Did Trump just launch a trade war?

LAST Thursday, US President Do­­­nald Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs for steel by 25% and for aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it may signify – the start of a global trade war that will cause economic disruption and may damage, if not destroy, the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system since the end of World War II. In practice, this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the West continues to have very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with those of many developing countries.

Moreover, the developed countries champion high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits. This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufacturing and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and to expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor, the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, thus benefiting consumers and forcing their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade. According to his America First philosophy, if cheaper imports displaced local steel and aluminium producers, these imports must be stopped because a country must make its own key products.

Since the US has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries. If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in openly protecting its industries, so too can other countries. The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies or set lower prices for their exports. Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the US trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs. The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend security. The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI.

But what constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws, and countries can abuse this clause.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make weapons of war. But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agree­ment that includes the US. The exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its member countries will raise tariffs. China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary res­ponse.

At the WTO General Council on March 8, the US action was attacked. Many countries condemned the unilateral move and the use of the national security rationale. Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’s box we would not be able to close”.

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception. India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued that the over-protected domestic industry would never be able to solve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and the outcome will have strong consequences. If the panel rules for the US, then other countries will view the decision as permission for all countries to take protectionist measures on the grounds of security.

If the decision goes against the US, it will strengthen the anti-liberal trade faction and tendency in the Trump administration to ignore or even leave the WTO.

Malaysia will be affected by the new tariffs as it exports 96,000 tonnes of steel to the US. But this is small compared to how much steel we import.

The bigger blow to us is the US measure in January to slap up to 30% tariffs on solar cells and panels. Malaysia is the largest photovoltaic cells exporter to the US, with a market share of 30%. The tariff increase will have a big impact on the solar industry, a solar company chief was quoted as saying last month.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a Commerce Department report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices.

If strong action against China is announced, China can be expected to take strong retaliatory action.

That may escalate the trade war that is already under way.

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

Donald Trump: Trade War Threatens Germany and Europe

Did Trump Just Start a Global Trade War? – Bloomberg

Did Trump Just Launch a Trade War? | Watching America

Why Donald Trump’s steel trade war is just the start

Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs threaten a trade war

Related post:

Western system not reference for China’s Constitutional change The ongoing annual session of the 13th


5,000 Malaysians are illegals in South Korea, lured by higher pay, living underground !

A tough life: Malaysians seen working at a vegetable farm near Seoul. 

SEOUL: An estimated 5,000 Malay­sians are working and staying illegally in South Korea, with the less fortunate ones forced to live like refugees and always on the run from the authorities.

Lured by job advertisements that claimed they could make money hand over fist in the land of K-pop and Descendants of the Sun, they paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered the country on tourist visas.

Unfortunately, many of them have been left in dire straits after finding out that reality did not match up with the promises.

Star Media Group’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online sent a team to South Korea to look into their plight and found many of these Malaysians stranded and destitute.
These 5,000, based on figures that volunteer aid workers pieced together from Malaysians and recruitment agents, are part of an estimated 251,000 illegal foreign workers in the country as reported by The Korea Herald.

Their problems, first highlighted by the portal in a series of special reports in association with The Korea Herald in January, ranged from suffering permanent disability after workplace accidents to being left broke and homeless when they were fired by their employers.

Among the locations the team visited were Itaewon in the central region and Daeso and Muguk in Eumseoung district, about 80km from Seoul.

A Malaysian who wanted to be known only as Farhan said he and two of his friends have been homeless for more than two months since they were fired without pay after working at a seaweed processing company for just one week.

“I was fired because I came down with fever a week after starting work. We have to rely on our friends for food,” he said, adding that sometimes they only had biscuits to eat.

The 24-year-old said that on weekends, they would sleep at the Seoul Central Mosque, while on weekdays, they would stay at a friend’s house.

Visiting the mosque, the mStar Online team found several bags in the corridors, believed to belong to the foreign workers who sleep there.

Another Malaysian, who did not want to be named, said she had to live in one house with 18 others.

The woman, who works on an onion and sweet potato farm, said the house is so overcrowded that some of them have to sleep in front of the toilet or on the kitchen floor.

