Malaysia eyes UAE’s tech, clean energy sectors as free trade talks progress

Malaysia eyes UAE’s tech, clean energy sectors as free trade talks progress
Malaysia's International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz meets UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeoudi in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on May 23, 2023. (Malaysia International Trade and Industry Ministry). (Asia Bureau)
Short Url
Updated 25 August 2023
Follow

Malaysia eyes UAE’s tech, clean energy sectors as free trade talks progress

Malaysia eyes UAE’s tech, clean energy sectors as free trade talks progress
  • Deal ‘holds immense potential for both nations,’ Malaysian trade minister says
  • Partnership would ‘catalyze a surge in foreign direct investment,’ he says

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia wants deeper economic ties with the UAE, especially in the tech and renewable energy sectors, the Southeast Asian nation’s international trade minister said, as the two sides continue their negotiations of a free trade deal.

The UAE and Malaysia agreed to begin talks in May, during a visit to Kuala Lumpur by a UAE ministerial delegation led by Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The terms of reference for the agreement were finalized and signed last month, Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz told Arab News on Thursday.

“The ongoing negotiation for the Malaysia-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement holds immense potential for both nations. By fostering deeper economic integration, the CEPA can unleash a wave of trade and investment opportunities that will propel growth and innovation,” he said.

“Through reduced trade barriers, streamlined regulations and enhanced market access, Malaysian businesses can expand their reach and diversify their revenue streams by tapping into the UAE’s thriving sectors such as advanced technology, renewable energy and tourism.”

The UAE is one of the world’s leaders in developing energy transition solutions, while Malaysia is shifting from a traditional fossil fuel-based economy to a high-value green economy and plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

To accelerate the process, Kuala Lumpur in July launched the first phase of its national energy transition road map.

Aziz said he was optimistic that the CEPA framework would catalyze a surge in foreign direct investment, giving a boost to Malaysian small and medium-sized companies which constitute some 90 percent of the country’s businesses.

“Businesses from both nations are expected to view investing in each other’s markets as an attractive and secure opportunity,” he said.

“These developments are poised to bring about favorable societal outcomes, especially in terms of benefiting small and medium enterprises that play a vital role in Malaysia’s economy.”

Trade between Malaysia and the UAE has been expanding since the two countries elevated their relations to a strategic partnership last year.

In 2022, two-way trade rose to $8.8 billion from $5.4 billion a year earlier, making the UAE Malaysia’s largest trading partner among west Asian countries.

According to Prof. Yeah Kim Leng, director of economic studies at the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s partnership with the UAE is in line with its policies to promote direct investment and internationalize micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The strengthening of the economic partnership with the UAE fits with Malaysia’s newly launched Madani economy framework,” he told Arab News.

“There are great opportunities and potential for Malaysia’s halal products to penetrate the Middle Eastern markets by leveraging on the UAE’s regional network and linkages.”

Sharmila Suntherasegarun, senior research executive at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur, said work on the trade agreement was a “step in the right direction” for Malaysia’s efforts at diversification.

“With increased trade ties and mutual strategic cooperation, this could serve as a signal boost and create more opportunities for Malaysia to enter export markets in the Middle East, extending to North Africa and Europe,” she said.

“Given Malaysia’s strong presence in halal exports, which contributes 7.4 percent to its GDP, collaboration with the UAE should facilitate greater connectivity to global markets.

“Furthermore, with increasing demand for palm oil products from the UAE, the ongoing efforts by Malaysia to bolster and explore new palm oil export destinations can be further solidified through this trade pact.”

Suntherasegarun also highlighted the potential of UAE ties for Malaysia’s energy targets.

“The UAE’s renewable energy aspirations and its aim to triple the contribution of renewable energy, aligns with Malaysia’s green goals,” she said.

“Recent developments, such as the memorandum of understanding between the UAE’s state-owned renewable energy developer Masdar and (Malaysia’s) Citaglobal Berhad to collaboratively develop solar, energy storage and wind projects in Malaysia, suggest growing interest and potential for growth in this sector for Malaysia.”


