Anwar: Malaysia & Indonesia should complement each other on EV development, not compete

It was reported last week that Indonesia is confident that the electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla is looking into investing in Indonesia to manufacture materials for EV batteries. And if Tesla were to follow through with the reported manufacturing plans, Indonesia would be one step ahead of Malaysia where Tesla has no manufacturing plans for the time being.

During an exclusive interview with prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during The CNBC Conversation last weekend, CNBC news anchor Martin Soong asked if Malaysia is planning to further expand its supply chain to compete against Indonesia. The prime minister responded to the matter, saying that Malaysia can complement the EV maker as Malaysia itself produces batteries.

When asked if it is part of the American EV maker’s next plan to develop a supply chain in Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said, “The understanding is to buy our batteries. It is cheaper and is produced locally… Why should they (Tesla) bring (EV) batteries from all over the world?”

The prime minister then added, saying, “It is a bit too premature for me to commit if whether they are doing it, but what is important is we do have the capacity to produce parts of a battery that is required in the cars.”

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Tesla’s Gigafactory

A question regarding the possibility of foreign investors such as Tesla holding 100% equity in Malaysia was also raised during the interview. As a response, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim replied saying that having Tesla come in and benefit three or four local industries is just as good as putting a 20 or 30% equity, as it can help generate potential economic returns down the line.

He also added that this is similar to the GeelyProton collaboration, where Malaysia plays a role as an assembly hub and spare parts supplier. The prime minister said that the country is also open to the idea of producing spare parts for SpaceX, for example.

Tesla’s Gigafactory

Soong mentioned the matter of Indonesia going down a very similar route with the Tesla investment and has a grand plan for Tesla’s supply chain. This will include battery mining, manufacturing, and assembly, all the way to the possibility of exporting batteries out of the country.

And when asked if it is Malaysia’s plan to compete against Indonesia in EV development, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim quoted, “I think instead of being in a game of fierce competition, we should be able to complement each other, and that has been the spirit of my series of conversation with President Joko Widodo.”

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