She and her housemates said there had been cases of Malaysians being physically abused if they did not work fast enough.

Their story was echoed by others the team interviewed, as well as those who came forward in the earlier reports in January, and because of their illegal status, they are often exploited, made to work long hours without rest and barred from talking to their colleagues.

The risk of accidents is also great because they are seldom given briefings or safety equipment and protective gear.

After such hardship, their labour sometimes even goes unrewarded because of employers who, taking advantage of their workers’ illegal status, hold back their pay in the belief that they would not dare report it to the authorities.

As a result, many suffer in silence for fear of being detained by the authorities, and are ignorant of their rights as workers.

Winter in South Korea will come to an end later this month. Without money, shelter or a way home, these stranded Malaysians can only wait it out, and hope for new job opportunities that will be available in the spring.

Source: The Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Malaysian workers ‘living underground’ 

Some of them are forced to live on the streets.

SEOUL: The 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea may be grouped into six categories, based on the findings of the mStar Online team that visited South Korea and spoke to some of those affected.

The lucky ones

These are the “successful” ones who entered the country on tourist visas, have the funds to return home or travel to other countries after these visas expire. They then return to South Korea on new tourist visas and take up jobs here again.

Those in this category are considered fortunate because they have responsible employers who pay them as promised. They have also managed to evade the authorities.

Those who overstay

There are also Malaysians who took the risk of overstaying. They are either working or waiting for other job opportunities. They can get by as long as they are not caught or face workplace issues such as accidents or exploitation by their employers.

Generally, it can be said that those who belong to the first two groups managed to realise their dream, have a place to stay, and are living comfortably in a foreign land.

• The unemployed and homeless

On the other hand, there are those who have been made homeless and forced to sleep in mosques or rely on the kindness of friends.

Their situation is caused by several factors: they may have been cheated by recruitment agents, had their salaries withheld, or had their contracts terminated, leaving them with nowhere to live and no funds to return to Malaysia.

• Waiting for spring

Job opportunities drop considerably during winter. Those without work are forced to endure the cold and wait for spring, which brings more job openings with it.

Those who have the money would not find the winter months a problem, but the unemployed have to depend on others for food and shelter.

• Accident victims

There are also those who overstay because of workplace accidents. They have to remain behind while waiting for their cases to be heard at the Labour Office so that they can claim compensation from their employers.

• Those on medical visas

Some of those hurt in workplace accidents are fortunate enough to be granted medical visas by the authorities, enabling them to stay in South Korea until their treatment is completed.

The specific reasons for not returning home vary from one individual to the next. Some may be victims of circumstance, while others are just determined to achieve their goals and earn as much as they can before coming back.

And with each new job opportunity that comes along, a new set of risks and hazards arises.

Malaysians lured by higher pay

Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.
Getting the story: Nadia speaking to an agent about the risks of illegal employment in South Korea.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysians who brave the perils of working and staying illegally in South Korea do so because of monthly salaries advertised in the range of RM6,000 to RM12,000.

In fact, recruitment agents say, they choose to go even after being told of the risks involved.

It is estimated that as many as 5,000 Malaysians have gone there since 2016, to work in factories producing kimchi, cosmetics, calendars, furniture, auto spare parts and aluminium, among other items.

When the big pay they expected does not materialise, usually because of workplace accidents or exploitation by unscrupulous employers, they often find themselves homeless and broke.

An mStar Online team probing their plight spoke to one agent who said about 800 Malaysians had used his services last year alone.

The agent, who asked to be known only as Nasir, said he charged each customer RM2,800.

The amount covers securing the job, a return air ticket and a South Korean job agency’s fees.

According to The Korea Herald, there are about 251,000 illegal workers from various countries working in South Korea.

This group is highly exposed to occupational hazards and is at risk of being duped or exploited by employers because of their immigration status.

Local agents as well as aid volunteers in Seoul said Malaysians made up about 5,000 of the overall figure.

Taufik, another agent, said he knew of about 20 others who were in the same line.

“I personally handled trips for almost 100 Malaysians to South Korea since 2016,” he added.

He said not all agents were responsible enough to inform their clients of the risks.