US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House

US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House
Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House

US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House
  • “We continue to work with Israel, Egypt, and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said
  • President Joe Biden and his national security team “will continue to remain deeply engaged as we look to free the remaining hostages"

WASHINGTON: The United States will continue to press for extending a truce in Gaza, the White House said Friday, as intense fighting erupted once again in the Israel-Hamas war.
“We continue to work with Israel, Egypt, and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.
Under the truce which lasted a week, Hamas militants released 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. More humanitarian aid was also delivered into war-devastated Gaza.
But the prospects of reestablishing a truce were being stymied because “Hamas has so far failed to produce a list of hostages that would enable a further extension of the pause,” the NSC spokesperson said.
President Joe Biden and his national security team “will continue to remain deeply engaged as we look to free the remaining hostages,” the NSC spokesperson said.
On Thursday, Washington’s top diplomat, Antony Blinken, also called for a truce extension while meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials during a visit to the region.
The fighting began on October 7 when Hamas militants broke through Gaza’s militarized border into Israel.
During the unprecedented attack, Hamas killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped around 240, according to Israeli authorities.
In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and unleashed an air and ground military campaign in Gaza that the Hamas authorities who run Gaza say has killed almost 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.


UK operation underway to relocate Afghans from Pakistan

UK operation underway to relocate Afghans from Pakistan
Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

UK operation underway to relocate Afghans from Pakistan

UK operation underway to relocate Afghans from Pakistan
  • Around 1,500 have been flown to Britain from Islamabad since start of Operation Lazurite in October
  • At least 4,000 eligible people still in Pakistan or trapped in Afghanistan; UK aims to conclude operation by end-2023

LONDON: The UK has begun a mission to bring thousands of Afghans who worked with British forces to Britain from Pakistan.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told The Independent that the UK owed the 1,500 Afghans already relocated as part of the mission “an enormous debt,” and that it was “great” to have brought them to the country “at last.”

Operation Lazurite began in early October when the government decided to relocate all Afghans in Pakistan eligible to come to the UK, after The Independent found 3,000 such people stranded in hotels in Islamabad at British taxpayers’ expense.

This happened after the UK stopped funding hotels in Britain for Afghans coming to Britain in November 2022, and instead required them to find somewhere in the country to live themselves before they could be relocated.

On Sept. 26, then-Foreign Secretary James Cleverly laid the ground for the start of the operation after meeting Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-Ul-Haq Kakar in London, during which he praised “Pakistan’s support in hosting and facilitating (the) exit of Afghan nationals.”

Around 1,300 Afghans eligible to come to the UK remain in Islamabad, and around 2,700 more remain trapped in Afghanistan or are staying in other parts of Pakistan. The British Ministry of Defence plans to conclude the operation by the end of 2023.

Heappey told The Independent that the UK “know(s) who worked for us, therefore we know who is eligible. There are very, very few eligibility decisions left really to be taken. We know who we’ve got to bring out, both from Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

He added: “We are working at the best speed we can to get people here. We are really grateful to councils and communities across the country who are assisting us in that and to the Pakistan government for their continued support.

“We owe these people an enormous debt. They are not here illegally, quite the reverse. They are here because they did great work for and with the British Armed Forces during their time in Afghanistan. It’s great at last to be able to welcome them to their new permanent homes in the UK.”

So far, 1,100 of the Afghans relocated to the UK are at the Garats Hay army base near Loughborough, which is only intended to house people for a few days.

Several have now been there for a number of weeks. Other bases across the UK have also taken in Afghans on the scheme.

Around 700 houses have been earmarked for longer-term settlement, with 500 of those to be guaranteed for families for up to three years. The MoD is also working with local councils and private landlords.

Heappey said: “The properties offered are taken from stock that is not currently being used by service families, to avoid impact on our (MoD) people.

“Where there is not suitable service family accommodation to fit the needs of ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) families, alternative accommodation will be procured.”

 


Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 

Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 
Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 

Singaporean businesses look to benefit from exchange of expertise with Saudi Arabia 
  • Countries agreed to strengthen cooperation during Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong’s visit in October  
  • Big delegation accompanying the PM showed ‘high level of interest’ in Saudi Arabia, envoy says 

SINGAPORE: Singaporean businesses are looking to benefit from increasing cooperation with Saudi Arabia following a series of new agreements under their recently forged strategic partnership. 

The two countries agreed to strengthen relations in October, during an official visit by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Riyadh and his meetings with Saudi leadership. 

Coinciding with Lee’s trip was the arrival of a delegation of ministers and business leaders in the Kingdom for a meeting of the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee 

“The large number of ministers and officials as well as the accompanying business delegation by the Singapore Business Federation showed the high level of interest and engagement by Singapore with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Abdullah Mohammed Al-Madhi, the Saudi ambassador to Singapore, told Arab News earlier this week. 

“We were very honored to be able to welcome and show them many sectors of the Saudi economy. A very special program was prepared for Prime Minister Lee and his delegation. They included several non-traditional stops outside Riyadh that can also present business opportunities, such as Tabuk, Dammam and NEOM.” 

During the trip, the Singaporean premier and his top-level delegation — comprising Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, and Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli — made a historic trip to Madinah. 

It was Lee’s first visit to the second-holiest city in Islam after Makkah. 

