Against the backdrop of foreign and domestic trade ambiguities, the BMCC hosted a Signature Luncheon on April 9th with the aim of addressing business concerns and to rejuvenate investment optimism towards future prospects of trade and investment between the UK and Malaysia. In his first public speech as the newly appointed High Commissioner to Malaysia, H.E. Charles Hay delivered a number of key messages regarding the UK’s current economic strategy and his aspirations for increasing bilateral trade growth between our two countries during his tenure.
Reflecting on the current trade climate between UK and Malaysia, the High Commissioner acknowledged its challenges in recent years and its potential for growth. “A good first step is to understand the future direction for both of our economies. In the UK, our future economic growth will be driven by our industrial strategy, and that strategy sets out how we’re going to invest in the skills, industry and infrastructure of the future; and support our citizens and businesses to benefit from the opportunities of technological change,” Mr. Hay said. Elaborating further, he listed four great challenges the UK seeks to address as a strategy to remain a globally competitive open economy; namely clean growth, its ageing society, best use of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, and the future of mobility.
“For Malaysian companies seeking to sell to, or invest in the UK; my strong advise is to follow the opportunities presented by the industrial strategy. And I say much the same to British companies seeking to export to, or invest in Malaysia. They should pursue the opportunities created by [Malaysia’s] focus on development of the digital economy and investment in high-tech, knowledge-intensive industries,” encouraged the High Commissioner. Several key sectors exemplified were aerospace, chemicals, machinery & equipment, medical devices.
On Brexit, of which the UK’s departure from the European Union has now been extended to October 31st; the High Commissioner asserted the UK’s fundamental strengths, its position as the fifth largest global economy and of how the next phase of parliamentary discussions will be crucial in clarifying ongoing uncertainties. Mr. Hay assured the UK will continue close connections with its EU partners, whilst further developing relationships beyond Europe. Testament to this is a forthcoming appointment of the first British ambassador to ASEAN.
The Luncheon’s second keynote address was delivered by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry who spoke positively of Malaysia’s economic trade outlook and MITI’s various initiatives in its fostering thereof. Dr. Ong too echoed the global headwinds impacting UK-Malaysia trade growths, however urged the audience to view it as an opportunity to step back and reflect on the larger picture of potential trade and investments. In the spirit of facilitating bilateral trade and investment, Dr. Ong announced MITI will establish a Malaysia-UK joint committee that aims to provide a structured platform to discuss strategic collaboration, programmes and projects for cooperation as well as addressing issues to enhance the ease of doing business between both countries.
Rounding up 2018, the Deputy Minister shared that the UK was Malaysia’s 19th trading partner with a total trade of RM15.6 billion, contributed mainly by major products in the E&E sector, transport equipment, rubber, wood, machinery and equipment and parts. Last year a total of 10 manufacturing projects with UK participation were approved with total investments worth RM 435million, expecting to create more than 1100 jobs. “This shows that existing UK companies in Malaysia remain optimistic with the business climate and that more UK investors are selecting Malaysia as their preferred investment destination” Dr. Ong said.
Calling to mind the Government’s commitment to the business community by constant engagements with stakeholders at various levels, he cited the initiatives MITI has created to facilitate the ease of doing business; such as the readiness assessment programme for SMEs, Industry4WRD and the business intervention funding initiative. On partnerships, he remarked on MIMOS, an R&D agency that was recently moved under the jurisdiction of MITI and another joint establishment with Microsoft for an applied AI centre in Malaysia. In spurring Malaysia’s aspiration towards becoming a Digital Nation, Dr. Ong said “I urge British partners to collaborate with Malaysian companies to increase productivity by accelerating automation as well as innovation and to venture into industrial activities that can benefit all sides. This includes undertakings in R&D, implementing sustainable production and sharing best practices with the local industry.”
In the ensuing panel discussion moderated by Andrew Sill (Chairman, BMCC), the High Commissioner and Deputy Minister were joined by Dato’ Teow Leong Seng (President & CEO, EcoWorld International) and Paul Richie (CEO, Tesco Malaysia) who shared their thoughts from the private sector’s perspective on the future prospects of trade & investment. Respectively representing a Malaysian company conducting business in the UK and vice versa, EcoWorld International and Tesco Malaysia have showcased tremendous growth in recent years, exemplarily demonstrating our bilateral trade potential.
The programme ended with a Q&A session and lunch for the 130 in attendance. The BMCC thanks the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur and Ministry of International Trade & Investment for making this Luncheon possible, with special appreciation to the afternoon’s table sponsors: BP, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Techsol, Plus Three Consultants and the University of Nottingham.