Taufik said he was honest in his dealings and made sure those who used his services were fully aware of the risks they faced as illegals working in South Korea.

However, he was surprised to see that all these potential problems did not deter a single one of his clients from going to South Korea, which reportedly had the highest household income in Asia.

“There are agents who do not give clear information, but I tell my customers about the real situation and ask them to think carefully before going.

“Among the most important things they must have is a strong spirit.

“This is just my side job. I have my own business. I don’t depend on their money,” he told mStar Online.

Taufik claimed he only pocketed RM500 to RM600 of the RM2,500 fee he charged clients.

Based on surveys and from talking to agents and their clients, the team learned that an agent stood to make up to RM15,000 for every batch of recruits – ranging from 10 to 30 per group – sent to South Korea.

Another agent, Azhar, said it was easy to get through immigration checks there as the job seekers posed as tourists.

To prove they were just visiting, Azhar said he would provide them with fake return tickets to show to South Korean immigration officials.

His package, priced at RM2,500, includes one night’s accommodation, a prepaid T-Money payment card, job arrangement charges and transport to the workplace.

Source:Star by nadia shaiful bahari

Related News: 

Hard choice for Malaysian in South Korea – Nation | The Star Online

 The former flight attendant used a tourist visa to enter the country and work illegally in a steel factory, where she met with the accident. Sally (not … “I received treatment, monthly expenditure and some compensation, but only after I got help from a Malaysian activist who fights for the rights of workers like us.

Stain on image of Malaysians – Letters | The Star Online


In a knot after going to South Korea to earn wedding expenses


Demanding conditions: Workers labouring at a construction site in Seoul. Malaysians, using tourist visas to work as illegal labourers, take up tough jobs in the manufacturing, construction and plantation sectors in South Korea. — AP Malaysians Lured by high pay and benefits – Nation | The Star Online

Demanding conditions: Workers labouring at a
construction site in Seoul. Malaysians, using tourist visas to work as
illegal labourers, take up tough jobs in the manufacturing, construction
and plantation sectors in South Korea. — AP

Choi sentenced to 20 years’ jail

Choi sentenced to 20 years’ jail

Related posts:

You hooked online video games, Internet and sinking ?

Internet addiction on the rise among Malaysian youths, Asians one of the most addicted to the Internet


China Constitutional change accords with times


Western system not reference for China’s Constitutional change

The ongoing annual session of the 13th National People’s Congress adopted an amendment to China’s Constitution with an overwhelming majority on Sunday, which sets the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in the country’s political and social life. The most watched parts of the amendment include adding the clause that the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics, removing the term limits on the Chinese president and vice president, and listing the supervisory commissions as a new type of State organ in the Constitution.

Some Westerners used to intervene in China’s major decisions. This time Western opinion basically held that the Constitutional change was China’s internal matter. Yet there are still some in the West that are keen on grabbing attention by comparing the amendment to Western political systems.

But they have evaded two facts. First, in this juncture China faces a series of major challenges regarding its reform in and outside the country, which demands the Constitution be revised in accordance with the times. Major countries now are mobilizing their political resources to strengthen their decision-making capacity. The amendment is primarily driven by China’s internal needs for development.

Second, Chinese people are deeply aware that their happy life must originate from solidarity and stability, and that this has to be guarded by the whole of society led by the CPC Central Committee. In these years we have seen the rise and decline of countries and particularly the harsh reality that the Western political system doesn’t apply to developing countries and produces dreadful results.

Luckily China has maintained its steady rise for a long period. We are increasingly confident that the key to China’s path lies in upholding strong Party leadership and firmly following the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core.

Upon its founding, the People’s Republic of China largely copied the Soviet Union’s socialist system. Since reform and opening-up, China has embarked on a socialist path with Chinese characteristics and become the second-largest economy. This shows political independence is key to how far China can go.

Most major phenomena facing China can’t be explained by Western theories. China must find solutions with its own wisdom. Whether our practices are good should be assessed by whether they respond to and promote China’s mission, and the actual results.

