As Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency which operates under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) has gained international recognition for its efforts towards positioning Malaysia as a globally competitive trading nation. Celebrating MATRADE’s silver jubilee in 2018, CEO YBrs. Ir Dr Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros discusses the agency’s objectives, as well as Malaysia’s investment opportunities and incentives.

European Times: What are MATRADE’s primary objectives? How is the agency facilitating and raising the profile of Malaysian exporters and export products in foreign markets?

Ir. Dr. Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros: MATRADE’s mission is to promote Malaysia’s enterprises, goods and services in overseas markets, with an emphasis on the export of manufactured and semi-manufactured products. Throughout the years we have enabled many local companies to carve new frontiers in global markets and we remain dedicated to promoting Malaysian companies on the international stage. Our goal is to make the phrase ‘Made-In-Malaysia’ synonymous with excellence, reliability and trustworthiness as well as making trade especially exports, a driving force that will improve the nation’s GDP per capita, create jobs and improve Malaysian lives. Furthermore, MATRADE is often the first reference point of contact for foreign importers, and our role is to match them with compatible local partners who can offer the products and services they seek. This year we celebrate MATRADE’s 25th anniversary and we are happy to report that we have assisted over 20,000 companies in this period.

MATRADE was awarded the ASEAN Master Class Award in ASEAN Development Contribution at the ASEAN Outstanding Business Award (AOBA) 2017 that recognizes MATRADE’s efforts in facilitating Malaysian enterprises expand their business into the global markets particularly to ASEAN. MATRADE was the only government agency from Malaysia to receive the award.

European Times: Is Malaysia’s economy diverse? What are the country’s main export products and sectors?

Ir. Dr. Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros: Malaysia has become a successful trading nation and a regional investment centre, mainly due to its favourable geographical location between India and China, open policies that encourage investment, excellent infrastructure and logistics, and a superb English-speaking talent pool. Starting off as an agrarian economy, Malaysia has achieved remarkable transformation. Today, the economy has diversified and less reliance on agricultural and mining. Electronics is the biggest sector accounting for 33.6% of Malaysia’s total trade, values at USD138.85 billion in 2017. In addition to traditional sectors, such as electronics, petrochemical products, agriculture-based industries, and industrial machinery manufacturing, the business-friendly environment has enhanced the country’s potential for new sectors, including aerospace, fashion, gaming etc. Furthermore, Malaysia’s vibrant Halal industry is a global leader renowned for offering high-quality products.

European Times: ASEAN is Malaysia’s main export market. What other markets does Malaysia target for its exports? What countries are your main trading partners and what new markets is Malaysia looking to expand exports to?

Ir. Dr. Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros: Traditionally, Malaysia’s strength has been trading with ASEAN and China due to its close proximity. Nevertheless, Malaysia is also trading with over 200 countries around the world, including Japan, USA, etc. MATRADE has 46 offices globally, which facilitate trade and help Malaysian companies expand abroad.

European Times: Why should potential trading partners choose Malaysian products and Malaysian companies? How is MATRADE helping them on their way towards international expansion?

Ir. Dr. Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros: Many Malaysian companies have international standards and internationally certified, offering the highest level of competency and professionalism. Malaysia has a number of high profile companies and large corporations that have successfully ventured beyond Malaysia. These include PETRONAS, Sime Darby, Axiata, as well as financial institutions such as Maybank and CIMB.

Nevertheless, MATRADE’s biggest impact is felt by SME and mid-tier companies. Every year we bring hundreds of companies abroad through various trade fairs, export acceleration missions, and many other programmes. One successful example is the company Hadid engineering which, with our help, expanded its operations to Kazakhstan and other countries globally. When companies around the world are looking to partner with Malaysian companies, they contact any of our 46 offices around the world and we connect them with suitable partners from our database of 40,000 domestic companies.

Trade is an interaction between business across boundaries and successful expansion to international markets requires cooperation with other relevant domestic and international bodies. MATRADE cooperates with other government institutions, chambers of commerce, corporations, associations, including all Malaysian Ministries, the Malaysian Oil and Gas Services Council (MOGSC), the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Chamber of Commerce & Industry Malaysia, etc. Malaysia is a leading global exporter and recognised among the world’s top leading exporters of rubber gloves, palm oil products, photovoltaic cells, semiconductors, various E&E products and components, air conditioners, and furniture – just to name a few.

European Times: What is your advice to future investors and trading partners that are considering investing in Malaysia and partnering with Malaysian companies?

Ir. Dr. Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros: Malaysia has earned its reputation as a superb investment destination due to its business-friendly environment, stability, respects for the law, superb infrastructure, and favourable investment conditions. Interested investors should approach the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), which will assist them in understanding Malaysia’s business and investment landscape. MATRADE will assist companies, which are exports ready including investors to expand into the global market by linking them to potential foreign buyers and partners.