Malaysia Keen To Improve Ties Through Look East Policy, Japan Concurs

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob wants new areas of cooperation related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives to be explored by Malaysia and Japan through projects and programmes implemented under the Look East Policy.

This included diversifying cooperation in the field of disaster crisis, ageing society, digital economy, Science, Technology and Innovation as well as green growth, Ismail Sabri said in his speech at the opening of the Business Seminar to Commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Look East Policy in Kuala Lumpur today, which was read by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.

Implementation of the Look East Policy, he said, also focused on the balanced flow of benefits to Malaysia and Japan, including through Malaysia’s ability to increase cooperation in the development of the halal industry with Japan..

Based on the long trade ties that had been forged between Malaysia and Japan, the prime minister suggested the two countries to explore cooperation to address issues related to supply chain through the Look East Policy platform, Bernama reported Ismail Sabri saying.

He said the success of the cooperation between Malaysia and Japan, spanning over 40 years, was now more focused on new fields in line with the technological revolution that had changed the industrial and global economic landscape.

“Cooperation in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, autonomous systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT) in which Japan has a high level of expertise, needs to be improved,” he said, adding that this would guarantee the sustainability of the Look East Policy for years to come.

Japan Concurs

Japan shares the same viewpoint.

Japan’s Parliamentary Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kazuchika Iwata at the same event, said the ties between Malaysia and Japan have historically been strong, and in terms of business, Malaysia is home to approximately 1,600 Japanese companies.

Malaysia is an important business partner and hopes these ties are further strengthened between the two countries.

The Look East Policy was initiated in 1982 to enable young Malaysian students to study and train in Japan and other countries and bring back what they have learnt to Malaysia for use in economic and social development and the establishment of an industrial base.

For Japanese companies, this has increased Malaysia’s attractiveness as an investment destination, as there are many Japanese-speaking people who have learnt work ethics, morale, morals, management skills and so on, Iwata explained.

Today, on this point alone the number of foreign students and Malaysian trainees sent to Japan exceeds 26,000, and in various fields.

Iwata added these people have greatly improved mutual understanding between the two countries and have become an unshakable bridge between them. For example, it is reported that in Malaysian ministries and agencies, approximately 50 per cent of the posts at the undersecretary level, excluding vacant posts, are filled by people who have studied in Japan or received JICA training, and many former international students and JICA trainees are also active in the private sector.

This will enable Japan and Malaysia to build on each other’s strengths and create synergies, he said, adding, such good bilateral relations led to Japan being Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner and third largest direct investment partner.

Japanese companies have traditionally started doing business in Malaysia, particularly in the electrical and electronic components sector, but more recently, a variety of other sectors have also developed and doing business in Malaysia, including automotive, retail, finance, and medical/healthcare.

Iwata added Malaysia’s economy has recovered from the adverse effects of COVID 19 and is on track for further growth in 2022.

Iwata then presented the form of which Japan’s efforts would support this economic growth.

Firstly, the private sector is the main driver of the development of economic relations between the two countries, so we need to formulate policies that will strongly support private sector-based initiatives to promote public and private investment.

Based on this idea, in January, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced the ‘Asia Japan investing for the Future Initiative.’

The Initiative is based on three principles.

To offer effective solutions to the reality faced by ASEAN countries;

To create the foundations for a sustainable economic society, and society by making the best use of private sector innovation; and

To co-create the regions’ future through collaboration with local businesses and partnership between Japan and ASEAN countries.

“Based on these principles, we will actively promote new future-oriented investments, said Iwata.

The following are three examples of concrete undertakings based on this initiative.

The first is the promotion of the use of digital technology to solve social problems. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has adopted the promotion of ‘Asia Digital Transformation’ as its policy banner under which it supports initiatives in which companies from Japan and ASEAN countries work together to use digital technology to solve social issues faced by their countries and link this to business.

In Malaysia, this has taken the form of simulating the optimum layout of charging stations to promote the use of electric vehicles, and early detection of sick trees using drones and AI in oil palm plantations. In the private sector, Mitsui & Co. has invested in IHH in Malaysia, one of Asia’s largest private hospital groups to work on upgrading the level of medical service through the use of data.

The Second point is supply chain resilience.

It became clear that behavioural restrictions and operational regulations due to the spread of COVID 19 caused the stagnation of business activities.

Malaysia is a global supply chain hub, or not only Japanese companies, but also semiconductor companies from Europe and the US, and aircraft-related businesses and thus supply chain resilience an important issue. – examples of this can be seen in the manufacture of medical equipment in Malaysia and the semi-conductors industry.

The third is aircraft industry cooperation.

The Asia-Pacific region is an important region expected to account for 40% of the world’s new demand for aircraft over the next 20 years. Malaysia, in particular, has placed the promotion of the aerospace industry as national strategy and is working on various measures, making it an important partner for Japan.

In this context, further cooperation between the two countries in the field of aeronautics was established in May this year where a Memorandum of Cooperation on the Aircraft Industry was signed by our minister Hagiuda and Azmin.

The two governments will work together to strengthen cooperation and expand business between the two countries with the aim of building a supply chain to cover the whole of Asia.

This will be done via the Japan Malaysia Economic Dialogue, added Iwata.

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