Despite the flood of information that poured into China after reform and opening-up, Chinese society has managed to deal with it and accumulated collective wisdom. In this process the leadership of the Party Central Committee has been instrumental. The Constitutional amendment comes at a good time as it consolidates the guiding thought, Party leadership, the leadership structure and the improved supervisory mechanism when China faces arduous tasks in the new era.

This is what Chinese people truly expect. Nonetheless some Westerners who fail to figure out Chinese people’s opinion want to be the backseat driver. They should have been more objective and modest in the face of China’s long history and great practice.

Source:Global Times

Related Links:

Constitutional amendment responds to new era

Constitutional amendment will improve CPC leadership

Solidarity cornerstone of China in new era

Attack on China’s judicial system driven by bigotry

Defense budget displays China’s steadiness

China won’t be bullied by Trump’s trade war threat

Trump building 21st century economic Great Wall

Related posts:

China launched a scaled-down model of a
multipurpose, reusable space plane from a test site in the Gobi Desert
late last month, part of…
Well-regarded: Kuok in his office in Hong Kong. Picture taken from ‘Robert Kuok: A Memoir’. https://youtu.be/mP1ju6_e4Vw http…



Lift-off in space plane race as China tests hypersonic drone model

China launched a scaled-down model of a multipurpose, reusable space plane from a test site in the Gobi Desert late last month, part of its race to develop space travel technology.

The hypersonic space drone lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia, accelerated to more than five times the speed of sound and reached orbital altitude before returning safely to ground, according to a researcher with knowledge of the experiment.

China’s goal was to develop a space plane for both military and civilian missions, capable of travelling fast enough to penetrate missile defence systems and with the heft to help rebuild satellite networks or lift tourists to space, the researcher said.

Development of the prototype was led by the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province. Also known as Base 29, the military-run facility has some of the most advanced wind tunnels for hypersonic research in the country.

China fires up advanced hypersonic missile challenge to US defences

Ye Youda, a senior hypersonic vehicle researcher working at the base, confirmed the test took place but said he could not give details because the project was classified for defence purposes.

Without revealing the nature of the vehicle, state-run Science and Technology Daily said on February 23 that the test was a “breakthrough”, with the vehicle landing precisely as planned.

Lead scientist Liu Gang was quoted as saying it was the first time China had conducted this kind of test.

Liu said the mission would help China acquire critical technology for engineering and scientific research in space.

“It signals … a historic breakthrough in speed, altitude and applications,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, a major defence contractor in Beijing, confirmed on Tuesday that it was also working on space plane technology.

Zhang Hongwen, director of the company’s Third Research Academy, said China’s space plane would be very different from the reusable rocket developed by California-based SpaceX.

“It will be able to take off from a normal airport and take spacecraft into orbit. It will be a revolution for space transport,” Zhang told state broadcaster China Central Television.

He said Tengyun, a civilian version of the space plane, would be able to carry both passengers and cargo into orbit or to a space station.

The vehicle would be reusable – bringing down launch costs – and be driven by a hybrid engine that could take in air in the atmosphere and burn rocket fuel once in space.

Space planes are expected to be more attractive than rockets for tourists because they allow for smoother flight.

Beijing to New York in 2 hours? Chinese team reveal hypersonic plane ambition

Li Junwei, a professor from Beijing Institute of Technology’s school of aerospace engineering, said it was extremely difficult to building an engine that would work both in space and air.

“The aircraft can lose control while going through the boundary of different environments,” he said.

Other nations are developing similar technology. The US military has teamed up with Boeing to develop XS-1, a hypersonic space plane that would launch vertically as a rocket and return to ground as a plane.

Also known as the Phantom Express, the vehicle would be as large as a commercial airliner and be able to put a medium-size satellite to lower-Earth orbit.

The US project was launched last year with the first flight scheduled for 2020.

Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post

Stephen Chen http://www.scmp.com/news


More on this story

Researchers say the I-plane’s two layers of wings will mean it can handle significantly heavier payload than existing hypersonic vehicles. Photo: Science China Press

Beijing to New York in 2 hours? Hypersonic plane ambition revealed

More on this story

Weapons under development by China and Russia – as well as by the United States – can fly at many times the speed of sound and are designed to beat regular anti-missile defence systems.

