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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 (Bernama) — The government will establish an automotive council within two months to provide a platform for policy makers to interact with industry players.

Chaired by Minister of International Trade and Investment Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, the council will consist representatives from the government and business community, as well as, non-government organisations representing consumers.

“The council will provide a platform for policy makers to interact so that we can have inputs from the industry and have clear directions as to which way the automotive industry will move,” Mustapa told reporters during the National Automotive Policy (NAP) 2014 update here Friday.

Saying that the council would probaby hold its first meeting end of march, he added that the automotive sector was an important to the economy as more than 500,000 people are employed and involved in the industry.

“It is in many ways, the pulse of the nation’s economy,” he said.

In 2013, the automotive sector contributed RM30 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Meanwhile, Mustapa said the government would introduce the Euro 4 standards for RON 97 nationwide in September.

The implementation of Euro 4 standard for RON 95 will take place in 2018.

The minister said the sale of Euro 5 diesel, which was now confined to 12 petrol stations in Johor would be introduced to other states this year.

DAVOS (Switzerland), Jan 29 (Bernama) — Despite having his trip cut short, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak succeeded in his dual mission to promote both Malaysia and ASEAN as preferred investment destinations.

And, reassured international investors convinced by the strong case Najib presented in highlighting Malaysia’s competiveness on its own merit and its strategic position within South East Asia (SEA), sounded out their long-term commitment to Malaysia and ASEAN.

Although temperatures were below freezing point, Najib managed both in warming and winning the hearts of these investors who reaffirmed their commitment to continue to operate and expand in Malaysia such as Royal Vopak, Novartis and Lafarge.

Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, took time to personally meet the corporate leaders of six companies — BAE, Lloyds, Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, Nestle and Standard Chartered Group, which were looking at investing more in the country, as well as, in the ASEAN region.

At a business luncheon hosted by Malaysia, Najib took the time to explain to the international community on the current economic situation in Malaysia and the pre-emptive measures that were in place to cushion the impact of the current challenges.

His presence at Davos was seen as timely as it gave the opportunity for him to reassure investors that the government would strive to keep the economy on the growth trajectory which is crucial given that their fortunes were tied to Malaysia’s long-term economic growth.

It was pertinent that he gave them a first-hand view of Malaysia’s economic standing despite being affected by the global slump in crude oil prices and the weakening ringgit.

More importantly, Prime Minister pointed out that Malaysia was not in a crisis but that there were challenges to overcome for which Malaysia had taken pre-emptive and prudential steps to rein in operational spending without jeopardising development expenditure.

This is in view that the latter was pivotal to an expansionary economic growth.

“Of course, we are concerned with the headwinds but we believe in strong fundamentals. The market will make its correction and in due course, we will overcome strong headwinds and we will be back on track,” he said.

Najib also spoke of some success stories of the country’s economic achievement, as well as, the achievement made by Malaysian giants in the international arena.

As chair of ASEAN, he spoke of the immense opportunities for the international community stemming from the regional grouping’s potential with a consumer base of 620 million and that Malaysia can serve as an ideal gateway particularly to the untapped economies within Southeast Asia.

Overwhelming support also came from local industry captains with 39 of them coming all the way to Davos including Khazanah Nasional Managing Director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, PNB Group President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd Chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Axiata President and CEO Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim.

On bilateral matters, Najib met his Netherlands’ counterpart Prime Minister Mark Rutte and particularly discussed updates on the MH17 tragedy investigation.

Prime Minister also met Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, India, Chandrababu Naidu, who, among others, discussed measures to step up bilateral ties in all aspects including the technology, economic, trade and military sectors.

Najib’s remaining works were then continued by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Minister’s in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar with them following up with the investors and sending clear message about the ASEAN agenda.

Mustapa met with 11 top company representatives including Cargill Incorporated, the Boston Consulting Group and various companies representing healthcare, machinery, logistics and food industries.

He also hosted the Malaysia Night at the Malaysian Pavilion, which saw overwhelming responses from 1,500 guests with half being made up of this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) participants.

Despite all this, the ‘presence’ of the Prime Minister was solely missed, the Malaysia night was packed for three hours as the guests took the opportunity to savour every Malaysian cuisine served such as nasi lemak, sate, nasi briyani, sambal udang, as well as, the infamous ‘teh tarik’.

The commitment by the Malaysian government was further cemented with the presence of iconic personalities such as world famous fashion designer hailed from Kelantan, Datuk Zang Toi and Master Chef United Kingdom 2014 winner Ping Coombes, founder of MERCY Malaysia Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, as well as, a video recording of number one world squash player Datuk Nicol David.

These are seen as part of endorsement towards government’s efforts.

“We have seen strong interest and confidence in Malaysia from the international business community here, specifically as a base for growing their business into ASEAN,” said Mustapa, who managed to surprise the guests on a lighter side of him during the Malaysia night.

As for Abdul Wahid, Malaysia’s participation at WEF is worthy in terms of investment and efforts.

He suggested that Malaysia should have more voice in the future of WEF and get involved in as many sessions and discussions as possible.

“Overall, it is a productive, successful and meaningful WEF,” he said.

There were more than 280 sessions, held at the annual forum, focusing on addressing global challenges, to see the leaders reshaping the world and how they can navigate the change.

As for Malaysia, they did their best in presenting their case at the WEF.

At the end, it is not all ‘gloom and doom’ for Malaysia.

