Najib defends US investment, says ‘it’s not a one-way street’

Najib defends US investment, says ‘it’s not a one-way street’
President Donald Trump (right) speaking during a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Tuesday (Sept 12) in Washington. Photo: AP
Published: 8:53 PM, September 14, 2017
Updated: 9:04 PM, September 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — In yet another attack on the opposition, which has derided his visit to the White House this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said it was necessary to shoot down the “spin” that Malaysia’s investments in the United States would only benefit Americans.

“I want to explain — there are those spinning (stories) as if we are contributing to the US without getting returns,” he said on Wednesday (Sept 13) (US local time) during a press conference to wrap up his three-day official visit to the US.

“That is not true. When we buy Boeing (aircraft), we turn Malaysia Airlines into a more competitive airline. If others have Dreamliners, we also have Dreamliners; this is the transformation and rationalisation of the airline which is working because MAS (Malaysian Airlines) is now in the position to buy planes. That is good for us.”

Mr Najib also said Malaysia will benefit from its Employees Provident Fund (EPF) investing in America.

“When we invest in the US, the EPF will get returns and this will flow back as dividends to our employees in Malaysia,” he said. “So it’s not a one-way street. They are spinning it as though I am here to buy influence from the US, and that is totally untrue.”

Mr Najib’s remarks came on the back of the opposition criticising Mr Najib’s trip to the US. Selangor Chief Minister Azmin Ali slammed Putrajaya’s announcement that it will invest US$24 billion (S$32 billion) in America, while adding that Malaysia’s economic well-being should not be mortgaged for a photo opportunity. 

“This investment is purportedly to ‘strengthen the US economy,’” said  Mr Azmin, who is from the opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat, in a statement. “Why does Malaysia need to help out the world’s largest economy? 

“Malaysia is an emerging economy, and we are doing our best to court investment from developed countries, not send our money away.”

At his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Najib had said that Malaysia intends to increase the number of Boeing planes Malaysia Airlines will buy. Malaysia is committed to buying 25 737 Max 10 aircraft and eight 787 Dreamliners, he said.

Mr Najib also said on Tuesday that the EPF plans to further invest in the US. The fund has invested close to US$7 billion, in terms of equity, in the US and intends to invest between US$3 billion and US$4 billion to support infrastructure redevelopment in the country.

During the same press conference on Wednesday, Mr Najib also described his visit to America as a manifestation of the recognition of Malaysia as a significant global player, adding that the trip was a huge success that coincided with the 60th anniversary of Malaysia-US bilateral ties.

“I am very happy to be received by US President Donald Trump as not only a prime minister, but also as a friend,” said the prime minister.

While the opposition and some sections of the US media had criticised the visit, Mr Najib said that the warm reception by Mr Trump and senior administration members such as Vice-President Mike Pence and State Secretary Rex Tillerson had proved the criticisms wrong.

“This demonstrates that we have succeeded as a nation. If we are a failed state, it would have been impossible to get the recognition from Trump,” said Mr Najib.

Prior to the trip, many of Mr Najib’s critics had said he would not dare visit America because of the ongoing investigations of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad by the US Justice Department.

Mr Najib will next meet British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street, London. AGENCIES