East Asia

Why the US falls behind China in the hypersonic weapons race

CHINA’S Claims it has ‘QUANTUM’ Radar may leave $17 Billion F-35 Naked


Related post:


Singing and dancing to world domination


Shocking news and curious comments

Why bother to formulate a new law to check fake news when the real stories are already incredible?

There must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.’
OVER the past week, the news about Malaysia has been running the range from the outrageous to the absurd.

To use a quirky English phrase, the stories beggar belief. In other words, too surreal to be believed.

With the Government proposing a new law to check the spread of “fake news”, there must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.

I am listing three examples. The first is Switzerland’s decision to confiscate the equivalent of RM400mil, purportedly linked to 1Malaysia Develop­ment Bhd (1MDB), which was seized from Swiss banks last year.

The Swiss lawmakers are set to debate a motion to en­­able part of the funds to be sent back to Malaysia, but according to recent reports, there were no claimants for the money. For context, the RM400mil is more than this year’s budget for my home state of Melaka and the surplus of RM26.4mil can pay for the new bridge on the alternative coastal road in Klebang.

Next is the 91m super yacht, Equanimity, impounded off Bali last Wednesday.

Indonesian police seized the vessel sought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in response to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) request to enforce a court order.

Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal Abduh said the US$250mil (RM976mil) yacht’s Auto­ma­ted Identification System (AIS) had been switched off in nearby seas before the seizure.

Penang-born businessman Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, criticised the DoJ for not proving any offence before acting.

“It is disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” read a statement sent by his unnamed spokesman.

Eyebrows were raised when Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the Government would not claim the yacht.

But Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak’s peculiar comment that the DoJ had not shown any “tangible proof” of Low’s ownership of the yacht drew ire and scorn.

He said besides allegations in the civil suit, on hold since last August, there was no evidence of Low’s ownership.

As former minister of trade and industry Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz noted, all it takes is a simple search. The “SuperYacthFan” website, which has a directory of the world’s wealthiest yacht owners, states that it belongs to Low and his Hong-Kong-based investment fund, Jynwel Capital.

If Low is innocent, the solution is simple: Just bite the bullet and face the DoJ.

The third curious case involves Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Comm Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd’s frozen Australian bank account.

Australian police froze the A$320,000 (RM970,490) account after filing a forfeiture application in the New South Wales Supreme Court in March last year.

Strangely, the senior police officer does not want his almost RM1mil back. His reason? High legal costs.

Australian police noted a “flurry of suspicious cash deposits” into the CID director’s account, which had been dormant since it was first opened in 2011.

The account reportedly grew by nearly A$290,000 (RM879,500) in a month in 2016, mostly in deposits below A$10,000 (RM30,330) – the limit for law enforcement agencies to receive possible money-laundering alerts.

The money came in from branches and ATMs around the country, from the tiny towns in Queensland and in Tasmania to the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, a week after the officer visited Australia.

In response, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said an inquiry found that the account was opened in 2011 to enable the transfer of funds to finance the CID director’s son’s education in Australia.

The IGP said the dormant account was reactivated in 2016 for the officer’s daughter’s master’s degree, adding that Comm Wan Ahmad Najmuddin provided documents to prove the money was from the sale of a RM700,000 house in Shah Alam.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki initially ruled out any further probe as both Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the IGP had exone­rated the CID director. However, Azam has since been quoted as saying the MACC had begun investigating the matter following a report lodged by an unidentified whistleblower.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed provided another queer twist to the case by suggesting that Australian authori­ties were using the media to embarrass Malaysia and by asking if they had an axe to grind.

With more doubts continuing to be raised over the case, Dr Ahmad Zahid said Comm Wan Ahmad could have been “a little naïve” about Australia’s legal system.

We can’t blame Malaysians to be sceptical, given the status of the person in question.

Naïve or not, just how costly can it be to hire a good lawyer in Australia to seek justice for the huge amount of money wrongly confiscated?

There have been such cases before and Malaysians have won, most notably former Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

On May 1998, he was acquitted of currency regulation breaches involving more than A$1.2mil (RM2.9mil then).

