Southeast Asian countries should band together and speak with one voice in global trade disputes with the US and the European Union to avoid being bullied, according to the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Speaking to a business forum in Bangkok on Saturday, Dr. Mahathir said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations should leverage its market of 650 million people to gain a greater voice on the world stage. He said the bloc can learn from the US President, Mr. Donald Trump, and hit back, citing efforts in the West to boycott Malaysian palm oil.
'If you cut down on imports of palm oil from Malaysia, we will cut down on some of our imports from you, Dr. 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.' Dr. Mahathir said Asean countries could threaten as a bloc to avoid buying certain goods in retaliation.
'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 un-nice to them,' he said. 'Always try to speak with one voice. You go alone, you’ll be bullied.'
Speaking about the trade war between the US and China, Dr. Mahathir said it could go on for five years at 'the very worst' if Mr. Trump is re-elected next year though people will 'come to their senses one day.'