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.