Muhammad had pleaded not guilty to knowingly making a false currency report when entering the country on Dec 16, 1996, and then failing to declare currency when leaving six days later.

Besides saying that the ex-teacher’s English was not good, his lawyers argued that he didn’t know the country’s money exchange laws and that the funds were for buying land for himself and his three brothers.

How much he paid the lawyers remains a mystery, though.

Veera PandiyanMedia consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by Albert Einstein: Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

Along The Watchtower by M.Veera Pandiyan The Star

 Related News


Tycoon Robert Kuok stands tall amid the bashings from Umno leaders

Well-regarded: Kuok in his office in Hong Kong. Picture taken from ‘Robert Kuok: A Memoir’.


DURING the two week-Chinese New Year celebrations, with the tossing of yee sang for better times ahead, the key topic of conversation among the Chinese revolved around the general election.

But the sudden eruption of high-level political attacks on Robert Kuok last weekend sent shockwaves through the community. Since then, the richest man in Malaysia has been the talk of the town.

The onslaught could not be taken lightly as Kuok is not just any ordinary businessman but someone of stature held in high esteem not only in Malaysia and China, but also by the global Chinese community.

It is a known fact that Kuok helped to lay the groundwork for the end of communist insurgency in Malaysia, played a role in easing racial tension after the May 13 racial riots and contributed funds to Umno and MCA during elections.

His generous donations have benefited the poor and rich.

Kuok has always stood tall among everyone.

Dubbed the “Sugar King of Asia”, Kuok has set up a huge international empire with businesses spanning from commodity trading to hotels, sugar and oil palm plantations, wheat flour milling, property development and entertainment.

In Malaysia, he retains control of Shangri-La Hotels and the wheat flour business after selling his sugar and property businesses.

Hence, the Chinese community here feels hurt to see their business icon being smeared based on hearsay. They see grave injustice done to this man whose loyalty and commitment to the country is being questioned.

However, due to suspicion that the whole episode could be a politically driven scheme ahead of GE14 for various reasons, Chinese community leaders only spoke up after Kuok defended himself.

While many are aware that Kuok’s recent memoir had irked some quarters due to his disdain for the New Economic Policy (1971-90), they are perplexed by the timing of this smear campaign.

Kuok’s political revelations in his book have also earned him brickbats from some people.

This round, the criticisms against the tycoon were based on three articles posted by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on the online portal Malaysia Today.

The most startling allegation made by the controversial blogger, who has a record of stirring up racial hatred towards local Chinese in past writings, was that Kuok had donated hundreds of millions to the DAP in a bid to overthrow the Umno-led government.

Without verifying the content, Malay critics and senior Umno politicians told Kuok to be grateful to the Government as the tycoon had built his early sugar, rice and flour empire based on his good ties with Umno leaders.

The remarks by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz were particularly scathing, as crude and offensive words were used. In addition, he told Kuok to surrender his citizenship.

The critics might have misconstrued earlier statements by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who had said that some of the richest people, including Kuok, owed their success to opportunities created through government policies.

“If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Robert Kuok, who gave him the key to become the rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling government,” said the Prime Minister at an event in Selangor on Feb 24.

“Yes, he is driven, hardworking, industrious and disciplined – but that is not enough. Everyone still needs the key to creating these opportunities,” he added.

Although DAP leaders promptly denied receiving money from Kuok, this failed to stop the tirade of aspersions cast against Kuok.

It was obvious that Kuok had to defend himself. He issued a statement last Monday, saying all allegations against him were “untrue, unjustified and amounted to libel”.

The 94-year-old Kuok, who moved his business headquarters from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong in 1975, denied funding The Malaysian Insight portal or opposition parties to overthrow the Government.

He also denied that he was anti-government, a racist or a Chinese chauvinist.

While Kuok’s hint of instituting libel suits might have some deterrent effect, the proposal by MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to the Prime Minister to intervene in the matter could have shut the mouths of Umno leaders.

Liow tweeted: “I have conveyed the feelings of the Chinese community to the PM. We hope that the PM will intervene to put this issue to rest. Mr Kuok has contributed greatly towards the development of the nation.”

