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Malaysia is making progress in talks with China to revive a rail project that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government said it would cancel, according to Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
China is willing to reduce the $20 billion price tag for the East Coast Rail Link project and talks are “in the last mile,” Saifuddin said in an interview Tuesday. Discussions have been led by Daim Zainuddin, an adviser to Mahathir, with the aim of reaching a smaller project size and cost, he said.
The Genting tunnel construction site in Bentong, Malaysia.
Photographer: Joshua Paul/Bloomberg
“It is not canceled until and unless we can’t settle on the numbers,” Saifuddin said. “China understands our constraint and they’re willing to scale down the size of the project and the cost. The discussion is probably in the last mile.”
Read about how China’s Belt and Road dreams are coming under pressure.
In a wide-ranging interview at his office near Kuala Lumpur, Saifuddin discussed foreign investments, plans to reopen its embassy in Pyongyang and efforts to speak up for China’s Muslim minorities in a “tactful” way. Since returning to power last May, Mahathir has tested Malaysia’s relations with the world’s second-largest economy. Besides the railway, he has also canceled a gas pipeline project backed by China and warned against “a new version of colonialism” on a trip to Beijing.
China’s state-run Global Times newspaper last year blasted Mahathir’s “piercing” remarks, saying they “will definitely make Chinese investors worry about Malaysian public opinion and whether such an atmosphere will affect investment in the country.”
This article first appeared on www.bloomberg.com
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