GEORGE TOWN, July 9 — American companies were still interested to invest in Penang and Malaysia but some were discouraged by the country’s unstable regulatory climate, said United States Ambassador Brian McFeeters.
He said there were long-term US investors in Malaysia and some of them are becoming disheartened by the confusing government regulations, even before the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to health-related regulations.
“They find Malaysian regulations are hard to understand and there is an anxiety about the regulatory climate in Malaysia,” he said during a virtual press conference.
The press conference was held after McFeeters held virtual meetings with US companies based in Penang and the state’s chief minister Chow Kon Yeow.
He said Malaysia was regarded as a good investment destination due to its highly educated workforce and generally English speaking population, but the unpredictability of its regulations were turning off some companies.
He said there was uncertainty in the implementation of regulations for investors where new regulations might suddenly “pop up” and the way it was implemented were also confusing.
He stressed that this predated Covid-19 and was not in reference to the additional regulations due to the pandemic.
“What was needed is consultation with a representative body so that they can tell the companies what is needed and create a dialogue for them so that there are no surprises with more stability,” he said.
He said there were consultation sessions between the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) but it was not as productive as they would have liked these to be.
He said the industries would prefer these consultation sessions to be more systematic and accountable.
As for American companies’ interest in investing in Malaysia, particularly in Penang, he said Penang has a large number of American investors such as Intel that has been here for over 40 years.
“DexCom is building its first factory in Penang next year and they are already looking for an expansion site,” he said.
He said there are possibly dozens of other potential American companies that are interested to invest in Penang.
On the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict SOPs imposed on the manufacturing industry, McFeeters said all American companies are fully committed to complying with the SOPs.
“They are complying with the Covid-19 SOPs to hold frequent screenings of twice a week and they are getting their workers vaccinated,” he said.
He said the companies, based in Penang, are also glad to be able to operate at 80 per cent capacity now that the state has moved to Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
“They are doing better now with an increased capacity compared to earlier this week,” he said in response to a question on the companies’ performance.