When British Columbia trade minister Bruce Ralston hosted 11 of the province’s foreign trade representatives at the Legislature on March 7, one was missing.
The representatives for offices in Japan, China, South Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Europe and India did not include the Malaysian sultanate of Johor.
In April 2016, BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong told a reporter from Malaysia’s Star Online that B.C. would open a trade office in the Malaysian province near Singapore. The Sultan of Johor, Ibrahim Ismail, was visiting B.C., but de Jong’s staff refused to acknowledge the Malaysian media report when contacted by this reporter.
In November of that year, de Jong visited Johor and gave the Sultan a Canucks’ jersey. International trade minister Teresa Wat was in China, after being hospitalized for an injury suffered in a mysterious incident, so de Jong did the honours of announcing B.C. would open a trade office in Johor in early 2017.
It never opened.
“The office was primarily intended to advance B.C. relations with [state-owned] Petronas, with a secondary mandate to facilitate trade and investment ties with Malaysia and Singapore,” Tasha Schollen, a spokesperson for Ralston, told theBreaker. “On July 25, 2017, Petronas announced that the Pacific Northwest LNG Project was cancelled due to market conditions, so the former ministry never proceeded with its opening.”
Last September, the South China Morning Post reported on a joint venture between a Chinese company and a local partner owned by the Sultan of Johor that was building the $100 billion Forest City on four man-made islands for 700,000 people. It was being marketed as the “next Shenzhen.”
When de Jong visited Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak was visiting China. De Jong’s staff said at the time that they spoke by phone.
Razak remains under a cloud of controversy over the 1MDB state investment fund scandal. He was accused of embezzling US$700 million, but claimed the money was a gift from Saudi Arabia.
The corruption scandal was a source of mirth, and, perhaps, envy, for Christy Clark when she was premier. In a late 2015 interview with The Tyee, she said: “Makes me feel like I went into business in the wrong country. It’s crazy. But you know, it’s just a different way of doing business, I guess…”
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