The Straits Times
Economy, Investment and Trade
China insists BRI benefits countries after Malaysia warns the Philippines
(8 March 2019) Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reiterated the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s economic benefits and denounced assertions that China was practicing debt-trap diplomacy in order to expand its global influence. The foreign minister pointed to BRI projects such as the development of East Africa’s first highway and ongoing investments in the development of high-speed rail networks in Southeast Asia as examples of China’s commitment to helping boost its partners’ growth. Wang’s statement, which were made in Beijing on the sidelines of China’s annual legislative meetings, comes a day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s official visit to the Philippines, where the latter cautioned against countries being too beholden to China. “When a person is a borrower, he is under the control of the lender, so we have to be very careful with that,” said Mahathir.
China-Myanmar Economic Corridor to have nine priority sectors
(7 March 2019) Myanmar will prioritise nine sectors under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) in accordance with the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, said a senior official of the Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI). These nine sectors will cover key infrastructure areas, i.e. electricity, roads, bridges, telecommunications, basic construction, agriculture, transportation, research, and technology. The senior official was among a group of private sector representatives present at a recent closed-door CMEC joint committee meeting held in Kunming in late February, where key projects such as the Kyaukpyu special economic zone, the Muse-Mandalay railroad and the Myitsone dam project were discussed. Furthermore, a few agreements will purportedly be signed during a high-level BRI conference to be held in Beijing in April.
Laos and China to continue cooperating on trade cooperation zone
(8 March 2019) Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith lauded the progress made in the development of the Saysettha Comprehensive Development Zone in Vientiane and said that he looked forward to turning it into a “green, sustainable and prosperous” development zone. According to Xinhua, the Saysettha project is China’s only overseas state-level economic and trade cooperation zone in Laos, and is a state-level cooperative project between China’s Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding (YCIH) and the Vientiane municipal government. Further, according to YCIH chairman Chen Wenshan, the development zone’s combined output will surpass US$1.5 billion and create 10,000 jobs by the end of 2020.
Malaysia participates in Alibaba’s new economy workshop in Hangzhou
(11 March 2019) A delegation of 30 senior officials from 19 Malaysian ministries and agencies led by Minister of International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking attended Alibaba Business School’s New Economy Workshop (NEW) on March 4-7. The workshop, held at the Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, was aimed at equipping these senior officials with the knowledge and know-how needed to help drive the development of Malaysia’s digital economy. Speaking at the NEW opening ceremony, Leiking said that participants will not only be expected to help elevate the implementation of the National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap (NeSR) 2016-2020 upon returning home, but also become trainers in their respective ministries and agencies.
China remains a key market for Singapore firms
(6 March 2019) China remains a priority market for Singaporean companies, particularly due to the attractiveness of its consumer market, said Enterprise Singapore assistant chief executive Eunice Koh during a recent Singapore Business Federation (SBF) media briefing. During the briefing, SBF announced plans to lead a delegation of 100 companies to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai in November 2019, up from 80 companies in 2018. Koh also urged Singapore businesses to not only see China as an end-market, but also as potential partners for the co-creation of products and services. According to The Straits Times, this year’s CIIE will focus on five key areas, i.e. equipment, consumption, food, health and services.