Ismail Sabri Invites Tesla To Invest In Malaysia But Elon Musk End Up Meeting Jokowi To Invest In Indonesia

Malaysia has invited American businesses to take a closer look at the country as a preferred investment destination in various areas, including the automotive sector. The call was made by prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday in Washington, where he is currently on a four-day working visit, Bernama reports.

He welcomed corporations, especially Fortune 500 companies, to invest or increase their investment in Malaysia, especially in the areas of digital economy and green technology as well as the electric vehicle sector. To this end, he said that he had invited American electric carmaker Tesla to look at Malaysia as a production hub.

“I’ve suggested to Tesla to invest in Malaysia in producing electric cars,” he told Malaysian journalists following a meeting with Ted Osius, president and CEO of the US-Asean Business Council (US-ABC) in Washington.

Ismail said he has asked the US-ABC, which represents 170 major American businesses in Southeast Asia, to play a bigger role in attracting investments to ASEAN, especially Malaysia. He added that the council regarded Malaysia as an important trading partner of the United States.

Malaysia’s overtures to the American EV maker are well behind the actual discussions accomplished by Indonesia, which has long been in talks with Tesla on the probability of setting up a factory in the republic to make batteries for its EVs.

Those discussions fell through in March, apparently because Tesla was only interested in building batteries for energy storage systems (i.e. its Powerwall) instead of that for its cars. However, it was reported last month that Indonesia had restarted talks with Tesla boss Elon Musk to join the country’s burgeoning nickel and EV industry.

The country has long been pushing for investments in EV and battery manufacturing, touting its reserves of nickel and cobalt – used in the production of lithium-ion batteries – as well as bauxite, which can be turned into aluminium. Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest nickel reserves, wants to build a full supply chain for extracting battery chemicals from the metal rather than simply exporting it.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk on Saturday in Texas to discuss potential investments and technology, Indonesia’s government said in a statement.

The meeting between Musk and Widodo, better known as Jokowi, came after a round of working-level discussions on a potential investment in Indonesia’s nickel industry and supply of batteries for electric vehicles, Indonesian officials told Reuters.

Representatives from Tesla were in Indonesia last week for meetings regarding a potential battery-related investment, Indonesian officials and two people familiar with the talks have said.

Tesla had no immediate comment.

Indonesia for years has been trying to secure a deal with Tesla on battery investment and potentially for Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company.

Jokowi traveled from Washington, where he attended a meeting of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to meet Musk at the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. He invited the billionaire to visit Indonesia in November.

Jokowi is to host a summit of the Group of 20 big economies in Bali in November. “Hopefully in November,” the Indonesian government quoted Musk as saying.

Musk said there could be room for “partnerships in many things, because Indonesia has a lot of potential”, the statement said.

Indonesia has the world’s biggest nickel reserves, and Jokowi is keen to develop a nickel-based EV industry at home – from making nickel metal, to producing battery components and assembling electric vehicles. In the past, he has also urged Musk to consider a rocket launch site in Indonesia.

Two deals over the past month have given new momentum to Jokowi’s push to develop an EV-related industry at a time when global automakers have been scrambling to secure supplies of battery materials and reduce their reliance on China.

A consortium led by South Korea’s LG Energy Solution Ltd (373220.KS), the global No. 2 maker of EV batteries, announced plans last month to invest $9 billion in Indonesia as part of a deal that would include everything from nickel refining to producing battery cells in Indonesia.

LG’s larger rival, China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology (300750.SZ), a Tesla supplier, announced a $9-billion Indonesia investment in April.

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