TOKYO – Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s working visit to Tokyo, beginning Sunday, is a clear reflection of Malaysia’s priority in deepening bilateral ties particularly in trade and investment with Japan.
The five-day working visit, which is Ahmad Zahid’s first trip to ‘the land of the rising sun’ as Deputy Prime Minister, is all the more timely given the fierce competition globally for both markets and investments.
Therefore, it is important to continue to engage Tokyo consistently to ensure Japan continues to remain among Malaysia’s top trading partners and foreign direct investors.
The statistics speaks for themselves.
Japan was Malaysia’s fourth largest trading partner after China, Singapore and the United States last year, with bilateral trade amounting to RM127.40 billion which accounted for 8.72 per cent of Malaysia’s total trade.
In 2015, Japan was also Malaysia’s third largest export destination and the fourth largest source of imports.
Total exports to Japan amounted to RM73.81 billion while imports totalled RM53.59 billion.
As for Japan, Malaysia is its ninth largest trading partner, 11th largest export destination and eighth largest source of import.
From 2009 to 2015, a total of 355 manufacturing projects with Japanese participation were implemented in Malaysia with total investments of RM33.06 billion and generated employment for 39,959 people.
Japan was also Malaysia’s top foreign investor in 2014, which speaks volumes of the strong bilateral linkages since both countries established diplomatic relations in 1957.
This being the case, there must be no let-up in efforts to take ties to a higher level and Ahmad Zahid’s visit is a step in the right direction for Kuala Lumpur to continue its commitment to engage with Japan.
As such, Ahmad Zahid’s trip is crucial as he will be meeting his counterpart, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso where important bilateral trade and investment issues are expected to be discussed.
A major itinerary in Ahmad Zahid’s Japan programme is his meeting and keynote address at the Malaysia-Japan Economic Association (MAJECA) and Malaysia-Japan Economic Association (JEMACA) meetings.
The associations were formed to promote closer economic relations between the private sectors of both nations through mutual discussions at an annual economic forum, and other related activities.
One area that these associations should look at is enhancing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly on ways Japan can play a role in boosting and helping Malaysian SMEs venture into the world’s third largest economy.
Looking forward, Malaysia must also enhance trade and investment linkages based on their common partnership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the ongoing negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
With Japan a major investor here and in ASEAN, Malaysia must market itself more aggressively in getting Japanese companies to use Kuala Lumpur as the strategic gateway to South-East Asia especially under the ASEAN Economic Community.
Efforts and commitment must be re-doubled by Malaysia to attract new Japanese companies, as well as, maintain existing firms with long-term footprints.
Last year, a total of 60 projects with Japanese participation in Malaysia were approved with investments amounting to RM4.0 billion.
Among major Japanese manufacturing companies with investments in Malaysia as at end-2015, were Tokuyama Malaysia Sdn Bhd with investment of RM8.4 billion, Panasonic Group (RM5.88 billion) and Nippon Electric Glass (M) Sdn Bhd (RM5.8 billion).
Key Japanese investments were made in electrical and electronics, high technology, automobile industries, green technology, power plants, construction, transportation, as well as, medical equipment and services such as banking institutions and insurance.
During his trip, Ahmad Zahid will carry a clear message to Japan’s top politicians and captains of industry and that is Kuala Lumpur, which has always accorded high priority to long-standing ties with Tokyo, wants to take it to a higher platform. – BERNAMA