Malaysian prime minister dismisses Western concerns over doing business with Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities have now put the focus on economic development and attracting foreign investment, but they are battling poor perceptions of the city that have hampered its recovery from the economic impact of Covid-19.

But Anwar rejected claims that Hong Kong might no longer be a good place to do business.

“I’ve heard that since the days of Chris Patten, the [last] governor of Hong Kong, prior to the surrender [to China in 1997]. It has not happened,” he said.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia and Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu is expected to make another trip to the region after his visit to Asean countries including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia last July.

“In our initial discussions, we can benefit immensely in terms of Hong Kong’s strengths in services and [as a] financial [centre], as a major international convention centre,” Anwar said.

“At the same time, [in] the new [financial] instruments being introduced, the sukuk and Islamic finance, for example, we have an edge.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar dismisses Western concerns over doing business with Hong Kong and says he has faith in the city and its people. Photo: Hadi Azmi
Hong Kong has raised US$3 billion from the sale of three US dollar-denominated Islamic bonds, or sukuk, since 2014 with a view to attracting more investors from Muslim countries.

Islamic finance is a system that operates in accordance with the faith’s laws and principles, which promote ethical and socially responsible financial practices.

It has become a US$4.5 trillion market globally, and industry forecasts have said it is expected to grow by 11 per cent a year to 2030.

“We should expand and enhance that sort of relationship, and I think we will continue to do that,” Anwar said.

The Malaysian leader added his government was in discussions with Beijing and Hong Kong on building a good environment for tech start-up development.

He said the goal was to leverage Malaysia’s strengths along with its partners, such as Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to help start-ups establish a presence in the region either bilaterally or multilaterally.

Hong Kong had 4,247 start-ups in 2023, including fintech, e-commerce, supply chain management and logistics technology businesses, which combined had created more than 16,400 jobs.

Anwar mentioned the impact of China-US tensions on Hong Kong and highlighted the benefits that Europe’s decoupling from China had brought to Southeast Asia.

The European Union last year proposed to “de-risk” its trade relationship with China to reduce the bloc’s economic dependence on the country.

“De-risking will not only benefit Hong Kong but also Malaysia and some countries in Asean,” Anwar said. “Even our immediate neighbour Singapore is thriving, but because they are thriving, we benefit.

“We see it in a different light. Not in the fierce competition, but competition in a positive sense and [to] complement one another.

“I consider the development and the enormous potential for Hong Kong to be that way.”

Malaysia is Hong Kong’s ninth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade amounted to US$23.9 billion last year, a 14.9 per cent drop from 2022.


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