Private sector support vital when Malaysia takes Asean chair, says minister

The Investment, Trade and Industry Minister said he welcomed a collaborative approach to ensure that ongoing efforts within the Asean framework are aligned with business needs and global standards.


File photo of Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz. the Investment, Trade and Industry Minister. PHOTO: THE STAR

June 12, 2024

KUALA LUMPUR – Support from the private sector is crucial when Malaysia assumes the Asean chairmanship next year, says Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz (pic).

The Investment, Trade and Industry Minister said he welcomed a collaborative approach to ensure that ongoing efforts within the Asean framework are aligned with business needs and global standards.

He also said consistent engagement with the business community is essential.

“In the lead-up to 2025, I am encouraged by the active contributions of the Asean-Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC).

“Several Asean-BAC legacy projects focusing on digital transformation, sustainable development, health resilience, food security, trade and investment facilitation, and supply chains demonstrate the business community’s recognition of Asean’s positive impact,” he said in his keynote address at the Discussion: Expectations of Malaysia’s Upcoming Chairmanship of Asean forum here on Tuesday (June 11).

Tengku Zafrul also gave an assurance that his ministry will see that national economic interests align with Asean goals while delivering clear benefits to the region’s industries.

As such, he said that Malaysia is an emerging leader in the global race to net zero which includes new investments and trading opportunities centred on a greener future, including carbon credits, certificates, currents, and charging capabilities.

“While individual countries are at varying stages of progress towards carbon neutrality and a circular economy, Malaysia is emerging as a leader in these areas with policies such as the New Industrial Master Plan 2030 (NIMP 2030), the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) and the National Industry ESG Framework (i-ESG).

“To accelerate decarbonisation and achieve a carbon-neutral economy, Asean has developed the Asean Strategy for Carbon Neutrality while the Asean Framework for Circular Economy aims to improve resource efficiency, economic resilience and sustainable growth.

“Compliance with these frameworks by businesses will directly increase market opportunities and the green competitiveness of Asean products and services worldwide,” he said.

Tengku Zafrul said some Asean member nations are positioning themselves to capitalise on the shifting global supply chain.

“Asean has the potential to become the epicentre of the next phase of growth in the Global South. Many Asean Dialogue partners, including India, China, the European Union and the United States, are revising their outlook and commitment to strengthen or expand trade and investment ties with the grouping, particularly in emerging areas of growth.

“Countries such as Canada, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Switzerland are also seeking to fortify their economic ties with Asean,” he said.

Tengku Zafrul stressed, however, that Asean and Malaysia must be firm on their neutrality and independence concerning deglobalisation caused by geopolitical tensions.

“We must remain a non-aligned, open trading region for all,” he added.

Tengku Zafrul also said that evolving digital transformation, particularly the journey towards artificial intelligence (AI)-driven operating landscape, would bring both opportunities and challenges.

He said the current trajectory estimated that the Asean Digital Economy is expected to grow up to three times, reaching US$1 trillion (RM4.71 trillion) by 2030, proving that digital transformation and innovation are central to the grouping’s reindustrialisation efforts.

“Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are investing in automation, AI, and IoT (Internet of Things) to boost industrial capabilities.

“While Asean countries are investing in digital infrastructure to enhance connectivity and drive economic growth, a forward-looking Asean Digital Economy Framework – currently being negotiated – is key for regional digital integration,” he added.

Meanwhile, Asean Business Club president Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid said the expectation for Malaysia in taking the chairmanship role is high.

Munir said the one-year chairmanship period would mean that Malaysia has to remain realistic in performing its role.

“The challenge is to ensure continuity at least in some priority areas and to not expect ourselves to be reformed just because Malaysia is holding the chair,” he said.

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