Malaysia will strengthen its ties with Chinese companies in e-commerce, digital economy and artificial intelligence to further accelerate the liberalization of trade and attract investment to maintain a robust growth momentum, a senior Malaysian commerce official said on Monday.
Seri Ong Ka Chuan, second minister of Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, said as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has already signed free trade agreements with major trade partners such as China, South Korea, Japan and Australia, developing digital economy and high-end industries can help Malaysia diversify its economy via a consumption and investment-fueled economic development model.
The Malaysian government and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd jointly launched a regional e-commerce hub located close to Kuala Lumpur airport earlier this month, and Alipay, an online payment platform under Alibaba, was introduced to the country earlier this year.
"The future is good," said Chuan. "A lot of goods from Malaysia can be shipped to China through Alibaba and Alipay. And Chinese products can be brought to Malaysia. It can also significantly boost the tourism market in Malaysia."
China is now Malaysia's top trading partner and the latter remains China's biggest import source within the ASEAN bloc. Bilateral trade amounted to $54.3 billion in 2016, up 44.4 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Eager to further diversify the country's earning ability, the Malaysian government partnered with Innospace Plus, a Shanghai-based venture capital and private equity firm that specializes in investing in high-tech innovation business to hold an innovation forum in Shanghai last week to discuss the development of the Belt and Road Initiative and multiple ways to invest in Malaysia.
"The development of the Belt and Road Initiative will also help develop a modern service sector, including fast growing financial cooperative platforms in Malaysia," said Chuan.
He said the initiative has so far spanned 65 countries and regions via projects by building massive infrastructure focusing on transport and energy. They currently account for some 80 percent of global GDP and over 35 percent of the world's merchandise trade.
"The end game of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road as proposed by the Chinese government is to bolster these economies' contribution to global GDP growth to 80 percent by 2080."
"Malaysia's strategic location along the Maritime Silk Road will further enhance its strength as a preferred investment destination," said Liu Chenyang, a researcher at the APEC Study Center at Nankai University in Tianjin.