Malaysia should step up sustainability efforts to attract foreign investments, says Swedish envoy
19 Jul 2021
As the world deals with the global climate crisis, it is crucial for Malaysia to enhance its sustainability initiatives to ensure a better future for the younger generation, said Swedish Ambassador to Malaysia, Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt.
At the same time, the country can also leverage its strategic location and competitive position to attract more trade and investments, he said.
“We tend to look at sustainability as a key competitive advantage for the future.. so companies who do not manage to shift from the traditional production lines to sustainable versions would no longer be competitive in the next 10 years.
“Climate change is a thing right now, so this really puts quite a strong pressure on companies,” he told Bernama.
Juhlin-Dannfelt, who began his service on Dec 2, 2016, will be returning to Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but said he will continue to be “in love” with Malaysia – a country which he described as a nation rich with diversity, modernity and natural beauty.
The outgoing ambassador said many European companies maintain a positive view of Malaysia as an investment destination, adding that Sweden is really proud to be one of Malaysia’s trade partners.
In 2019, Sweden exported goods worth US$415 million (US$1=RM4.21) to Malaysia, including packaged medicaments, tractors and glass working machines, while Malaysia’s exports to Sweden amounted to US$322 million, comprising goods such as rubber apparel, stearic acid and palm oil.
During the interview, Juhlin-Dannfelt also expressed his excitement following the Malaysian government’s recent appointment of Sweden’s Ericsson unit, Ericsson (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, to design and build the national 5G network at a total cost of RM11 billion.
“Currently, there are about 100 Swedish companies and Sweden-related commercial establishments in Malaysia, and I foresee more room for major investments in the country as the business climate has been very encouraging for both sides,” he said.
He also commended the Malaysian government for its commitment to strengthening its sustainable development goals (SDGs) initiatives.
Last month, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz told the Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) Flagship Conference that the Malaysian government has ensured adequate financing for programmes and projects related to the SDGs in the upcoming Budget 2022 tabling.
He said the government has adopted a ‘whole of nation’ approach in addressing the impacts of climate change on financial stability and economic sustainability.
“The government is looking further at driving sustainability efforts — especially in introducing policies as well as both tax and non-tax incentives for the green economy — to push for more renewable energy investments,” the minister said.
While acknowledging that the disruptions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic have hampered trade worldwide, Juhlin-Dannfelt believes that once the pandemic is over, things would go back to normal.
“We hope that the Malaysian government will ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership so that the country can become an even more interesting destination for investments,” he said.
In April, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers urged the government to hasten the ratification processes for both major free trade agreements in a bid to help local companies, especially manufacturers, to recover faster post-pandemic.
Commenting on Malaysia’s sustainability initiatives in the plantation sector, Juhlin-Dannfelt commended the government’s move in establishing the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification and its pledge not to open up new oil palm cultivation area.
The latest data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board showed that about 55.6 per cent of Malaysia’s 33 million hectares of land areas are under forest cover; exceeding the country’s initial pledge of 50 per cent forest cover at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
“I am not in a position to really evaluate the MSPO certification but I think Europe has welcomed the certification as it is a good step forward,” he said.
The MSPO is a national certification scheme for oil palm plantations, independent and organised smallholding as well as palm oil processing facilities to ensure that the Malaysian palm oil is sustainably produced and safe for consumption.
The certification, which was made mandatory since Jan 1, 2020, aimed to ensure responsible and sustainable production, as well as transparency and traceability along the palm oil supply chain, as well as the protection of the nation’s biodiversity and the environment.
As of Dec 31 last year, 88.25 per cent of the total oil palm cultivated areas in the country had been certified.
In 2020, palm oil accounted for 31 per cent of the world’s oils and fats products at 235.4 million tonnes, compared to 25 per cent of soybean oil and 11 per cent of rapeseed oil.
In 2018, Sweden joined France in saying that it is against the European Union (EU) resolution that aims to ban palm biodiesel from the EU energy mix after 2020.