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In a stirring speech to the nation, newly-sworn in President Joseph Biden stamped his brand of leadership that one can expect from the United States.
In his first act as the 46th president of the US, he signalled several shifts. Perhaps the weather was foreboding with snow falling before the ceremony that was later bathed in brilliant sunshine.
A hopeful metaphor of what promises to be a presidency at the confluence of multiple crises both domestic and abroad.
The pageantry of procession that was inauguration day will be fast replaced by the stark reality that the nation will face. If only to understand Malaysia’s fifth largest investor and third-largest trading partner better, Malaysian companies need to understand the priorities of Biden.
While it is unlikely that there will be immediate benefits to the Malaysian economy from the change in the White House, the next four years should yield considerable opportunities with its strategic policy shifts and promises to stay the course on what has fast become the established US position.
One such door that will be opening was unlocked when Biden signed the executive order returning the US to the Paris Climate Agreement. This return to the legally-binding international treaty on climate change designed to reduce greenhouse gases will have a direct impact on US-based companies.
It’s a positive move for the environment and at the same time a chance to participate in what will be a monumental change from now until 2030.
This rapid shift to a greener industrial model will set two trends in motion.
Firstly, the US will generate demand for green technology, including the production of physical technologies that will be consumed in the US.
This will mean the creation of multiple global value chains with the US as the end consumer. With some countries off the radar as a cost-effective manufacturing base, it will allow Malaysia the opportunity to fill the breach. Not to mention, Malaysian-based innovative technology should find its way to the US.
Secondly, it will mean that the US itself will further strengthen its domestic green tech industry. History has shown us that the US corporate sector will look globally for growth and market share.
Once international travel is made possible again in a meaningful business development way, it will see US companies look to Asean and indeed Malaysia for expansion. It’s this second trend that Malaysia’s regionally-focused players can look to partner.
Regardless of the president in the White House, Malaysian companies looking to take their place on the global stage must work towards achieving sustainable global conduct. Those in the global market need to play by the global rules especially companies in critical supply chains as competitors and interest groups are more than happy to highlight shortcomings.
Covid-19 and the process of change will ensure that it will take time for the wheels to turn. For those with such aspiration, this is the time to gear up for the opportunity, to put in place the governance and standards that will allow corporations to step through the door that is now opening.
Welcome to the White House President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, there is much to achieve and a constant need to move forward.
Looking at the future, let me borrow from the president when he asked in his inaugural speech “Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children? I believe we must and I believe we will.”
Nordin Abdullah is the founding chairman of Malaysia Global Business Forum and is an FMT reader.