Starting today, a delegation of Malaysian officials, including those from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and other government organizations, is visiting Japan for the Business Opportunities in Malaysia seminars scheduled to be held in Kobe, Nagoya and Tokyo. I hope that these seminars will lead to the further development of economic exchange between Japan and Malaysia.

Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in August 1957, we have deepened the relationship in all aspects of industrial and trade relations.

The government of Japan has been providing assistance in terms of human resource development and technology transfers in order to support Malaysia’s Look East Policy, which was launched by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, during his first term as prime minister in 1981. Until now, many Malaysian people have visited Japan to study or receive vocational training. After returning home, these Malaysian students and trainees have played an important role as a bridge between the two countries’ economies, for example by working for Japanese companies doing business in Malaysia.

There is also active exchange between Japan and Malaysia in the private sector. Japanese companies with business operations in Malaysia, which started in the 1960s, mainly in the electrical and electronic product sectors, have diversified into various other industries. These include the automotive, retail trade and financial services sectors, against the backdrop of the country’s stable political situation, the high level of English proficiency among Malaysian people and its well-developed basic infrastructure.

Moreover, given the expansion of demand for aircraft in Asia, there are also high expectations for cooperation in the aircraft industry. I am looking forward to further developing cooperation through the Malaysia-Japan Aircraft Industry Cooperation Seminar, which the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will hold jointly with Malaysia’s MITI in Singapore next February, and the subsequent business mission after the seminar by Japanese companies visiting Malaysian companies.

In addition, following the government of Malaysia’s announcement in October last year of the “Industry4WRD” policy — that aims to improve productivity by introducing technologies related to the “Industry 4.0” initiative into local small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) — the two governments, and other relevant organizations, have worked together to develop a platform intended to improve the productivity of Malaysian SMEs. Through this platform, we will continue efforts to provide business-matching opportunities and develop successful cases of productivity improvement.

In Asia, new businesses taking advantage of digital technology are emerging. In Malaysia, new businesses are growing at a faster pace than in Japan, with, for example, car-dispatching services and health care apps becoming more and more popular. These businesses are expected to help address various social challenges, including income inequality and environmental problems associated with urbanization. At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Minister-METI Consultation in September, we proposed the ASEAN-Japan “Fourth Industrial Revolution” Dialogue, which will examine ways of developing a business environment favorable for society-wide diffusion of digital businesses that contribute to the resolution of those social challenges.

In addition, to integrate the dynamism of those businesses into Japan’s growth, METI is promoting the Asia DX project, which pursues the structural change of Japan by spurring digital innovation in cooperation with companies in Asia and other emerging regions. Going forward, we aim to further deepen cooperation between Japan and Malaysia by creating new businesses through deep collaboration.

To further strengthen our bilateral economic relationship, the Japan-Malaysia Economic Partnership Agreement was put into effect in 2006, followed by the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2008. Since then, the bilateral economic relationship has grown and remained robust, with the annual value of trade between Japan and Malaysia increasing to ¥3.5 trillion and the balance of Japanese direct investments in Malaysia growing to ¥1.8 trillion in 2018.

Additionally, to promote broader and closer regional cooperation and realize high-standard economic rules more widely, I hope that Malaysia will ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership as soon as possible. As for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Japan will continue to work closely with Malaysia so that the agreement can be signed by all 16 participating countries at an early date.

As Malaysia is scheduled to hold the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation chair next year, there is great promise to further grow our cooperative rapport and to deepen mutually beneficial economic relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan and Malaysia have cooperated in many ways through the years, while building a valuable relationship at both the bilateral and regional levels. This relationship is poised to evolve further and I will continue to do my utmost to ensure that Japan and Malaysia can grow together and contribute to the economic development of this region.

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