The news of Elon Musk's desire to expand his business ventures in Southeast Asia is not new. Since 2021, Indonesia had initiated virtual discussions and, a year later, met Elon Musk in person to entice him to invest in the country.
However, in the first quarter of 2023, Malaysia surprised the public with the official announcement of Tesla's investment within its borders, sparking excitement among its citizens.
In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim disclosed how he negotiated with Elon Musk to invest in Malaysia over neighboring countries.
Anwar Ibrahim recently struck an impactful deal with Elon Musk to bring Starlink and Tesla opportunities into the country and hopes more deals will follow. https://t.co/BQurMrF0A6 pic.twitter.com/D9xPdihvnH— FORTUNE (@FortuneMagazine) September 1, 2023
"As much as I know about him, he knows little bit about me. So, I said to him, 'Look, I've suffered immensely in the process. Now I'm given this opportunity, and I am in business. I want to effect the change and I want to do it now. Whatever is necessary will be done. I love my country, and I think it has great potential and capacity.'"
"I made it clear and blunt to him to say that he doesn't need to worry about all the other nitty-gritty bureaucratic encumbrances he may face when dealing with some other countries," Anwar Ibrahim told Fortune Magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Alyson Shontell, and Fortune China's Executive Editor, Maiwen Zhang.
Anwar further explained that Elon Musk was aware of Malaysia's history. At SpaceX, Elon Musk has three major companies (from Malaysia) involved in space operations in terms of spare parts, allowing him to gauge Malaysia's potential.
"What was lacking was a clear policy and commitment by the leadership, and we have complemented that."
"And of course, I am exceedingly pleased that they could come up with a very fast decision and set up their original office here," Anwar said.
He also informed Elon Musk that he was ready to make swift changes to attract more investments.
In the interview, Anwar clarified that Malaysia had previously lacked "clear policies and commitments" from previous leadership, which had hindered Musk and other world-renowned business leaders from investing more in the country until now.
Malaysia has exempted Tesla and SpaceX from the "prehistoric dinosaur regulations" of local ownership that had been practiced for decades. Unlike other foreign car manufacturers, Tesla can directly sell cars to Malaysian consumers without the need for local partners. Starlink, too, has been exempted from local regulations that restrict foreign companies from owning more than 49% of Malaysian internet providers.