If the vicious attacks on Kuok were allowed to continue, the first casualty in GE14 could be MCA and Gerakan, and ultimately Barisan Nasional, as angry Chinese could be provoked to vote against the coalition in GE14.

And the unintended winner from this latest episode could be the opposition side.

The question now is: Faced with so many challenges in the coming polls, could Barisan afford to sow a new seed of discontent and allow it to germinate unchecked?

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement, saying Kuok’s success is “an inspiration” for other entrepreneurs.

Though this brief statement and its “cooling effect” came a bit late in the political sense, it was better than nothing.

In addition, a tribute to Kuok posted by Najib’s brother Datuk Seri Nazir Razak on Instagram is also a comfort to the Chinese.

“I may not agree with all his views but he (Kuok) is a patriot, the icon of Malaysian business and a first-class gentleman,” said Nazir, the chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd last Wednesday.

However, the injustice done to Kuok on such a scale is unlikely to be forgotten soon, as this incident has also stirred up some debates.

Is there any hidden political agenda to vilify Kuok before GE14? Do successful businessmen owe their allegiance to ruling political parties? Is it morally wrong to change your political stand?

Dr Oh Ei Sun, former political secretary of Najib, offers some explanations to Sunday Star: “Robert Kuok has shown his contempt for the NEP in his book. This may be seen as questioning Malay supremacy and this attitude must be nipped in the bud.”

He adds that Kuok may not be forgiven for stating the obvious, which many Chinese have wanted to voice out but could not for fear of losing business opportunities.

In his memoir, Kuok stated that although the Chinese have played a significant role in the economic development of Malaysia and other South-East Asian nations, many did not receive just and fair treatment.

Sin Chew Daily, quoting unnamed Barisan sources, says the bashing of Kuok also carried a warning message to the business community to think twice before they contribute election funds to opposition parties.

“These attacks also sent a message to the Malay community that they must be united to support Umno, which is being ditched by others it has helped to prosper,” said the Sin Chew report last Thursday.

Although a life member of the MCA, businessman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew believes people owe no loyalty to political parties.

He tells Sunday Star: “A businessman is expected to be loyal to his country, not to ruling parties. Politicians and political parties come and go.

“Whoever becomes the government has a duty to create a conducive environment for the people to prosper and live harmoniously. If politicians are not worthy of support, people are free to switch their political stand in a democracy.”

Apart from ordinary people, the business community is also watching developments linked to Kuok with concern.

“If the issue on Robert Kuok is not handled properly, there will be a negative impact on the sentiment of investors. We are all following these developments,” says a businessman at a CNY dinner.

by Ho Wah Foon, The Star

Related Posts:

https://youtu.be/cCoO3JEKZ48 PETALING JAYA: The recent attacks against multi-billionaire Robert Kuok, including those from Umno leader..


Tailwinds and headwinds into 2018


2017 was a year of smooth tailwinds, even though everyone was
mesmerized by the Trump reality show. Heading into 2018, one issue on
everyone’s minds is whether headwinds will finally catch up when the
tide goes out.

ALL markets function on a heady mix between greed and fear. When the markets are bullish, the investors know no fear and regulators think they walk on water. When fear grips the markets, and everyone is staring at the abyss, all eyes are on the central banks whether they will come and rescue the markets.

Last year was one of smooth tailwinds, even though everyone was mesmerised by the Trump reality show.

Heading into 2018, one issue on everyone’s minds is whether headwinds will finally catch up when the tide goes out.

Last week at a Tokyo conference, Fed vice chairman Randy Quarles was visibly confident about the US economy. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth through the final three quarters of 2017 averaged almost 3%, faster than the 2% average annual pace recorded over the previous eight years.

The European recovery, barring Brexit, looked just as rosy. Eurozone growth has stepped up to 2.7% in 2017, with inflation at around 1.2% and unemployment down to 8.7%, the lowest level recorded in the eurozone since January 2009.

In Asia, 2017 Chinese GDP grew by 6.9% to 59.7 trillion yuan or US$9.4 trillion, just under half the size of the United States. With per capita GDP reaching US$8,836, China is expected to reach advanced country status by 2022.

