KUCHING, Jan 21: The Sarawak government has invited businesses from Italy to explore potential collaborations in areas of biotechnology, manufacturing of medical devices, automotive, glass and high-tech products, food technology as well as design and production of high-end furniture that would benefit both regions.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan emphasised that there are plenty of opportunities for trade between Sarawak and Italy especially with Sarawak remaining as one of the most attractive destinations in Malaysia for investment despite the global economic slowdown in the past two years.
“Up to September of 2020, Sarawak ranked No. 1 as the most preferred investment destination in Malaysia in terms of investment in the manufacturing sector worth €3.18 billion or RM15.8 billion.
“Even during this pandemic, serious foreign investors continue to seek investment opportunities in Sarawak. We have South Korean and China investors applying to enter Sarawak to conduct feasibility studies,” he addressed the digital roundtable High-Level Dialogue on ASEAN Italy Economic Relations today.
With Italy being Malaysia’s 20th global trading partner with total trade amounting to RM12.1 billion in 2019, he updated that Sarawak’s total trade with Italy was valued at RM825.6 million the same year.
In terms of trade, Awang Tengah who is also Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development, emphasised that Sarawak has always registered positive balance since the 1970s and continued to do so despite the slowing down of the economy.
“Our major export markets are Japan, Peninsular Malaysia, China and Korea.
“Sarawak’s export to Italy in 2019 was RM555.107 million mainly in vegetable oils and ferroalloys whilst our main import from Italy in 2019 was RM207.29 million mainly in engines and motors, chemicals, tractors, ball and hydraulic valves for oil and gas sectors, etc.
“For the first 11 months of 2020, exports to Italy was RM577.9 million while imports were RM141.9 million,” he said.
Emphasising the strengths of Sarawak, Awang Tengah shared that Sarawak with a landmass of 12.4 million hectares is about 40 per cent is the size of Italy (30.1 million hectares) and is blessed with rich natural resources and arable land for agriculture and natural forest.
“The vast rivers have huge energy potential to generate 20,000 MW of hydroelectric powers.
“Sarawak has one of the oldest rainforests in the world, estimated to be 140 million years old, that is rich in biodiversity with huge pharmaceutical potential.
“Sarawak also has huge deposits of minerals such as coals, kaolin clay, silica sand as well as large reserves of petroleum and natural gas that have yet to be fully tapped,” he added.
With the support and incentives of both the Federal and Sarawak governments, Awang Tengah said that major industries have invested in Sarawak where modern infrastructure and facilities were available.
This includes the Samalaju Industrial Park which attracted foreign and domestic investment in the energy-intensive industry such as Petama Ferroalloy from Hong Kong (manganese alloy and ferrosilicon), OM Holdings from Singapore (ferrosilicon and silicomanganese and high carbon ferromanganese), Press Metal from Malaysia (aluminium ingots and billets) and OCIM from South Korea (polycrystalline silicon).
Another successful industrial park in Sarawak, he added, was the Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone located in Kuching which is home to high tech companies such as LONGi Technology from China (solar), Western Digital from USA (aluminium and glass substrates), X-FAB from Germany (semiconductors), Taiyo Yuden from Japan (multilayer ceramic capacitors) and Iljin from South Korea (copper foil).
With the establishment of Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC) to formulate development strategies to push for post-Covid-19 recovery, Awang Tengah emphasised that Sarawak targets remain resilient and promote future economic growth and development up to the year 2030, anchoring on two core principles, namely Digital Economy and Environmental Sustainability.
Assistant Ministers of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais and Datuk Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, Lombardy Regional Government president Attilio Fontana, Paris School of International Affairs Dean Enrico Letta and partner of the European House Ambrosetti Lorenzo Tavazzi were among those sitting in the roundtable dialogue. – DayakDaily
Awang Tengah (centre) addressing the digital roundtable High-Level Dialogue on Asean Italy Economic Relations.