Taipei Times: The bilateral trade between Taiwan and Malaysia has been thriving, with approximately 2,000 Taiwanese companies investing in Malaysia. What investment does your country hope Taiwan can bring? Why should Taiwanese businesspeople choose Malaysia rather than China or other Southeast Asian countries?
Syed Hamid Albar: The trade between Taiwan and Malaysia is good, but the trade surplus is on Taiwan's side. We would like to see more balanced trade between Taiwan and Malaysia.
On the investment side, even though there are many Taiwanese companies investing in Malaysia, the investment amount is still relatively small if you compare the figures to what Taiwan invests in other countries in Asia.
PHOTO: WANG PING-YU, TAIPEI TIMES
So we would like to see an improvement in investment by Taiwanese companies, especially in the new areas like biotechnology because Taiwan has got a lot of strength in it.
I think it is important for Taiwanese businessmen to look at Malaysia. There are a lot of opportunities here and the potential is good and the environment is conducive to living as well as investing.
Our policy is very stable and consistent.
TT: Malaysia plays a role in ASEAN, which has become an important international organization in Asia and is increasing in significance in the region. Taiwan, although a neighbor of ASEAN countries, has yet to become a member of this organization. How will be Taiwan-Malaysia relations develop in terms of this situation?
Syed Hamid: You know politically there is a recognition of "one China policy" in all the ASEAN countries and that is the position of ASEAN countries.
But that should not stop us from having friendly relations with Taiwan.
In the political context, that is acceptable to all sides.
In this regard, I think all the ASEAN countries are interested to see Taiwanese businessmen to come to Malaysia or any other ASEAN countries to invest more and see the potential availability in ASEAN.
These countries have different levels of development and you see the original ASEAN countries doing better than new ASEAN members like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
I think they all welcome Taiwanese businessmen. In the context of the political reality before us, Taiwanese are most welcome to come to any one of the ASEAN countries.
TT: So you think Taiwan should focus more on developing economic relations with ASEAN member countries than on other kinds of relations?
Syed Hamid: I think there are two areas where Taiwan should focus without upsetting any political considerations.
One is the area of people-to-people contact. I think Taiwan has very high standard of living and developed so much in many aspects and has very high per capita income. ASEAN countries are the best area for Taiwanese to come as tourists.
With better people-to-people contact, it could be good for understanding the goodwill of the people of Taiwan and ASEAN countries.
The other part Taiwan could do [well in] is in the economic and investment field. Taiwan has got the strength in investing in all over the world and you have also invested a lot in China.
Taiwan could look at its economic strength as an alternative and it could bring very good return in your investment.
TT: Malaysia has a diverse population with a number of different ethnic groups, but your country has done a good job in integrating people who have different heritages and backgrounds. Taiwan is now facing the issue of the growing diversity of its population. Could you share your thoughts on this?
Syed Hamid: One of the things that Malaysia inherited from our colonial master -- so to speak -- is the diversity. We were a country divided and we did not have one single identity of Malaysians.
So when we became independent, we decide to ensure that we are a nation state that is united and mixed and uses our diversity as a soft source of strength. We have done it. We also share political power and compromise with other ethnic groups.
Even if one particular ethnic group ruled the country by itself and had a simple majority to run the country, we think that working together and sharing political power with different ethnic groups is the best way for the country.
It is not easy to achieve this because we have 14 different political countries, but we work hard to achieve this goal.
TT: Have you ever visited Taiwan? If so, what is your impression of Taiwan?
Syed Hamid: I have been to Taiwan before I became foreign minister but I only stopped over in Taiwan's airport. So I have not yet have the opportunity to visit Taiwan. I think one day I would have the opportunity to visit Taiwan.
A lot of Malaysians have visited Taiwan for holidays, for medical treatment, even for business and trading.
There are many Malaysian students studying in Taiwan and they have very positive impression of Taiwan and get along well with the people of Taiwan.
I think we have very broad relations between Taiwan and Malaysia except we don't have formal political ties because of the current situation.
TT: Malaysia has been maintaining a neutral stance for a long time. From your perspective, how do you think Malaysia should be perceived by the rest of the world? What is your foreign policy in regard to globalization, which is conceptualized by both cooperation and competition?
Syed Hamid: I think our foreign policy is comprised of three guiding approaches: One is that we believe in having a principled position; two is that we are consistent and three is that we are pragmatic.
In short, we would like to be friends to everyone and enemies to none.
We do not want to make an enemy of everybody and we want to be friendly to all.
We could play our role as a small country better and to be able to voice our feelings in a very independent way and search for global peace and justice.
I think this is what we are all looking for. Although it is a bit idealistic, sometimes it is good to have idealism and it is a power to motivate the world to become better.
■ Date of Birth: Jan. 15, 1944.
■ Educational background:
Barrister-At-Law degree, Middle Temple, UK (While studying there, he established the Kelab United Malays National Organization in London, a social club for Malaysian students with a strong affiliation with the government).
■ Career background:
Served as a lawyer and a banker.
Became a member of the Supreme Council in 1986.
Appointed minister of justice in 1990.
Appointed minister of defense in 1995.
Appointed minister of foreign affairs in 1999.
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
YOUNGEST PATIENT: Cases of botulism have been only sporadically reported over the past few years, with two in 2015, six in 2016 and none in the past three years The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported the nation’s first case of infant botulism this year, a four-month-old boy in northern Taiwan, as well as five new cases of Japanese encephalitis confirmed last week. The boy was introduced to homemade solid food in the middle of last month, but began to experience constipation and loss of appetite on June 23, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said, adding that he was taken to the hospital when he developed a fever and shortness of breath on June 25. In the hospital, the boy also experienced a rapid heartbeat, limb
The National Taiwan Museum’s Railway Department Park in Taipei is to open to the public today. The park in Datong District (大同) near the North Gate (北門, Beimen) is one of the museum’s four branches. During the Japanese colonial era, the site housed the railway department of the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan’s Bureau of Transportation. After World War II, it served as the headquarters for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for several decades. In 2007, it was listed as a national monument under the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法). At an opening ceremony yesterday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung