No meeting planned on palm oil with India in Davos, says minister

lnternational Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking says there has been no contact with Indian officials in Davos, Switzerland.

KUALA LUMPUR: International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking today said no meeting has been scheduled between him and his Indian counterpart during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week amid the palm oil spat between the two countries.

However, he said, “along the way, we may bump into each other and a hello always leads to something good”.

Leiking said he had not established any contact with Indian officials in Davos or received any invitation for a discussion with them.

“The only invitation to Davos is through the Malaysian government. There are no plans to meet anyone in particular but we may bump into them,” he said.

Leiking, who is leaving for Davos tonight, was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between InvestKL and Chinese Business Chambers to open a single window for all investment opportunities from China to Malaysia.

It was reported last week that India had imposed curbs on refined palm oil, which a source in New Delhi said could be used to deny or delay imports from Malaysia. India has been Malaysia’s top palm oil buyer for five years.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Mahathir as saying in Langkawi that as a nation, Malaysia was too small to respond with trade retaliation against India.

“We are too small to take retaliatory action. We have to find ways and means to overcome that,” he told reporters.

Reuters had reported that India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal would not be meeting with his Malaysian counterpart in Davos next week because of his tight schedule.

India has repeatedly objected to Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s views on the country’s new citizenship law and the Kashmir conflict.

Malaysia is the second biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety of the commodity imposed last week have been seen as a retaliation for Mahathir’s criticism of New Delhi.

Chairman of KLInvest Michael Lam said through the setting up of the single window, the government has set a target of RM5 billion investments from China per year.

Lam said they were targeting high value and high impact industries such as artificial intelligence, consumer technology, medical and services rather than the manufacturing sector.

“It is more towards industries related to IR4.0 to create employment opportunities for our young talents to upskill their jobs instead of losing them to Singapore and Hong Kong,” he added.

Leiking said the RM5 billion target was for KLInvest and each state would have its own target for foreign investment.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also at the event, said his ministry and the ministry of international trade and industry (MITI) had also set up a National Committee on Investment which would meet every month to ensure speedier approvals for investments worldwide.

“We do not want to hear about them (investors) having to wait six to nine months for approvals,” Lim told reporters.

So far, Lim said the committee had approved seven projects worth RM7.6 billion, adding that the details would be provided later as some of the companies were from the US and they would need to inform the stock exchange first.

In his speech, he said China was fast becoming a tech and innovation powerhouse.

He said the high-tech, high-value, high-impact FDI from global and China-based companies were looking to set up operations in Malaysia.

This would help in the transfer of technology and knowledge to create opportunities to develop highly-skilled talents as well as more skilled jobs in Malaysia.