KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 ― The US-China trade dispute has started to benefit Malaysian manufacturers as exporters from the two countries are looking for alternative sources of materials.

Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (SME Malaysia) National President Datuk Michael Kang Hua Keong said based on feedback from its members, the trade friction had already made a positive impact on local manufacturers.

“For some of our members, their sales have increased,” he told reporters during a briefing here today on the upcoming Smart Manufacturing Exhibition (SMEX) 2018 organised by China's Ministry of Commerce Trade Development Bureau and CMEC International Exhibition Co Ltd.

Kang cited an example of a Penang-based cable manufacturer which had secured additional orders worth US$5 million (RM20.4 million) from both US and China customers in the last two months.

Ong Yew Chee, Director (China and Northeast Asia Section) of Malaysia External Trade and Development Corporation's (Matrade) Exports Promotion and Market Access Division, said Malaysia and other countries in the region were expected to experience an increase in investment inflows following the trade friction.

“They will look at Malaysia because we are not (directly) impacted by the tariffs,” he explained.

According to Ong, the Trump administration's imposition of increased tariffs on China offers Malaysia and other countries a competitive advantage to market products in the United States.

However, he remained hopeful the conflict would not escalate into a full-blown trade war.

“It (a trade war) would give a lot of problems to many countries, not only Malaysia, because the whole world is interdependent in terms of the flow of trade,” he said.

Ong noted that the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which last month set up a task force to study the impact of the trade conflict, had been monitoring the development closely.

The four-day SMEX 2018, which begins on August 15 in Kuala Lumpur, has attracted the participation of 93 companies from Malaysia and China. They cover seven sectors, including metalworking, robotic and industrial automation, components, wire and tube, energy, logistics and new energy vehicles.

The exhibition will also feature a series of high-level forums on Industry 4.0, Belt and Road Initiative and Smart Manufacturing. ― Bernama