“Prime Minister Lee was also able to share in our culture and heritage by visiting the culturally important sites around the city of Madinah to view the Prophet’s Mosque and Quba Mosque — thought to be the first mosque in the world. Then the delegation went on to AlUla for many other heritage sites,” Al-Madhi said. 

With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Singaporean prime minister agreeing to upgrade relations to a strategic partnership, Singaporean businesses see opportunities likely to come from the move.  

“This allows for the deepening and expansion of mutually beneficial relations in all fields, enhancing investment, trade and economic cooperation,” Shamsher Zaman, chairman of the Middle East Business Group at the Singapore Business Federation, told Arab News. 

“Both countries stand to benefit from the exchange of opportunities and expertise between Singapore and Saudi Arabian companies in areas highlighted such as trade and investment, green energy, digital economy, and public sector development.” 

The Singapore Business Federation led a group of 32 business leaders to witness the developments and opportunities in Saudi Arabia first-hand. 

“The vibrant transformation we witness in Saudi Arabia today is driven by the nation’s young agents of change, with 63 percent of its population under the age of 30 years old. The rapid pace of development can be seen and experienced throughout Saudi Arabia, as the country is rapidly building towards Vision 2030,” Zaman said. 

“The transformation is predicated on developing its social and education sectors, and Singapore is a key partner in working together towards developing the human capital and its education sector, built upon Singapore’s experience and expertise in these fields. We are increasingly seeing Singaporean companies in education and human capital development, which are keen to bring expertise to Saudi Arabia and be a part of this transformation.” 

Seven memoranda of understanding were signed to facilitate investment opportunities during the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee’s Oct. 17 meeting, reflecting the “continuous commitment of both countries, paving the way for more future collaborations to come,” Zaman said. 

“The recent, third, SSJC meeting reaffirms the strong bilateral relations between both countries and underscores the benefits of working together in areas of mutual interests in connectivity, digital economy and innovation, as well as energy and industry,” he added. 


Pakistan’s top court begins hearing challenge to expulsion of Afghans

Pakistan’s top court begins hearing challenge to expulsion of Afghans
Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

Pakistan’s top court begins hearing challenge to expulsion of Afghans

Pakistan’s top court begins hearing challenge to expulsion of Afghans
  • More than 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Oct. 1, after Pakistan vowed to expel undocumented refugees
  • Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom are undocumented

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court began hearings on Friday on a petition by rights activists seeking to halt deportation of Afghan refugees, a lawyer said, as authorities are combing refugee settlements in an effort to find and send home thousands.
More than 370,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Oct. 1, after Pakistan vowed to expel more than a million undocumented refugees, mostly Afghans, amid a row with Kabul over charges that it harbors anti-Pakistan militants.
“Due to the urgency, as thousands of people are suffering on daily basis, I’ve requested the court to take up the case as early as next week,” said Umar Ijaz Gilani, the lawyer representing the rights activists.
The panel of three judges hearing the case has asked the government, the interior (home) and foreign ministries, as well as a panel of government and top military officials, to furnish an explanation in reply, the lawyer said.
Thousands of Afghans have gone underground in Pakistan to avoid deportation, fearing for their lives if they return to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan following a hasty and chaotic withdrawal of US-led Western forces in 2021.
Children born to Afghan families in Pakistan could not be sent back due to their birthright, Gilani said.
Friday’s petition is separate from another focused exclusively on seeking Pakistani citizenship for such children, as guaranteed by the South Asian nation’s constitution, he said.
Pakistan is home to more than 4 million Afghan migrants and refugees, about 1.7 million of whom are undocumented.
Many arrived after the Taliban retook Afghanistan in 2021, joining a large number living there since the Soviet invasion of the neighboring nation in 1979.
Pakistani police have searched door-to-door in refugee settlements for any who have not left voluntarily, starting from the southern port city of Karachi, where hundreds of thousands of Afghans live. Any remaining are being forced to leave.
Islamabad has not heeded calls from international bodies and refugee agencies to reconsider its deportation plans.