As the chair for ASEAN in 2015, Malaysia has initiated a unique opportunity to engage its future talent, and provide a broader perspective on the role of ASEAN.

Over 150 students, government representatives and employers attended the official launching of the MY ASEAN Internship programme at Sunway University on Monday.

MY ASEAN Internship is a collaboration between the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (TalentCorp), which seeks to increase overall awareness on ASEAN among the youth in Malaysia.

The initiative targets 100 high-achieving students in 2015 to intern at one of the leading partner organisations which have business operations in one or more ASEAN countries.

Currently, there are 12 partner organisations participating in the initiative, which are AirAsia, Axiata, BDO, CIMB, Digi, GE, Maybank, Nestle, Securities Commision Malaysia, Sime Darby, Sunway, and ZICOlaw.

Throughout the internship period, these organisations will cover the cost of transportation, accommodation, and allowances for basic expenses.

During the launch, the Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Sri Mustapa said, “To realise our ambitions by 2020, our companies will need to be powered by talent who can look beyond borders, supporting their employers to export products and services leveraging on regional and ultimately, global markets. That is why we have launched the MY ASEAN Internship initiative.”

Johan Mahmood Merican, TalentCorp chief executive officer said the launch of this unique and innovative initiative couldn’t have come at a better time.

“In an era of global talent mobility, this collaboration between MITI and TalentCorp demonstrates our joint commitment in providing the Malaysian private sector with young professionals who have been nurtured to have a regional outlook,” he said.

The programme is open to all penultimate or final year Malaysian and ASEAN undergraduate students in public and private Malaysian universities with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or equivalent.

MY ASEAN Internship will officially be open for applications from Feb 10 this year.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (Bernama) — The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) expects total export surplus for the halal industry this year to exceed the RM32 billion achieved in 2013.

Deputy Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said there is massive untapped growth potential the global halal industry which local Halal players should tap.

“The weakening ringgit can also be a key driver to the exports as importers can buy products at lower prices,” he told reporters after the soft launch of Halal Ingredients Asia 2015 here today.

Meanwhile, Halal Development Industry Corporation Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Jamil Bidin expressed hope the number of local players of certified Halal ingredient manufacturers would increase this year.

“To date, we have about 200 Halal manufacturing companies certified by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), 70 per cent of which are multi-national companies.

“We hope more Malaysian companies, including government-linked companies (GLCs), could register under this industry and grab the massive opportunities,” he said.

Jamil said HDC has set a target of adding 300 new companies to the halal industry annually, with around 100 Halal certified companies coming from the Halal ingredients business.

For the first half of 2014, exports of Halal products by certified companies stood at RM18.8 billion, with Halal ingredients contributing RM6 billion.

Earlier in his speech, Hamim said Halal ingredients should be a focus area for research and development (R&D) to cater to the growing demand for Halal end products.

“Malaysia has a large palm oil production, and palm oil-based ingredients could be pro?cessed to ensure Halal end products,” he added.

However, he said, Halal ingredient companies are facing numerous issues and challenges particularly in relation to R&D to produce Halal ingredients and limited supllies of raw materials to produce Halal ingredients.

“It is a new area of growth which presents opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia. Halal ingredients support the food and beverage, cosmetic and personal care industries.

“There is potential for the ?manufacturers, distributors and retailers with demand for Syariah-compliant products continuing to grow,” he added.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 (Bernama) — The global slump in oil prices will not have an adverse effect towards the realisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said.

He described the Brent crude oil price fall to US$48 a barrel until yesterday as temporary.

“When I was in Davos for the World Economic Forum annual meeting recently, many leaders concurred that this situation will last for six months and there will be a correction in the second half of the year, and the price will likely rebound, not up to US$100, but between US$60-US$70 a barrel.

“If this were to happen, it will be a bonus to us,” he said at a media briefing on the AEC here today.

Hence, with the economic recovery expected in the second half of the year, Mustapa believes that the establishment of the AEC would come to fruition by year-end.

On the status of the AEC, he said 80.7 per cent or 334 of the 414 Asean-wide measures targeted in phase I-III (2008-2013) had been implemented until December 2014, while in phase IV (2014-2015), 38.7 per cent or 82 of the 212 measures had been carried out.

He said Malaysia had implemented 85.5 per cent or 372 of the 435 measures targeted in phase I-III, while in phase IV, 43.8 per cent or 95 of 217 measures were met.

“The AEC is still in progress and the Asean member states are targeting to complete 95 per cent of the integration measures by the end of 2015.

“We know and we have agreed among Asean ministers that it is impossible for us to achieve the 100 per cent (target) because of domestic constraints. And they cannot be accomplished in the near term. God willing, we will meet 95 per cent (of the target),” he said.

Calling on Malaysians, including small and medium enterprises, not to be unduly worried over the AEC, he said its implementation would benefit the country as all liberalising measures would not be carried out abruptly.

Mustapa said Malaysia reiterated the need for the Asean Secretariat to be beefed up in view of the wide-ranging agenda of the grouping.

“While in Davos, we all agreed on the need to upgrade the Asean Secretariat’s credibility because it is very important in charting the direction of the Asean community as a whole,” he said.

On seamless travelling in Asean by 2020, Mustapa said, “It is still being discussed among the members, but we have yet to reach any consensus on this.”

On Malaysia’s economy, he said that as a mature economy, the country had performed quite well last year.

It has been reported recently that Malaysia is able to achieve the government’s growth forecast of between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent this year as its economic fundamentals are strong.

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