Malaysia eyes hub of "Belt and Road" initiative: official

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia looks to be not only the hub for Southeast Asia but also all the countries along the "Belt and Road" Initiative with its strategic and geographical position, a senior Malaysian official said on Monday.

Ong Ka Chuan, second minister at the Malaysian international trade and industry ministry, said the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will also benefit the small and medium-sized enterprises.

China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner for the last seven consecutive years, mainly due to their close bilateral ties and active engagement at government and business levels, said Ong.

"We are facing tough competition from Vietnam, but we hope we could still maintain the position of top trading partner in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) for China," he said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of new office for the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), Ong said the MCKIP and its sister industrial park in Qinzhou, China's southwestern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, will help Malaysia in facilitating investment in the region.

"MCKIP will help enterprises from China to use Malaysia as a base to penetrate the ASEAN market, while the China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park will help Malaysian companies to expand in the Chinese market," he added.

MCKIP Chairman Soam Heng Choo said the industrial park is expected to attract a total investment of between 8 billion to 10 billion ringgit (1.8 billion U.S. dollars and 2.2 billion U.S. dollars) this year.

The first phase of a 3.5-million-tonne steel mill, currently being developed at the industrial park, is expected to be operational by end-2017, he said.

China's Guangxi Beibu Gulf International Port Group has led the Chinese consortium in the joint venture for MCKIP.