PM Anwar tells US firms Malaysia welcomes their investments amid BlackRock storm

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today assured American companies that Malaysia continues to view the US as a crucial trading partner, amid growing domestic protest over BlackRock’s link in a planned takeover of Malaysian Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB).

Addressing a luncheon held by the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce here, Anwar touched on the controversy, telling delegates of mostly multinational C-suite executives that the South-east Asian nation will always value US investments, even as Putrajaya is seen as critical of US foreign policy.

Anwar cited the longstanding economic ties shared between the two countries, noting that foreign direct investments from the US remain the largest in aggregate terms.

“I want to make our position with regards to investments from overseas, particularly the United States, clear,” he said.

“Most of you are not aware about how sensitive (the BlackRock issue) is, how rancorous it is at the local level, at the by-election with people casting aspersions and allegations about our decision,” the prime minister added.

“So I chose the forum in Parliament to give the facts, to say we as a country have benefitted immensely from investments from overseas. And you know it that even when we get investments from Germany, the Netherlands and China but cumulatively, and I’ve said this before, the US is the largest investor in Malaysia.”

The improvised speech Anwar gave at the Amcham luncheon came just hours after the prime minister confronted in Parliament Opposition lawmakers fiercely critical of the proposed MAHB privatisation.

The Anwar government has been on the defensive after news about the takeover bid was leaked to the press. One of the investment funds that would form the consortium that would buy MAHB shares is Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which was recently acquired by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.

BlackRock has been the target of boycott calls because of its large holdings in arms manufacturers that are said to be directly profiting from the Israeli onslaught of Gaza, which the United Nation’s top court said is “plausibly” a genocide.

Malaysia has long been a vocal supporter of Palestinian statehood and has no diplomatic ties with Israel. Anwar himself has used international platforms to condemn the Netanyahu government and Washington, which he accused of enabling Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, but the deal with GIP has drawn accusations of hypocrisy.

He avoided touching on Malaysia’s foreign policy at today’s luncheon, focusing his address only on the good economic ties shared with American companies.

The prime minister said US firms have been instrumental in helping Malaysia grow its industrial capabilities, and he pledged to continue providing support to American companies that invest here.

“(Me) coming from Penang, we have seen phenomenal increase in terms of investment from the United States and the advantage through the transfer of technology and training,” Anwar said.

Last month the Anwar administration announced a plan to attract RM500 billion in investments in the first phase of the National Semiconductor Strategy, focusing on integrated circuit design, advanced packaging and manufacturing equipment.

In an interview with South China Morning Post, Anwar said Malaysia will ignore US tech sanctions on China if it involves companies that do not come under Washington’s jurisdiction, in a bid to leverage its reputation as a global semiconductor hub to draw fresh investments driven by the technology war between the two superpowers.

Malaysia already supplies 13 per cent of the world’s demand in the industry’s packaging and testing sector, but now plans to tap decades of financial and infrastructure support to become a major front-end chip maker.