M’sia sees opportunities in potential US-China trade war

Leiking says palm oil industry could benefit from dispute

PETALING JAYA: Newly-appointed International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking sees opportunities for Malaysia in the event of a trade war between the US and China.

“China is a very big importer of our goods, so there are a lot of opportunities for us during a trade war. “We can engage with China (on the available opportunities) and see how we can work together,” he told reporters.

Leiking, who is also Penampang MP, said the Malaysian palm oil industry could be among the sectors to benefit in the event of the trade war.

China’s potential imposition of 25% retaliatory import tariffs on US soybeans is seen as an opportunity for the palm oil industry to increase its exports to the country.

This is because lower soybean imports from the US would create a shortfall of edible oil into China, which is likely to benefit palm oil.

Last year, Malaysia’s exports of agri-commodities and agri-commodity-based products to China rose 27% to RM19.1bil compared with RM15bil in 2016.

China is the second largest export market for Malaysian palm oil after India.

According to data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the export of palm oil to China rose 13.68% to 710,051 tonnes between January and May 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.

On the suspension of works on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, Leiking said it would not affect the trade relationship between the two countries.

On July 3, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the final cost of the ECRL was a staggering RM81bil and that the 688-km rail project would only be continued once the cost was lowered to a financially-viable level.

Citing “national interest”, project owner Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) ordered ECRL’s main contractor China Communications Construction Company Ltd to halt all engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contract works, pending further instruction.

“Our trading relationship with China is still good.

“Malaysia is still the main hub that everybody wants to engage with,” Leiking said after attending a “Tech Tarik Talk” session on Industry Revolution 4.0.

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