Letter: Sweeteners are not wrong

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The Independent Online
THE MALAYSIAN aid-for- arms story took an unfortunate twist last week when the Malaysian government curtailed all future projects with the British government.

This action occurs when the Asia Pacific region is enjoying an average growth rate of about 9 per cent, while we - in the sanctity of a morally driven Britain with the untold benefits of a free press - enjoy a less dramatic growth rate of 1 per cent.

It is because of this gulf in fortunes that many UK companies are spending millions of pounds sending their staff to win business in this region: it is an attempt to supplement income derived from our own stagnant economy.

According to media sources, the action of the Malaysians has cost Britain plc about pounds 3bn in identified programmes and potential contracts likely to follow on from business already in train in the region.

Job losses, a lowering of our already tarnished national image and the loss of valuable income to help defeat the widening trade gap are other negative aspects associated with the Malaysian decision to halt

future business opportunities for British companies in their country.

Whether back-handers were offered, or indeed taken, is not the point. The British

media has shown navety in its self-righteous crowing about Anglo-Malaysian affairs.

The ethics of doing business in Northern Europe cannot be transposed to Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe because in these countries the sweetener is all part and parcel of doing business. It is not wrong but it is different from the UK.

What has this Malaysian fiasco achieved? A severe dent in the UK's image and balance of trade - and a number of happy faces on people in Paris, Tokyo, Washington and Bonn, who will be only too glad to accept the pounds 3bn worth of business that our national press has lost for us.

Trevor Nash

Newark, Nottinghamshire