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Penang and the nation requires a robust discourse of foreign policy as the world becomes increasingly intertwined

Press Statement by Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Chow Kon Yeow, 28 July 2022

Kuala Lumpur, 28 July 2022 – With the ongoing geopolitical trends in the world, Asia and Asean, the Penang State Government as a subnation State will be taking cognisant steps to review its geo-economic risk and challenges to manage external pressures and impacts of the global events, including the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, rising interest rates in the US, and higher cost of living that impacted the lives of the people.

Speaking at a Regional Geopolitics Dialogue themed “The new geopolitics of Asia and global order of tomorrow: Implications for South East Asia”, hosted by local think tank, Research for Social Advancement (REFSA), Penang Chief Minister YAB Chow Kon Yeow shared that in terms of post pandemic recovery, Penang’s GDP has since shown a steady rebound growth of 6.8 per cent from a negative 2.1 percent in 2020, and highlighted that the Penang State Government will take cautious steps to promote economic recovery, peace, prosperity and promote a balanced economic and social development strategy, including addressing climate change.

Acknowledging Penang’s history since 1786 as a key player and pioneer as a trading post and later as a trading hub, Chow urged Malaysia to have an independent foreign policy that avoids falling into the binary trap of geopolitical competitions between great global power rivalries, but instead, seek to promote itself as the major hub with deep supply and manufacturing cluster of microchips, as well as other future looking sectors.

“Economic development in Penang and the nation requires a robust discourse of foreign policy as the world becomes increasingly intertwined. Despite the global volatility, Penang will continue to establish partners and cooperation, and foster greater ties and city diplomacy, to attract investors and partners for the benefit of Penang’s future growth. Steps such as ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a good start, and will further contribute to Malaysia’s pandemic recovery.”

Cognisant that subnational authorities, such as the Penang government, plays an unique role in bypassing the conflicts that are shaped around nation-states, Chow stressed that subnational governments, business-to-business and people-to-people engagements are important elements in ensuring that national authorities do not go overboard in their pursuits of geopolitical objectives.

“It is incumbent upon us – the leaders at all levels of governments and societies – to engage as deeply as possible to prevent nations from sleepwalking into wars and to ensure continued prosperity in our region and the world amidst multiple crises.”

The 2 day dialogue aims to put the spotlight on the rapidly changing geopolitical and geo-economic environment in the region, as both local and overseas participants are invited to share insights and understand the complex patterns of cooperation, competition and conflict that come with the current shifts in the global geopolitics and geo-economics trends.

Tan E Hun, Executive Director of REFSA shared that Southeast Asia is at a critical juncture where more than ever, there is an urgent need to build regionally coordinated policies that recognise various geopolitical considerations. “As a think tank, it is important that we bring together regional thinkers, academicians and stakeholders to deliberate and develop concepts to not only mitigate but also actively develop instruments and tools to build upon the current crises and ongoing changes constructively.” As part of building public knowledge on current geopolitical trends, REFSA will hold two public lectures in the coming months to encourage discussions and understanding of these issues. Visit their website www.refsa.org or follow their social media for details of the upcoming events.

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