higher level, whether government-to-government, business-to-business or people-to-people.
Malaysia is strategically placed to play the role of linking the East and West.
15. In wooing investors, it is important to have a friendly business environment. We should do away with any beauracratic red tape that hinders potential growth. We are glad that Malaysia has improved its competitiveness, moving from the 26th position to 21st in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report involving 142 countries.
16. Malaysia is no stranger to a friendly business environment having been moved up from 23 to 18 out of 189 countries in the World Bank ranking of friendly economies that promote the ease of doing business within the country.
17. In line with the ETP under the leadership of our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, an increase of human capital especially skilled workers are required to help Malaysia achieve its goals under the ETP.
18. In 10 years time we would have created over 3 million job opportunities, of which 40% must be skilled workers.
20. We are also on the right track with Malaysia attracting US$9.1 billion in foreign direct investments (FDIs) last year, compared with US$1.4 bil in the preceding year.
21. This is a quantum leap of more than a six-fold increase.
22. The trend of rising FDI inflows into Malaysia is expected to continue through the next few years, especially with the rollout of projects under the country’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) gaining momentum.
24. The high level of investment commitment is a reflection of the country’s conducive investment environment that encourages private sector investment.
25. With the weakening US market, we now have to look to China and India, which are the world’s fastest-growing major economy, for the decoupling effect to lessen the impact of decreasing demand from the weakening US economy.
26. Against such a global outlook and given China’s economic might, its leadership role now is more wanting, more relevant and urgently required.
27. China’s linguistic and historical links with Malaysia make it even more meaningful and logical for Malaysia to look towards China to further invigorate its economy.
28. No other country in Asia or Asean has that kind of connectivity with China.
29. We should therefore leverage on this uniqueness. Malaysia’s Chinese-speaking populace gives us the advantage over other countries in the region.
30. As such, emphasising mother tongue education, is not just for cultural reasons. It is also because of its immense economic potential that comes with it.
31. Mandarin is now of greater value if you see the many links in business and politics that we can forge with better understanding and communication.
32. Malaysia’s trade with Chinese speaking nations accounted for 20 per cent of our total trade. For us to embark on more collaboration with these nations, we need to encourage Malaysians to be multi-lingual in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin.
33. Total trade of the primary countries that use Chinese as their mother tongue has been estimated at over US$2.5 trillion per annum.
34. Given our multi-lingual and multi-cultural society, we believe Malaysia has yet to tap into the full potential of these trading nations.
35. The great strategist Sun Tzu has been frequently quoted on this: “Whoever is first in the battlefield and awaits the coming of the competitors will be fresh for the fight. Whoever trails behind in the field will arrive exhausted, having to hasten the battle.
36. Malaysia definitely does not want to be doing the catching up.
37.For Malaysia, there should be liberalization of more areas in the services sector, regulatory exemptions for SMEs and easing of protectionist regulations to promote free market trade.
38. We can no longer hold on to old policies that are no longer relevant. There should also be emphasis on training, or human capital to cater to the increasing demand for skilled labour.
39. Distinguished delegates, Malaysian companies are enjoying increasing exports after the implementation of the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2005.
40. Under that agreement, import duties were reduced in stages. In January last year, import duties were abolished when 90 per cent of products traded in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and China became duty-free.
42. It must be pointed out that Malaysia’s geographical position, coupled with its linkages with China, makes it the ideal country to lead in strategizing partnership with China for the region in terms of economic, social and political development.
43. Our relationship since the Razak administration has seen bilateral trade reaching US$74.2 billion last year, more than 1.3million of tourists to the country last year, the emergence of Chinese banks, public listed companies from China, daily flights and multi-million dollar joint-venture deals.
44. Given Malaysia’s historical ties and strategic geographical position, it makes great sense for us to develop smart partnerships with China for the region.
45. Malaysia believes in the concept of “prosper thy neighbour” , hence when our neighbouring countries are doing well, we will stand to benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
46. Let’s hope that this 3rd World Chinese Economic Forum will usher in new linkages and prosperity all round.