29 May 2017
Italian companies can look at Malaysia as a bridge towards South East Asia, one of the most dynamic economic regions in the world, which will receive a further push from Asean's integration process. The invitation comes directly from Minister of Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed, in Milan for the opening ceremony of the Malaysian pavilion at Expo. Mohamed also reassures everyone about recent risks of political and economic instability of the whole region, from Bejing's demands on south chinese sea to thai crisis.
Which kind of partnership do you consider as possible between Italy and Malaysia and which kind of investments are you looking for?
Malaysia is already in a good relationship with Italy, we share a lot of political values, ours are both tolerant and democratic countries. We are close but we want to get closer both in trade and investments. As to investments, we already have an Italian presence in Malaysia, especially in manufacture. Italy is famous for its manufacture, for its small and medium-sized businesses and also for its science and research. We are looking for companies investing in electronics and industrial machinery, the second one being a leading sector in Italy. Italian companies can use Malaysia as a hub for the whole Asean region. Marelli Motori group, for example, has opened an office in Malaysia three years ago, and sells its products to the whole region from here.
What do you expect from the economic integration process of the Asean countries?
We will have a freer flow of goods and services, not like in Europe, but freer anyway. We would like Asean to become an effective destination for investments.
In the latest years risk factors have emerged as to politic and economic stability of the whole region. Example is given by the assertiveness of Bejing about territorial issues on south chinese sea. Do you fear that this kind of events could damage international trade and economic growth?
Peace and stability are important. In south chinese sea there have been some problems, but we have been able to manage them and to limit tensions. There's a lot of work to do, without peace and stability we can't grow the economy. Whatever the problem, we want to solve it through communication, not with a conflict.
Another example is given by Thai crisis, one again dealing with a coup and a suspension of democracy.
Soldiers who have gained the leadership have committed to give the sovereign power back to Thai people through the elections. In the meanwhile, Thailand is a peaceful and stable country. We hope that one day democracy will be back in Thailand, as soldiers have promised, when domestic affairs will be back to normality.
Malaysia itself is going through political tensions, with protesters and opposition leaders being arrested. Do you fear that all this could change the way foreign investors look at your country?
We are a democracy and our citizens are free. Who breaks the law, like in any other country in the world, meets consequences. On May 1 there have been some rallies against the introduction of the Valued Added Tax, during these demonstrations laws were broken, there have been some clashes and some people were arrested. We are a peaceful country, but we have the duty to protect our citizens and to guarantee public safety. But there aren't tensions right now in Malaysia. Rallies happen everywhere: London, Rome, Washington, Tokyo, it's normal. But that doesn't mean that there are tensions.
What about the arrest of the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy crime?
Anwar is in prison beacause sodomy in our country is a crime. In other countries sodomy is not a crime, in Malaysia it is. The highest justice court of Malaysia has passed a judgement and the law must be equal to all. We can't make exceptions, even for the opposition leader.