Bilateral trade with US remains on upward trend despite the pandemic – Envoy

By Manik Mehta
Malaysia’s consul in New York, Mohamed Iylia Omar.

NEW YORK, Aug 14 – In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral trade with the U.S. continued to be on an upward trend with total trade in 2021 amounting to US$52.36 billion, up 21.4 percent from US$42.63 billion in 2020, said Mohamed Iylia Omar, Malaysia’s consul in New York.

Speaking to Weekly Echo at the sideline of a business seminar jointly organised by Malaysian agencies here recently, Mohamed said the United States has continued to be Malaysia’s main source of foreign direct investments (FDIs) with investments in the manufacturing sector alone amounting to US$25.54 billion as of 2021.

“Bilateral trade has been on an upward trajectory despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, urging American businesses participating in the seminar to take advantage of new growth areas, particularly in high-tech, capital-intensive, knowledge-based, and export-oriented industries.

For the first half of 2022, Malaysia-U.S. trade amounted to US$316.81 billion, of which exports amounted to US$172.86 billion while imports accounted for US$143.96 billion, posting a surplus of US$ 28.89 billion.

With both countries having elevated bilateral ties to a comprehensive partnership in 2014, he added that Malaysia and the U.S. today shared a “diverse and expanding partnership not only in trade and investment but also (in) security, environmental cooperation, education and cultural relations”.

Mohamed said there was “good potential” to elevate business ties with the U.S., particularly in sectors like semiconductor manufacturing and in hi-tech areas of electronics and electric manufacturing.

The business seminar, which highlighted trade and investment opportunities for U.S. companies in Malaysia, was jointly organised by the Malaysian consulate general, the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), the Malaysian Investment Development Authority and Maybank New York.

Held at the hall of Malaysia’s permanent representation to the United Nations here, the event also served to strengthen commercial ties with U.S. companies.

President/CEO of Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, Mark Jaffe.

Guests to the seminar included representatives of U.S. companies and New York state agencies, besides Malaysians based on the east coast.

According to Mark Jaffe, the President/CEO of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce,
U.S. companies were looking for alternative production sites to China. He praised Malaysia’s
pro-business investment climate coupled with skilled manpower, and saw good potential for
doing business in Malaysia.

Nelson Samuel, MIDA’s New York director, highlighted the benefits Malaysia offered in the form of tax
holidays and incentives, customs duty exemptions on raw materials and machinery/equipment during the seminar.

He also spoke of Malaysia’s strategic location, profiling the country as a gateway to the large and lucrative ASEAN market.

MIDA’s New York director, Nelson Samuel

Outlining the scope of services offered by MIDA to US businesses, he said Malaysia also offered
strong economic fundamentals, a strategic location, business-friendly investment policies, and a large pool of talented workers.

Speaking to Weekly Echo, Nelson also recalled the “difficult challenges” the COVID-19 had
posed for establishing ties with the corporate sector as a result of the restrictions that precluded
personal meetings during the lockdown and the general restrictions during the COVID period.

“People are now beginning to go out and meeting each other unlike in the past lockdown that severely impeded personal meetings. I hope things continue to improve.”

Meanwhile, MATRADE director Diana Talit said her office performed a wide range of services – from collecting trade enquiries from U.S. importers and matching them with products or services supplied by Malaysian exporters and, conversely, channelizing Malaysian trade enquiries to U.S. businesses.

MATRADE also coordinates and facilitates business networking with U.S. buyers during visits by Malaysian
businesspeople attending U.S. trade fairs or are part of trade missions to the U.S.

Maybank’s New York based general manager, A. Hamidi Abdullah, highlighted the range of services
Maybank provided to U.S. and Malaysian trading companies. He spoke of Maybank’s trade financing
which both U.S. and Malaysian traders could avail of such as opening a letter of credit, documentary
collections, LC reimbursement, trust receipt and shipping guarantee.

A guest at the seminar, preferring to remain anonymous, said that many U.S. companies were
losing interest in China and had fears about the business environment on the mainland.

These companies are looking at Malaysia – and other countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines to relocate to.

He said that Malaysia had “good potential” to attract investments from U.S. companies. “This is an
opportunity for Malaysia (to divert the outflow of investments from China) and it should not let
this opportunity slip away.”

As the 4th largest investor in Malaysia, the U.S. corporate presence in Malaysia consists of big names
such as Intel, JABIL, Western Digital, Motorola, Hersheys, Honeywell.

Malaysia recently also gave approvals to Texas Instruments, Insulet, IFVI, Indium, Boston Scientific, Cabot, etc. to set up operations in the country. Some 1,260 projects had been cleared as of December 2021.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s major exports to the U.S. comprise E&E products, petroleum products, palm oil, chemical and rubber products while major imports include E&E Products, chemical products, petroleum products, machinery/equipment, metals.