Dinner in Honour of David Cameron
Thank you very much for that introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for such a warm welcome this evening and for laying on this great dinner.
It is great to be amongst so many prominent business leaders. I am very proud to have brought the strongest business delegation from Britain that has ever visited this region. I hope that tonight there will be many conversations that lead to many partnerships, many investments, much trade and much business done.
I know an extraordinary amount of effort has gone into preparing for tonight: the logistics, the seating plans, the timetable, the photographs, not to mention of course the extensive arrangements for security. It has been an eagerly awaited, and much anticipated visit. I hope that you all feel it has been worth the effort.
It is great to see, not only, so many football premiership supporters here but even some premiership club owners.
My visit to Malaysia is frankly one of the most important visits I have made since becoming Prime Minister. Why? Because Malaysia is a great friend of Britain. Just like PM Najib, and Dato’ Sri Nazir, over 13,000 Malaysian students now come to study in the UK every year. Around 40,000 study for UK qualifications.
Over the last decade, dozens of major Malaysian investment projects have created hundreds of new British jobs. Malaysians today own major British companies – including those football clubs, but also including everything from regulated utilities like Wessex Water, to many other of our key businesses.
Yet in recent years, Britain has been guilty of what your Prime Minister quite rightly described as an era of benign neglect. Frankly, I think it is wrong that it has taken almost twenty years for a British prime minister to return to Malaysia, and to speak here tonight. I was determined to put that right, and I want to say something very simple and very straightforward: the era of benign neglect is over. Britain is back – back open for business, and open for business with you.
I want to say a word about our common interests on trade and on global security. First, business: Southeast Asia is the fastest growing region in the world. Already the ASEAN region has become the equivalent of the eighth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of more than two trillion US dollars. While Malaysia, one of its most open economies, has growth rates of five per cent a year. The future is right here in this room, and we can do so much more to make the most of it.
Today, while we are a big investor into Malaysia, our share of imports is barely more than one per cent. I am determined to change this. Since coming into office two years ago, the British Government has been absolutely focused on one thing above all else, and that is reopening Britain for business. That means dealing with our debts and securing the long-term stability and low interest rates that investors need to have confidence in the strength of the British economy. It means increasing our competitiveness.
We are cutting corporation tax to the lowest level in the G7; we are driving down regulation; we have cut the top rate of income tax; and we are also refocusing our energies on strengthening and deepening our trade and investment relationships around the world. That is why we have such a high powered trade delegation. That is why we have set up the UK ASEAN Business Council, which is a perfect partner for our hosts this evening, the ASEAN Business Club. It is why we are hosting a series of global business summits to be held during the Olympics and the Paralympic Games, to showcase the best of what the UK has to offer in our most successful industries: fashion, architecture, technology, aerospace.
I hope that you will all come and visit during the Olympics. There will be many great events to come and see, but also many investment opportunities. So I say, come and join them.
I am passionate about what Britain can offer: we have a time zone where you can trade with Asia in the morning and America in the afternoon; we have the English language, the international language of business; the easiest access to the European market; and we have some of the best universities in the world, made all the stronger by the brilliant students from Southeast Asia who come and study at them.
We have the products and the services that you need. If you want cars, we have Nissans made in Sunderland, Minis made in Birmingham, Bentleys made in Crewe; all products of the British industry that made 16 of the 24 cars that competed in the Malaysian Grand Prix last month. If you want modern medicines, we have the world-leading pharmaceutical companies that make them. If you want a holiday, then why not come to Britain where Malaysians get free visa access. While you’re at it, you can fly to London on the wings of an airbus plane, where the wings are designed in Bristol, and it is powered by a Rolls Royce engine that is assembled in Derby.
As a first step, I have been delighted to announce a number of new deals on my visit today: AECOM and Western Williamson providing new rail infrastructure to Malaysia; Lifesaver supplying world-beating water purification technology; and Shell building on its 30-year £1 billion oil recovery projects, with Petronas, with a new £100 million commitment to oil and gas exploration.
It is not all in one direction. The Malaysian company Infovalley are investing up to £10 million in the UK on bioinformatics technology. I hope that this is just the beginning. We have set a target of doubling our trade by 2016, and I know that with your help we can do it.
I am not just here out of economic self-interest. There is something else that is just as important, and that is our shared political agenda. As Southeast Asia stands up in the world, so it has a growing interest and influence over global issues. Countries in this region must use their new prosperity to continue to improve the wellbeing of their citizens, but they should also use their growing political clout to be part of the solution to insecurity wherever it emerges and not just as an onlooker. So, I am here also to work with you as a partner and a major player in international politics, to encourage you to speak out and stand up on the interests that we share.
The Global Movement of Moderates is an excellent example of one way in which Malaysia is doing just that. It gives the lie to the idea that Islam and democracy are somehow at odds with each other. It shows that you can be politically moderate and take a stand against the evils of extremism while being religiously devout, strong-willed and passionate about your faith.
This is the same vision that is today inspiring brave and courageous people across the Arab world and beyond, to stand up for their rights and their responsibilities as citizens. It is the same vision that is inspiring young Muslims all across the world to choose democracy as their future. As I said at the Nottingham University campus today, inspiring young Muslim men and women with a vision of democracy, freedom and economic growth that you have here in Malaysia, that we have next door in Indonesia, is the biggest defeat we can inflict on Al-Qaeda. It is the thing that they fear the most.
Yesterday saw the coronation of His Majesty Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim, and we congratulate all Malaysians on this very special occasion. Like Prime Minister Najib, Tuanku is a graduate of one of Britain’s great universities, and I am delighted that we will now double the number of Chevening scholarships for Malaysian students with the support from BAE Systems.
We have a great history together. I am here to make sure we have a great future too. I hope that as we turn the page from the era of benign neglect, my visit can signal the start of a new relationship between our countries, and more generally between Britain and Southeast Asia. Let us take our inspiration from the great Malaysian proverb, forgive me in advance for my pronunciation, ‘Bagaikan aur dengan tebing’ – ‘Like the bamboo and the riverbank, inseparable’.
Let us please raise our glasses to the Agong, to the Prime Minister, to the people of Malaysia and to a new era of relations between Southeast Asia and Great Britain. To a new era of relations, to your good health, thank you