KUALA LUMPUR – Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali is expected to make an official communication on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project to his Singapore counterparts by the end of the month.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the EU-Malaysia Trade & Investment Forum 2018 today, Azmin said he is currently communicating with the neighbouring country on the project and will be making an announcement in the next few days.

“Last week I was briefed by the Attorney-General and I presented the case to the Cabinet on Wednesday. We will inform the press in the next few days,” he said.

On the overall economic conditions of the country, Azmin said that things are looking challenging at this juncture.

“We have to accept the fact that times are very challenging. On my part, I have been discussing with many foreign diplomats to see how best we can sustain our FDIs (foreign direct investments) in Malaysia. We want to ensure that these investments can create value for local players. It has to be in high tech investments and to move away from labour-intensive industries. These are issues concerning the ministry now. So we will be meeting with stakeholders to see how best we can move up the value chain for our SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and local players,” he said.

In his keynote address, Azmin said the new government wants to encourage quality FDIs, particularly greenfield investments that could contribute to real value creation spurring productivity, innovation and complement the local business ecosystem.

Touching on trade agreements, Azmin said any bilateral or multilateral agreements should not only be free but fair and must ensure that the interests of the SMEs, which form the backbone of the economy, are not on HSR compromised and sufficient opportunities are given to these organisations to move up the value chain.

On another note, Ambassador and Head of European Union Delegation to Malaysia, Maria Castillo Fernandez, urged the government to relaunch the Malaysia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations soon.

She said the EU is looking to continue the negotiations pending from the previous administration in relation to the agreement which is set to be a key pillar to the larger scale EU-Asean FTA.

Castillo Fernandez is set to meet International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking next week to discuss and speed up the process.

The regional blocs of Asean and EU launched initial talks for a pact in 2007 but abandoned the process in 2009 when the EU opted to instead conduct bilateral negotiations with individual countries.

Castillo Fernandez noted that Malaysia is the only missing link, given that negotiations with the Philippines and Indonesia are ongoing while bilateral trade ties have already been forged with Singapore and Vietnam.

There are some 2,000 EU companies operating in Malaysia.

As of the first quarter of this year, the total FDI from EU stood at RM107 billion while Malaysia had invested RM59 billion in the EU.

In April, total trade between the European economic bloc and Malaysia increased 25.1% from last year to RM16.15 billion, accounting for 10.4% of Malaysia’s total trade.

– www.thesundaily.