KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia can expect an influx of investments from China and higher sales of palm oil to China this year following the revival of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, according to Chinese Ambassador Bai Tian.
At a media roundtable yesterday, he said reviving the mega ECRL project has instilled greater investor confidence in Malaysia from the Chinese.
“Greater confidence in Malaysia will attract more Chinese to come here for economic and infrastructure development. There is a long queue of Chinese investments outside the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) office,” he said, adding that Malaysia was an ideal place for Chinese investments.
The amicable settlement on the ECRL is important for Chinese firms, as they do not want their investments to suffer the fate of a suspension like the ECRL, which Malaysia at one point wanted to scrap.
The top Chinese envoy said the revival of the ECRL augured well for Malaysia-China relations, and this, in turn, would have a positive impact on Chinese investors.
Bai Tian added that future Chinese investments would meet Malaysia’s economic development needs, with the high-tech industry being a key area.
“My embassy has been working round the clock talking to potential investors and inviting them to come,” he said.
According to Bai Tian, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s official visit to China next week would provide further impetus to attract more Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) into Malaysia.
After Dr Mahathir’s last visit to China in August, a Chinese firm involved in recycling made a major investment in Kedah.
Last year, Chinese manufacturing investments in Malaysia totaled about RM20bil, the biggest industrial FDI into the country.
Bai Tian said Dr Mahathir may witness “possible cooperation document signings”. These documents being worked out now could be government-to-business and business-to-government deals.
On palm oil, he said Malaysia can expect higher purchase from China this year.
“We are keen to increase the Malaysian palm oil trade and have been encouraging our companies to buy more Malaysian palm oil and related products,” said Bai Tian.
“I believe the (purchase) number will increase this year. We have been telling Chinese buyers to buy more local palm oil and products.
“We do not impose a ceiling on the purchase of palm oil and products,” he added, after briefing the media on the upcoming Belt and Road Summit and Dr Mahathir’s visit to China.
The envoy said “demand is very huge for Malaysian palm oil” in China, which has a population of 1.4 billion, as it is of high quality and competitive in pricing.
“I hope this year we will witness more purchase of Malaysian palm oil,” said the envoy at the two-hour roundtable.
China is the third-biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil in the world, but the largest purchaser of Malaysian palm oil and related products.
Last year, Malaysia exported 3.07 million tonnes of palm oil and palm products with a total value of RM8.38bil to China. This was 7.3% more than the 2.86 million tonnes of palm oil sold at RM9.39bil in 2017.
The ambassador said China is looking at upstream and downstream cooperation with Malaysian oil palm companies.
“The downstream area will be good for cooperation. We can help upgrade your industries to a higher level and add value (to their products),” he said.
On Monday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has asked China to buy more palm oil, at the conclusion of the new deal on the ECRL.
He told reporters: “We are taking advantage of the signing of the ECRL agreement to work out the purchase of palm oil from China, that will happen.”
Dr Mahathir will be meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang separately on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Summit to be held from April 25 to 27.