PETALING JAYA: Eight months after officially announcing the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) initiative, Prime Minister Najib Razak is to launch the actual implementation on Friday with the participation of 1,900 small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The prime minister told a conference for digital entrepreneurs in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the launch of the DFTZ also met the expectation of Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma, The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) reported.
“When I first met founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Ma last year, I was intrigued by the whole DFTZ concept.
“Ma told me that if we could approve the trade zone in three months, he would make Malaysia the first DFTZ outside of China,” Najib was quoted as saying by the business publication on the first meeting he had had with Ma late last year.
On March 22 this year, the DTFZ was launched by Najib, together with Ma, who was also named as an adviser to the Malaysian government on digital economy.
Two months later, Najib witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the DFTZ between the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the Hangzhou municipal government and the Alibaba Group during his visit to China.
According to TMR, Najib told the Wira Digital conference yesterday about how Ma had set a high target for the government before the DFTZ could move forward.
“He told me then that they needed at least 1,500 SMEs to participate to get the trade zone moving. But here in these few months, we already have almost 2,000 SMEs signed up,” Najib was quoted as saying.
He added that all the companies that had signed up would be able to engage the global market after this, especially China.
“The Chinese market is huge. Be it bird’s nests or health foods and beauty products, once it penetrates the Chinese market, it will only keep growing,” TMR quoted the prime minister as saying.
Last Friday, during the tabling of Budget 2018, Najib announced a RM83.5 million allocation to further advance the DFTZ which is located at the Aeropolis, KLIA, for logistics facilities and storage, and efficiently expedite customs and financing procedures.
In October last year, the prime minister and Ma agreed to establish the world’s first electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) outside China.
MDEC had previously said that the DFTZ would be a boost to Malaysia’s e-commerce roadmap that was introduced in 2016, as it aimed to double the nation’s e-commerce growth and increase the gross domestic product contribution to RM211 billion by 2020, TMR reported.