Meeting next week to iron out economic zone issues before talks with Singapore

JOHOR BARU: Malaysia and Singapore will be meeting next month for further discussions on the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ), says state executive councillor Lee Ting Han (pic).

The Johor investment, trade, consumer affairs and human resources committee chairman said the meeting would allow both countries to give each other an update as they work towards a full-fledged agreement by the fourth quarter of this year.

“The meeting with Singapore will be held sometime in March where we will negotiate further on the JS-SEZ based on parameters that were set in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed last month.

“Prior to that, we will have our internal meeting chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Feb 28 in Johor.

“The meeting here will allow the Prime Minister to listen to the views and wish lists of the federal and state governments so that we can finalise our position before further talks with Singapore,” he told The Star.

Lee said among the issues that will be discussed are the QR code clearance system, digitalised cargo clearance, and joint training programmes.

“Take the QR code passport clearance for example; we need to discuss internally what kind of system we want, whether this will be the case where both countries develop their own systems or for us to develop the system together.

“The same goes for cargo clearance. We need to decide whether we want to use our existing system and integrate it with Singapore’s or for both countries to develop a joint system.

“These are among issues that will be discussed with the Prime Minister,” he said.

Lee added that the Prime Minister’s active role in driving negotiations on the JS-SEZ shows the government’s commitment towards the establishment of the economic zone.

Asked whether issues such as the power outage at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (BSI CIQ) will also be raised in the meeting with the Prime Minister next Wednesday, Lee said it is unlikely, as the matter has already been resolved at the state government level.

“Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi has already given instructions to state works, transportation, infrastructure and communication committee chairman Mohamad Fazli Mohamad Salleh. This includes providing more backup power and resolve cabling issues, which Mohamad Fazli is working on,” he said.

The BSI CIQ experienced a power outage for an hour on Wednesday afternoon; it was the second time the building had a power outage, after the first in December last year.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Fahmi Fadzil said federal and Johor officials will meet next week to discuss policies and issues that need to be ironed out to expedite the establishment of the SEZ.

Malaysia and Singapore signed an MOU to set up the JS-SEZ on Jan 11, almost three months after the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in October when Anwar and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong agreed to jointly develop the economic zone.

In a joint statement following the MOU signing, Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli and Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said the two countries are exploring several initiatives towards establishing the economic zone.

The initiatives include the implementation of a passport-free QR code clearance system on both sides, adopting digitised processes for cargo clearance at the land checkpoints and co-organising investor forums.

Others include setting up a one-stop business and investment hub in Johor, curating training and work-based learning initiatives and joint promotion events.

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