China’s Belt and Road Initiative projects are important because it opens land and sea routes to Europe.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told Khmer Times that: “In so far as the BRI projects are concerned, we are fully supportive because Malaysia also wants to use this passage for trade with the East and the West.”
“In addition, it is important, of course, that these trading passages are kept open so that more trade would be possible. After that, we’ll have to engage all the countries along the routes. Central Asia is cut off from the sea, but if they have good communications systems, then they will also prosper.”
He said that while the BRI has much support from countries, such as Malaysia and Cambodia, it is important that investors adjust to local conditions, practices, and prepare themselves for what may come.
“Looking at the trade war between China and the US, this is very bad. It doesn’t benefit anybody. Everybody will suffer. But Asean countries, if we work together, we can build a good market for ourselves. This will mitigate the cost of the results of the trade war,” Mr Mahathir said.
“There are no winners – only losers and those get ruined, especially those countries who depend on export-related manufacturing. This is because if countries of origin certification are strictly applied, almost every producer and exporter will be affected. One way or another, as it is, all inter-related,” he added.
Mr Mahathir pointed out that Malaysia and Cambodia have enjoyed a long and historic relationship, which stretches over 62 years – same as Malaysia’s independence. Given this long relationship, Malaysia could sympathise with some of the problems facing Cambodia, such as potential sanctions and revocation of the Everything-but-arms trade status, and pressure on its form of democracy.
He noted that there is no denying of Cambodia’s reliance on China on many fronts, primarily infrastructure development and official development assistance.
“Cambodia may not have much of a choice because of external pressure on it, but Prime Minister Hun Sen is doing well in establishing bilateral trading pacts with as many countries as possible, particularly European nations,” he said.
“Hedging, in terms of politics, trade and economics, is critical for a nation’s survival and as such, it could be wise for Cambodia to also stay engaged with its detractors and maintain its policy of friends with everyone and enemy of none,” Mr Mahathir added.
During his visit to Cambodia, Mr Mahathir stressed that he was visiting an old and trusted friend and that he was pleasantly surprised by the number of questions posed by students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
He stressed that Cambodia is on Malaysia’s radar and that Malaysia is concerned about what is happening in the Kingdom.
“We think that to the extent that we can, we should help – and certainly, our business people will be encouraged to come here to do business here, but not just think of profits, although that is the main objective, but also think about their responsibility towards the Cambodian people,” Mr Mahathir said.
He noted that the visit was also to renew relations between the two countries, strengthen relations, identify and resolve problems. Mr Mahathir said that in general, both sides need actions so Cambodia and Malaysia can prosper.