Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Interview: Good friends make friends: Malaysian foreign minister

During a visit to Malaysia last week, `Taipei Times' reporter Jewel Huang and `Liberty Times' reporter Wang Ping-yu had the opportunity to sit down with Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Syed Hamid Albar, who outlined his views on Taiwan-Malaysia relations and Taiwan's connections with ASEAN member nations


Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Syed Hamid Albar smiles during an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times last Wednesday.


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.

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.

Syed Hamid Albar, foreign minister of Malaysia

■ 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.

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?

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