The recent revival of negotiations for the deferred multi-billion ringgit East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project indicates Malaysia under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is still very keen to continue business with China, Ong Kian Ming said.

The Deputy Minister of International Trade and Investment said that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s confirmation for China’s second Official Summit on the Belt and Road Initiative in April showed Malaysia’s commitment to furthering their “very important” bilateral economic relationship, which had a record total trade volume of US$108.6 billion (RM442.4 billion) last year.

Dr Mahathir is the first world leader to confirm attendance, according to the Hong Kong daily.

“We can expect more opportunities to expand our trading and investment relationship with China, and this will continue to set the tone that Malaysia is very welcoming of investments from China.

“If this can be reciprocated by the Chinese government, it would give confidence to Chinese investors that despite the change in government we are still very open for business and we still want to attract good quality Chinese investments to Malaysia,” Ong who is in Hong Kong to attend The Economist’s Asia Trade Summit, was quoted saying.

Ong was reported saying Malaysia-China trade grew about 8.5 per cent last year, topping the 6.2 per cent increase in Malaysia’s total international trade.

The contentious ECRL project that was initiated by the previous Barisan Nasional administration was suspended by PH due to its hefty RM70 billion price tag.

Ong said the revival of negotiations between both countries show their commitment to resolve the rail project.

“What we want to have is greater clarity, not just on the cost of construction but also the cost of operations… we want to be able to come to a win-win solution,” he told the Hong Kong paper.

He also said that certain Chinese firms had expressed investment interest in Malaysia’s manufacturing during his visit to the autonomous Chinese region.

“The electronics and electrical sector is one that the northern state of Penang has a very strong position in, and I think many of the sector’s players in southern China, such as the area around Shenzhen and Guangdong, are [discovering] this opportunity.

“China has been Malaysia’s largest Foreign Direct Investment Country of Origin for the past three years, and we are looking for that to continue in the foreseeable future.”

Ong also said Malaysia and China would benefit if the Asian superpower’s ongoing trade war with the US prolonged, as more companies might expand their operations and capabilities in South-east Asia.

“Given that Asia is where people are looking to for trade and investment opportunities, I think these tensions give an additional impetus to companies, including those in China, to look at trade and investment from a different perspective,” he was quoted saying.

Ong said that the PH Government is focused on spreading its economic message that, “at the end of the day we will be voted back into power depending on how well we do on the economy”.