Asean must leverage its market: Mahathir

Asean must leverage its market: Mahathir

Agency News

Bangkok, Nov 2: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday asked the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to leverage its 650 million people market and speak with one voice, especially when dealing with other bigger economies in the global stage.

“We must make full use of our strength. Our strength lies in our market. We have a market of 650 million people. As our economy grows, we will have a stronger voice. We are going to enter the Fourth Industry Revolution (IR4.0) and this will help us to grow much faster than before,” he said at a business forum here.

Mahathir said it was crucial for all 10 ASEAN member states to pull their strength together when heading to negotiations as it would give the regional grouping more edge, compared to them entering such talk as an individual country.

“If you want to be listened (to), you must be very powerful, strong or very rich, otherwise nobody listens to you. If we function as a regional organisation, as ASEAN, then we have more people to argue in our favour in these forums and when we have more people, we can attend all the meetings and express our views. “But if you go alone, if Thailand goes alone, it will not be as strong as 10 ASEAN countries,” he said during a dialogue session at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit held in conjunction with the 35th ASEAN Summit here.

Citing the example of palm oil which faces a ban from the European Union, he said the Southeast Asian grouping can learn from US President Donald Trump and hit back. “If you cut down on imports of palm oil from Malaysia, we will cut down on some of our imports from you,” Mahathir said. “Equal amount. We will do exactly what Mr. Trump does. Not a very nice man, but he does those things and we can learn even from people who aren’t so nice.”

Mahathir said, "We don’t want to go into a trade war but sometimes when they do things that are not nice to us, we have to be nice to them,” he said. The ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) is a platform for ASEAN governments and sectors to showcase business opportunities, and generate greater awareness on the impact of the emergence of IR4.0 in various dimensions of digital infrastructure, digital connectivity and digital workforce. (UNI)