As one of the key pillars of the ASEAN, Malaysia welcomes the EU as its second largest foreign investor and third largest trading partner. Maria Castillo Fernández, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Malaysia, discusses recent endeavours aimed at deepening the political cooperation and resuming the negotiations for a free trade agreement between EU and Malaysia.
European Times: Malaysia is a country with numerous investment opportunities. Which sectors are most interesting for EU investors?
María Castillo Fernández: The EU companies have been an important investment force in Malaysia’s manufacturing sector for many years, developing their own research and innovation centres and plants that ensure production coverage of the whole region. In the infrastructure sector, companies from France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, together with companies from China and Korea, are participating in the construction of an important petrochemical complex near Johor. Considering the substantial expertise which EU companies offer in terms of infrastructure, we hope that a European consortium of companies will be selected for the construction of a high-speed railway project from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
EU investors are also present in the hospitality sector. Examples of it are Accor Group of Hotels, as well as the digital and innovation sector, represented by Ericsson, which has been present in Malaysia for over four decades. Dutch and Swedish companies are also interested in biomass and green technologies investments, and there is high development potential in engineering, architecture, legal and financial services.
European Times: What is the country undertaking to promote Malaysia as a regional investment hub?
María Castillo Fernández: Initiatives to develop the international image of Malaysia is implemented through the active work of government agencies such as MIDA and the regional investment authorities such as InvestKL, Invest Penang and InvestSelangor. Their activities focus on international fairs promotion and close collaboration with the interested investment companies, while branding the country as an entry point for investments in the ASEAN region.
European Times: Why should foreign investors target Malaysia?
María Castillo Fernández: Malaysia offers a friendly business environment, highly supported by the country’s agencies and institutions, as well as a developed infrastructure and excellent connectivity. Malaysia’s economy shows a steady annual growth of 5% and the country’s cultural diversity is a great introduction to the different Asian cultures. Additionally, the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement with the EU would allow greater market access and more openness in terms of procurement.
European Times: How can Malaysia achieve its long-term goals?
María Castillo Fernández: Malaysia’s 2020 Vision is to reach the status of a high-income nation, an ambitious, but very logical goal, considering the steady and strong economic growth of the country. In this context, Malaysia has shown superb results in economy diversification and continues to focus on talent, research and education, innovative technological production, sustainable and environment friendly products, as well as service market liberalization.