By Manik Mehta
FRANKFURT, July 7 – Despite the fierce competition that can sometimes be challenging for foreign suppliers, Germany is, nevertheless, a very rewarding market.
This view is shared by many foreign exporters, including Malaysians, trying to break into the
“Yes, it can be challenging sometimes, but let’s not forget that it can be a very rewarding market in the end,” Zuhaila Seder, Malaysia’s trade commissioner in Frankfurt, said in a recent interview with Weekly Echo in her office.
Zuhaila who took charge of the Frankfurt office of the Malaysian External Trade Development
Corporation (MATRADE), just a few months back, joined MATRADE after a stint with the
Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). She handled communications for the APEC
Zuhaila, who says that direct contacts between Malaysian suppliers and their foreign buyers are
the conventional way to establish contacts, contends that there are also other “interesting
ways” to promote business ties between suppliers and their foreign importers.
She cites the case of a Malaysian company Smart Link Engineering of Shah Alam, Selangor, which
manufactures cable harness for semi-conductor, Smart Link Engineering had been knocking at the door of Volkswagen of Wolfsburg, the renowned German car maker with its familiar VW brand.
“Smart Link’s contacts with VW were facilitated through the football (soccer) club VFL Wolfsburg (affiliated to Volkswagen Wolfsburg). Because of its sheer size which does not make it easy for a foreign supplier to get a foot inside the door, Volkswagen became approachable through the football club which facilitated the contact with VW.
“One of the most important lessons for Malaysian companies wanting to supply to German companies is to bear in mind that the German importer is always keen to establish a long-term, reliable relationship with the foreign suppliers,” the MATRADE commissioner observed.
Zulaiha said that in keeping with the evolving market trends, she would urge Malaysian companies to pay attention to innovation and sustainability; these attributes in a product make it easier for the supplier to sell – and the importer to buy – the products. “I would also like them (Malaysians) not to compromise on quality and to supply the products according to requirements,” she added.
Sustainability and innovation were absolutely necessary, particularly, when it comes to
supplying products such as medical devices, machinery, food products, etc.
The MATRADE office in Frankfurt has been focusing on technology-driven sector besides the
traditional industries such as halal industry which is perceived as a catalyst for sustainability, an
objective that is being pursued and cherished by Germans. The office also has been cooperating
with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which even has a halal food division set up in
response to the growing demand for halal-based food products.
Zuhaila points out that Germany has a Muslim population of about 5.3 million, with the Turks
constituting the largest single Muslim contingent. “We would like to see halal products become
popular also with the mainstream German consumers,” she said.
The MATRADE office in Frankfurt also participates in German and some European trade fairs,
many of which are the world’s leading events for specific industries. Some of these include the
Hannover Industry Fair, Duesseldorf’s Plastics and Rubber K’Fair, Medica Trade Fair for medical
devices in Duesseldorf, ANUGA food fair (Cologne) SIAL food fair (Paris)the Aerospace Show
“We believe that e-commerce will grow further. Consequently, we are promoting Malaysia’s
partnership in e-Commerce,” the MATRADE commissioner said, adding that her office was also
working closely with French entities in regard to the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024.
According to MATRADE Frankfurt, Malaysia’s two-way trade with Germany in 2020 amounted
to RM47.92 billion, rising to RM53.95 billion in 2021.