KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia needs to explore China’s second-tier cities such as Dalian to expand bilateral trade, which is expected to hit US$160bil (RM686.5bil).
International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said Malaysia currently exported about US$9bil (RM36.82bil) worth of goods to Dalian.
“This can be improved to up to US$40bil (RM171.68bil),” said Ong at the Malaysia-Dalian Economic and Trade Forum here yesterday.
He added that out of the US$160bil, US$60bil had to be generated from new economic areas and not existing trade relationships.
Dalian mayor Xiao Shengfeng said that the city hoped to increase cooperation with other cities under the One Belt One Road initiative.
“Dalian is a fast-developing city with many businesses, including manufacturing, oil and gas, chemicals and textiles.
“Dalian is also known as one of the best tourism destinations in China,” Xiao said in his speech at the forum.
The mayor promoted several free-trade initiatives in the city, such as the Dalian Free Trade Zone (FTZ) as well as its high-tech capacity.
Ong said in the past, Malaysia’s economic relationship with China had been focused more on its southern provinces such as Fujian and Guangzhou.
“Malaysia needs to create trading relationships with other areas, second-tier cities such as Dalian and even into the interior, such as the north-western province of Gansu.
“The second-tier cities are prosperous in their own right with sizeable populations, such as Shandong province with a population of 43 million, and Dalian itself, where the city has a population of seven million,” said Ong in highlighting the potential market sizes.
Deputy executive chairman for the MCA Belt and Road Centre Datuk Joesph Lim Heng Ee said one area which needed to be improved between Dalian and Malaysia was the lack of a direct flight connection.
“Visitors to Dalian from Malaysia need to transit at Shanghai or other airports to get to Dalian. This whole trip takes about nine hours,” said Lim.
Both governments, he said, should look into creating direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and the city to increase visitors to Malaysia.
“Through the dialogue, the Dalian municipal authority is willing to nurture Malaysian entrepreneurs in the FTZ, and from there, it expands to the rest of China,” said Lim.
Some Malaysian businesses are already making use of Dalian’s port facilities including Lim, who sends about 30 container-loads of trade goods a month through the city.
Dalian, the second-largest city in Liaoning province after the capital Shenyang, registered a gross domestic product growth of 6.5% in 2016.