Meanwhile, the Indian economy has recovered from its stumble last year and may overtake China in growth speed in 2018, with an estimated rate of 7.4%.

The tailwinds behind the growth recovery seem so strong that the IMF’s January world economic outlook for 2018 sees growth firming up across the board. The IMF’s headline outlook is “brighter prospects, optimistic markets and challenges ahead.”

Expressing official prudence, “risks to the global growth forecast appear broadly balanced in the near term, but remain skewed to the downside over the medium term.”

Having climbed almost without pause in most of 2017 to January 2018, the financial markets skidded in the first week of February. On Feb 5, the Dow plunged 1,175 points, the biggest point drop in history. The boom in 2017 was too good to be true and fear came back with the re-appearance of volatility.

Amazingly, the drop of around 11% from the Dow peak of 26,616 on Jan 26 to 23,600 on Feb 12 was followed by a rebound of 9% in the last fortnight.

Global stock market indices became highly co-related as losses in Wall Street resulted in profit taking in other markets which then also reacted in the same direction.

Will headwinds disrupt the market this year or will there be tailwinds like the economic forecasts are suggesting?

What makes the reading for 2018 difficult is that the current buoyant stock market (and weak bond market) is driven less by the real economy, but by the current loose monetary policy of the leading central banks.

With clearer signs of firming real recovery, central banks are beginning to hint at removing their decade long stimulus by cutting back their balance sheet expansion and suggesting that interest rate hikes are in the books.

The projected three hikes for Fed interest rates in 2018 augur negatively on stock markets and worse on bond markets.

The broad central bank readout is as follows.

The Bank of England and the Fed are leaning on the hawkish side, the European Central Bank (ECB) is divided and the Bank of Japan will still be on the quantitative easing stance.

In his first testimony to Congress, the new Fed chairman Jay Powell was interpreted as hawkish. In his words, “In gauging the appropriate path for monetary policy over the next few years, the FOMC will continue to strike a balance between avoiding an overheated economy and bringing PCE price inflation to 2% on a sustained basis. In the FOMC’s view, further gradual increases in the federal funds rate will best promote attainment of both of our objectives.”

What is more interesting is the divided stance facing the ECB. In his latest statement to the European Parliament, ECB president Mario Draghi reaffirmed that the eurozone economy is expanding robustly. Because inflation appears subdued, although wage growth has picked up, he argued that “patience and persistence with respect to monetary policy is still needed for inflation to sustainably return to levels of below, or close to, 2%.”

In an unusually critical and almost unprecedented article published last month by Project Syndicate, the former ECB Board member and deputy president of the Bundesbank Jurgen Stark called the ECB “irresponsible”, suggesting that its refusal to normalise policy faster is drastically increasing the risks to financial stability. In short, the bigger partners in Europe think tightening is the right way to go.

If both central banks begin to reverse their loose monetary policy and unwind their balance sheets, liquidity will become tighter and interest rates will rise.

Financial markets have therefore good reason to be nervous on central bank policy risks.

There is ample experience of mishandling of policy reversals.

After the taper tantrum of 2014, when markets fell on the fear of the Fed unwinding too early and too fast, central bankers are particularly aware that they are walking a delicate tightrope.

If they reverse too fast, markets will fall and they will be blamed. If they reverse too slow, the economy could overheat and inflation will return with a vengeance, subjecting them to more blame.

In the meantime, trillions of liquid funds are waiting in the sidelines itching to bet on market recovery at the next market dip. But this time around, it is not the market’s invisible hand, but visible central bank policies that may pull the trigger.

Man-made policies will always be subject to fickle politics. The raw fear is that once the market drops, it won’t stop unless the central banks bail everyone out again. This means that central bankers are still caught in their own liquidity trap. Blamed if you do tighten, and damned by inflation if you don’t.

There are no clear tailwinds or headwinds in 2018 – only lots of uncertain turbulence and murky central bank tea leaves. Fear and greed will dominate the markets in the days ahead.

Andrew Sheng is distinguished fellow, Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong.

Related Links

Market weighed by external pressures | KLSE Screener


US Fed’s Powell nods to stronger economy, backs … – KLSE Screener


%d bloggers like this: