We meet in exciting times as ASEAN is enjoying healthy and robust economic growth compared to other parts of the world.
We meet at a time when intra-ASEAN relations are experiencing greater cementing of neighbourly bonds with cultural and trade & commerce exchanges.
Indeed, in addition to vibrant enhancement of regional trade and investment, bilateral and multilateral discussions as well as people-to-people connectedness are on the rise.
Coupled with the recent successful conclusion of the SEA Games in Malaysia, these factors should collectively give us all in ASEAN a certain sense of mutual pride and respect and optimism of even better things to come, going forward.
In this regard, as we look forward to the prospects of the Selangor-ASEAN Business Conference, our analysts and number crunchers will undoubtedly also take into account the political and economic risks for multinational businesses in the region.
Fortunately, Selangor remains firmly ensconced in this regard, with no imminent threat of immigration surges or high risk of exposure to global financial instability or crisis.
As for terrorism threats, our security and intelligence services, particularly the police, have matters well under control.
On ASEAN in general, it is no exaggeration to say that as countries in other regions are leaning more and more towards protectionist policies, we are working towards greater integration.
Developments in East Asia arising from the actions of North Korea and the reactions from Japan and South Korea cannot be taken for granted.
We see the rise and rise of China and the attendant whispers of fear and alarm, but we must also not forget how we in Southeast Asia have been able to leverage on China’s growth and in the process benefitted immensely.
Indeed, we cannot dismiss genuine concerns of any power establishing geopolitical hegemony, amidst the tensions and conflicts arising from the South China Sea and historically unresolved issues.
Nevertheless, we take comfort in the optimism of ASEAN economic integration. Barring the issue of matters that prick our conscience, we should continue with a policy of pragmatism for ASEAN.
Speaking on behalf of Selangor, I can vouch for our policy of a very business-friendly administration which also places great premium on governance, accountability and transparency in dealings.
Selangor-ASEAN business will prosper as we in Selangor prime ourselves for transformation into a regional smart state, a premier regional trading hub and the gateway to Asia.
Selangor’s unique characteristics with ethnic, language and religious diversity and the strength of our unity as a society are attained and maintained under a state administration that espouses a policy of moderation, mutual respect and justice.
Selangor’s strategic thrusts in the five clusters – life sciences, transport equipment, machinery & equipment, food and beverages, and electrical & electronics – fit well with the ASEAN’s priority sectors on Agri-Food, Healthcare, Retail and Logistics.
Like ASEAN’s other focus, for example, in promoting women in business, young entrepreneurs and E Commerce, we are also actively pursuing a vibrant women’s empowerment agenda and the expansion of SME’s as well as E commerce, which is the commerce for the future.
With regard to entrepreneurship, we set up the Selangor Digital Creative Centre to train SMEs to become e-commerce traders, and provide co-working space to train startups.
In sum, Selangor and ASEAN are well synchronised to move forward for mutually beneficial trade and investment relations across a wide spectrum.
This year we are celebrating 50 years of ASEAN. Compared to any other regional groupings among emerging economies, ASEAN could be considered as a political miracle.
One of ASEAN’s founding fathers, Dr. Tun Thanat Koman of Thailand said “with the withdrawal of the colonial powers, there would have been a power vacuum which could have attracted outsiders to step in for political gains.
As the colonial masters had discouraged any form of intra-regional contact, the idea of neighbors working together in a joint effort was thus to be encouraged.”
From its inception as a grouping to assert a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality, to navigate the intricate waters of the Cold War era, ASEAN has grown tremendously especially in economic, trade and investment terms.
ASEAN leaders have injected new substance and impetus to the grouping and established the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992. This has developed into the ASEAN Economic Community with a comprehensive cooperation agenda aimed at making ASEAN a highly integrated regional market and regional production base.
With the ASEAN Political-Security Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, ASEAN is marching forward with a new roadmap toward 2025 with a common aspiration based on “One Vision, One Identity, and One Community.”
I believe that the ASEAN Economic Community is widening and a holistic approach is needed with services being a central part.
Notwithstanding the recent collapse of the TPP, within ASEAN, there is still much room for further walls of tariff to be dismantled. This is essential for greater trade expansion, investment and the development of human resource.
I need to mention of course that we are making preparations to meet the new challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which, as everyone is saying, will be disruptive.
This is factored into Selangor’s vision for transformation as a regional smart state where new technology and value chains will be disrupted. Therefore, preparation should also be in boosting soft infrastructure of ASEAN, namely education.
Selangor places a high premium in this sector. We are the first to have a state fully-funded graduate business school to cater for the higher management requirements of an expanding regional economy. At the same time, we are giving new focus to development of technical and vocational training – TVET particularly, for industrial skills.
We see this as essential for businesses to grow where there must be a proper match between educational and skills output with what the industry and the business community needs.
In terms of financing, we have gone into an era of much cheaper finance with lower interest rates and generally lower inflation, region wise. There is therefore better prospects for further capitalisation of the equity markets and areas for financial reengineering in the banking industry and the bond markets as well.
For example, this is sorely needed in sectors such as biotechnology research and the aerospace industry which, as you know, are some of Selangor’s prime strategic focus.
Strong areas for growth can also be in hard infrastructure such as logistics, ports, railroads, highways and power generation.
To conclude, the prospects for ASEAN growth are still there and, while at 5 per cent growth, is respectable, I believe there is still much room for further expansion. Enhancement of ASEAN growth naturally would translate into higher growth for GDPs of member states.
Our prospects are bright. I am confident that the ASEAN business community – as represented by you all here today – will be ready and able to reap the opportunities to further boost the ASEAN economy.
With this, I have the honour of declaring open the Selangor – ASEAN Business Conference 2017.