MALAYSIAN construction firms have been urged to participate in international consortiums bidding for a slice of the US$21bil worth of projects for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The opportunities offered by the summer Olympic Games represent one of the many areas that can be tapped by Malaysian companies in China, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said in his keynote speech at a MCA national economic conference on Challenges of Global-isation: Repositioning Malaysian Bu-siness in Seri Kembangan yesterday.
According to Ong, the government is formulating a strategy to help fa-cilitate Malaysian companies in penetrating markets such as China, which is quickly becoming one of most important trading partners. Malaysia is Chinas 2nd largest trading partner in Asean after Singapore.
Ong said that local firms, meanwhile, should actively identify niches in which they have a comparative advantage to tap the sizeable Chinese market.
China should not be seen as merely a competitor; they have a huge market and present enormous opportunities for the export of Ma-laysian goods and services, he said.
According to Ong, one such area is in selling halal products to the more than 60 million Chinese Muslims in China.
He said that as Malaysian companies were already quite advanced in developing halal food and products, they should capitalise on the opportunity in making Malaysia the preferred source of halal products in China.
According to Ong, the western provinces of Xinjiang and Shanxi with high Muslim populations could be good targets.
He said that the Chinese government was also encouraging investment to these distant provinces as well as inland and relatively less-developed but densely populated provinces such as Yunnan and Si-chuan where Malaysian companies could provide their expertise in joint-ventures in manufacturing.
Ong said that in the more developed eastern region of China, meanwhile, Malaysian firms could do well in promoting their branded goods to an increasingly affluent consumer society.
Ong said the middle class, ac-counting for some 10% of the population of the vast region stretching from Beijing to Guangzhou, was becoming more brand conscious and demanding higher quality, imported goods.
He said that another area Malay-sian companies could have an ad-vantage was in the provision of services such as education, where courses in business, management, information technology and nursing could be provided.
He said that China was a big and growing market for tertiary education where over 3 million students enrol in institutions of higher learning every year.
Ong said there were many opportunities for joint-ventures in this field.
He said, however, that Malaysian education providers needed to be as competitive as those from other countries in offering quality education at an affordable price.