Malaysia supports the Belt & Road Initiative as a means to better promote sustainable development throughout Asia and to help bring the region closer together, says a Malaysian Minister.

“Malaysia is one of the countries that has benefited from the China led BRI,” said Malaysia’s Minister of Works Baru Bian, noting China is also the country’s biggest trading partner.

President Xi Jinping proposed the BRI in 2013, with the goal of connecting China with Asia, Europe and Africa via land- and sea-based infrastructure development.

In the first half of 2019, the total trade in goods between China and Malaysia was valued at US$35.4 billion, accounting for 16.6 percent of Malaysia’s overall external trade, said Baru.

Baru was speaking at the Malaysia-China Investment Promotion 2019 held in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 20.

The promotional event was part of a series of activities of the China Mainland-Macao Joint Investment Promotion Mission to Brunei, Malaysia and Japan, led by China International Contractors Association (CHINCA) and the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM).

During the mission’s first stop in Brunei from Sept 17-18, business matching and other activities were held to connect industry leaders from China and Brunei.

The Kuala Lumpur event was jointly organised by CHINCA, IPIM and the Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM). The aim was to help improve communication and cooperation between China and Malaysia in infrastructure and construction, as well as to promote talent and knowledge exchange.

CHINCA Chairman Fang Qiuchen said Malaysia is not only an important supporting country in the BRI, but also a key destination of the initiative’s sea route – the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

“With the development of closer cooperation and deeper political trust between China and Malaysia, more Chinese enterprises will take part in the investment and construction of Malaysia’s infrastructure sector,” said Fang.

Established in 1988, CHINCA has more than 1,500 members that operate in over 190 countries and regions in various fields, ranging from transportation, electricity to construction and telecommunication.

In a 2019 list of the top 250 international contractors compiled by the Engineering News-Record, 75 CHINCA members were included, said Fang.

Fang said Macao professionals are strong in financial law, project management, operating funds and have experience in nurturing international talent. He hoped to see companies from the Chinese mainland and Macao work in a synergized way to jointly invest in Malaysia.

The promotional event formed part of the activities for representatives from CHINCA and IPIM during their visit in Malaysia from Sept 19 to 21.

Noting the importance of the construction sector to Malaysia’s economy, Baru said he hoped to see more collaboration between industry players from China and Malaysia.

“The construction sector has been a key driver for economic development generating multiplier effect for other economic sectors including manufacturing, transportation, connectivity and services,” said Baru.

In the second quarter of 2019, the construction sector recorded an average annual growth rate of 7.1 percent, higher than the national GDP growth of 4.9 percent, said Baru.

Citing a projection by Malaysia National Bank that the construction sector will contribute about 3 percent to the GDP in 2019, MBAM President Foo Check Lee said the sector is at the heart of the transformation of the country, both economically and socially.

As more opportunities can be generated from projects like the East Coast Rail Link, of which the construction is led by a Chinese company, Foo hopes more companies from China can partner with their Malaysian counterparts to develop business opportunities.

During their stay in Brunei on Sept 17-18, the Chinese mainland enterprises led by Fang explored business opportunities and risk management methods with local enterprises, institutes and departments apart from visiting sites of Chinese-funded projects.

At the Brunei Investment Opportunity Briefing on Sept 17, Fang said CHINCA will continue to build and improve platforms for practical cooperation between businesses of two sides and facilitate member companies in their participation in updating infrastructure of the Darussalam.

Permanent Secretary of Investments of Brunei MOFE Yang Mulia Awang Haji Khairuddin bin Haji Abdul Hamid, said thanks to advanced technology and rich experiences of Chinese engineering enterprises, Brunei encourages and looks forward to more Chinese builders and investors taking part in local development.

Dr. Muhammad Firdaus Abdul Rahman, President of Brunei-China Friendship Association, said as an important bridge between the two nations, his association would like to join hands with Chinese enterprises and promote business and trade between the parties.