Malaysian PM Mahathir says growing countries need different trade protections

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that different economies needed different rules in order to compete fairly with giants such as the US and China. (Reuters)
Updated 11 June 2018

Malaysian PM Mahathir says growing countries need different trade protections

TOKYO: Growing nations like Malaysia need different trade protections and, while Kuala Lumpur is not against trade pacts such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP must be renegotiated, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday.
Mahathir, 92, became premier for the second time last month after Malaysians, angered over accusations of massive corruption, voted out a coalition that had led the country for the six decades since independence.
Mahathir told an international seminar in Tokyo on his first foreign trip since the election that different economies needed different rules in order to compete fairly with giants such as the US and China.
“Small countries cannot compete on the same terms as bigger countries,” he said on the second day of a three-day visit, during which he will woo Japanese investment and meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials.
“We are not completely against the TPP but it needs to be re-negotiated ... so that smaller countries would have the chance to compete because they would be given certain handicaps,” he said.
Mahathir said the ideal would be a broad trade pact such as the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) he proposed during his previous administration.
“Yes, I am still in favor of EAEC. In the past, of course, we were not able to do this due to the objections of America, but now America seems to become isolationist again so it is not in a position to demand that we cannot form EAEC,” he said.
Such a group would also be useful in the face of China’s surging economic power.
Mahathir’s visit is seen as a sign of Malaysia’s move away from China, which contentiously pumped billions of dollars into the scandal-tainted administration of ousted leader Najib Razak.
The new government has said some Chinese companies are under suspicion of being used to cover up the graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that contributed to Najib’s downfall.
Mahathir said foreign direct investment should involve bringing in capital and ideas.
“We have to deal with China whether we like it or not, we should deal with it as a group,” he said.
Mahathir did not make any reference to the 1MDB investigations.
He said Malaysia hoped to possibly start a new national car project, perhaps with help from Southeast Asia, but did not give further details.
State-owned Proton was founded in 1983 during an industrialization push in Mahathir’s first term. Its domestic market share peaked at 74 percent a decade later but Geely bought 49.9 percent of the struggling carmaker last year, marking the Chinese automaker’s first push into Southeast Asia.
Mahathir praised the peaceful transition since the election and said he would stay in power as long as the people of Malaysia wanted him.


Saudi central bank governor opens fintech gathering in Riyadh

Updated 21 sec ago

Saudi central bank governor opens fintech gathering in Riyadh

  • Near field technology and smartphones accounted for almost 57 percent of retail transactions in Saudi Arabia last year

LONDON: Saudi Arabia aspires to become a pioneering hub for the financial technology (fintech) sector, central bank governor Ahmed Alkholifey told the MEFTECH conference in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The two-day conference and exhibition brings together leading industry experts in digital payments, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is devising its strategic plan in the financial and development sector with the goal of becoming a pioneering hub for innovation in the financial technology sector,” Alkholifey said. “The Kingdom spares no effort in working to provide a suitable environment that motivates success, supported by top local and international partners. We at the Monetary Authority seek to promote digitization of financial services and advance digital transformation in the sector to meet the demands and goals of the financial sector development program, which is one of the programs of Saudi Vision 2030.”

E-payment transactions grew sharply last year with non-cash transactions rising to 36.2 percent, exceeding the general goal of the Saudi Vision 2030 which is 28 percent.

The overall value of transactions reached an unprecedented record level last year, exceeding SR287 billion — an increase of 24 percent on the previous year.

The number of transactions carried out via near-field communication technology also more than quadrupled to 918.5 million.

In fact near field technology and smartphones accounted for almost 57 percent of retail transactions.