US prosecutors say plots to assassinate Sikh leaders were part of a campaign of planned killings

US prosecutors say plots to assassinate Sikh leaders were part of a campaign of planned killings
Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

US prosecutors say plots to assassinate Sikh leaders were part of a campaign of planned killings

US prosecutors say plots to assassinate Sikh leaders were part of a campaign of planned killings
  • Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Sikh activist exiled from India, was shot and killed outside cultural center in British Columbia in June
  • US prosecutors  said the goal was to kill at least four people in the two countries by June 29, and then more after that

NEW YORK: A foiled plot to assassinate a prominent Sikh separatist leader in New York, just days after another activist’s killing, was meant to precede a string of other politically motivated murders in the United States and Canada, according to US prosecutors.
In electronic communications and audio and video calls secretly recorded or obtained by US law enforcement, organizers of the plot talked last spring about plans to kill someone in California and at least three other people in Canada, in addition to the victim in New York, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The goal was to kill at least four people in the two countries by June 29, and then more after that, prosecutors contend.
After Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist who had been exiled from India, was shot and killed outside a cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18, one of the men charged with orchestrating the planned assassinations told a person he had hired as a hitman that he should act urgently to kill another activist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
“We have so many targets,” Nikhil Gupta said in a recorded audio call, according to the indictment. “We have so many targets. But the good news is this, the good news is this: Now no need to wait.”
He urged the hitman to act quickly because Pannun, a US citizen living in New York, would likely be more cautious after Nijjar’s slaying.
“We got the go-ahead to go anytime, even today, tomorrow — as early as possible,” he told a go-between as he instructed the hitman to kill Pannun even if there were other people with him. “Put everyone down,” he said, according to the indictment.
The attack plans were foiled, prosecutors said, because the hitman was actually an undercover US agent.
The US attorney in Manhattan announced charges Wednesday against Gupta, and said in court papers that the plot to kill Pannun was directed by an official in the Indian government. That government official was not charged in the indictment or identified by name, but the court filing described him as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in security management and intelligence.
Indian officials have denied any complicity in Nijjar’s slaying. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Wednesday that the Indian government had set up a high-level inquiry after US authorities raised concerns about the plot to kill Pannun.
Court filings revealed that even before Nijjar’s killing in Canada, US law enforcement officials had become aware of a plot against activists who were advocating for the secession from India of the northern Punjab state, where Sikhs are a majority.
US officials said they began investigating when Gupta, in his search for a hitman, contacted a narcotics trafficker who turned out to be a Drug Enforcement Administration informant.
Over the ensuing weeks, the pair communicated by phone, video and text messages, eventually looping in their hired assassin — the undercover agent.
The Indian government official told Gupta that he had a target in New York and a target in California, the indictment said. They ultimately settled on a $100,000 price and by June 3, Gupta was urging his criminal contact in America to “finish him brother, finish him, don’t take too much time .... push these guys, push these guys ... finish the job.”
During a June 9 call, Gupta told the narcotics trafficker that the murder of Pannun would change the hitman’s life because “we will give more bigger job more, more job every month, every month 2-3 job,” according to the indictment.
It was unclear from the indictment whether US authorities had learned anything about the specific plan to kill Nijjar before his ambush on June 18.
The indictment portrayed Gupta as boasting that he and his associates in India were behind both the Canadian and New York assassination plots. He allegedly told the Drug Enforcement Administration informant on June 12 that there was a “big target” in Canada and on June 16 told him: “We are doing their job, brother. We are doing their New York (and) Canada (job),” referring to individuals directing the plots from India.
After Nijjar was killed, Gupta told the informant that Nijjar was the target he had mentioned as the potential Canadian “job” and added: “We didn’t give to (the undercover agent) this job, so some other guy did this job ... in Canada.”
On June 30, Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic at the request of the United States after arriving there on a trip from India. Federal authorities have not said when he might be brought to the United States to face murder-for-hire and conspiracy charges. It was unclear who would provide legal representation if he arrives in the US
Pannun told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he will continue his work.
“They will kill me. But I don’t fear the death,” he said.
He mocked India’s claim that it is conducting its own investigation into the assassination plots.
“The only thing, I think, (the) Indian government is going to investigate (is) why their hitman could not kill one person. That’s what they will be investigating,” he said.
Pannun said he rejects the Indian government’s decision to label him a terrorist.
“We are the one who are fighting India’s violence with the words. We are the one who are fighting India’s bullets with the ballot,” he said. “They are giving money, hundreds of thousands, to kill me. Let the world decide who is terrorist and who is not a terrorist.”
Some international affairs experts told the AP that it was unlikely the incidents would seriously damage the relationship between the US and India.
”In most cases, if Washington accuses a foreign government of staging an assassination on its soil, US relations with that government would plunge into deep crisis,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia institute. “But the relationship with India is a special case. Trust and goodwill are baked into the relationship, thanks to rapidly expanding cooperation and increasingly convergent interests.”
Derek Grossman, Indo-Pacific analyst at the Rand Corp., said the Biden administration has demonstrated that it is prioritizing the need to leverage India as part of its strategy to counter Chinese power.
“I think publicizing the details of the thwarted plot will have very little, if any, impact on the deepening US-India strategic partnership,” he said.