PM invites Korean auto players to take part in national automotive policy

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad driving a Hyundai Nexo, a hydrogen fuel cell powered crossover SUV during a visit to Hyundai Rotem in Busan, South Korea, yesterday. (Bernama pic)

SEOUL: Malaysia wants to explore further cooperation in the automotive sector with South Korea, especially with the upcoming launch of the National Automotive Policy 2019 (NAP 2019), said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The first of the three phases of NAP 2019 will focus on the improvement of policies to infuse new technologies, including in terms of human capital and competency, he said at a roundtable meeting with South Korean captains of industry here today.

“Obviously, you (South Korea) have made tremendous progress.

“I tried your hydrogen car yesterday and it performed really well and I’m impressed by how quiet it is.

“The automotive industry progresses rapidly and the technology needs to keep up,” he said.

The roundtable gathered captains of industry from 29 companies, led by Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

Mahathir said Malaysia would like to see investments in high-tech manufacturing and has always been open to foreign investments, regardless of geographic origins and sectors.

However, it has to be more discerning in the kinds of industries it would like to nurture now, in contrast with the past when it was satisfied with any kind of investment, he said.

Today, Malaysia would like to see investment in high-tech manufacturing like those in the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0), renewable energy such as solar and wind, and services that create respectable-paying jobs, he noted.

This, he added, is a sign of a maturing Malaysian economy that is on the cusp of breaking into the ranks of high-income nations.

Furthermore, since the new government took over, there has been an initiative to shift away from government-driven growth to private sector-driven growth, he said.

“As part of the initiative to strengthen its fiscal position and increase the role of the private sector in the economy, the Malaysian government intends to divest its holdings away from various non-core and non-strategic companies,” he said.

Promoting Malaysia further, the prime minister said the country is also among the best-positioned economies in Asia to benefit immensely from trade diversion and relocation caused by the higher tariffs imposed by China and the United States against each other.

“This is especially so because Malaysia generally has good relations with all countries in the world, including China and the US.

“This has allowed Malaysia to stay out of their crosshairs, although no one, either Malaysia or South Korea, is truly free from the trade war ripples due to the integrated global supply chain that both countries participate in,” he said.

In this context, Mahathir said South Korean companies may want to consider Malaysia seriously as part of its preferred investment destination to circumvent or mitigate the effect of the trade war.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitiveness Index, Malaysia is ranked 25th in terms of its high-quality manufacturing and IR 4.0 readiness.

“On top of this, Malaysia offers a trained workforce with high English proficiency, a peaceful stable polyglot society, ready access to the whole of Asean, an open economy, an investor-friendly environment, strong protection of intellectual property rights and patents as well as superb rail, road, port and internet infrastructure,” said Mahathir.

Malaysia plays host to large Korean companies such as Lotte, Samsung, Posco, Hanwha and SK Group, as well as its small and medium-sized enterprises like Kumkang Kind, Affluent Best Blending and Youngreem Tech.

South Korea ranks as the fifth-largest foreign investor in Malaysia.

As of 2018, a total of 376 manufacturing projects with South Korean participation have been implemented with total investments worth US$7.83 billion (RM25.89 billion).

During the roundtable, Mahathir was accompanied by Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah; Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo; Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar; Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad; and International Trade and Industry Minister Ignatius Darell Leiking.