Mon, Aug 28, 2017 - Page 15 News List

INTERVIEW: Malaysia enthusiastic about New Southbound Policy

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Malaysia has greeted the government’s New Southbound Policy with enthusiasm, as it is seeking to become a stepping stone for foreign firms that want to make inroads into the Muslim world.

“While not new, the policy is an enhancement under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) because it expands from trade and economic ties to education, cultural and tourism links,” Malaysian Friendship and Trade Center president Datuk Adeline Leong (馮淑娟) said in an interview on Monday last week.

Taiwan is Malaysia’s eighth largest trade partner and vice versa, with Taiwanese investment in Malaysia reaching at least US$12 billion since 1980.

Taiwanese exports to Malaysia amounted to US$4.77 billion in the first six months of this year, an increase of more than 30 percent from the same time last year, largely on robust demand for electronic parts, the Ministry of Finance said. Taiwanese investments in Malaysia are concentrated in the electronics, machinery, chemical and petrochemical industries, it said.

However, Taiwanese investors have begun to diversify into aquaculture, furniture and food processing, particularly halal food.

Malaysia exports electronics, palm oil, rubber product, timber and natural gas to Taiwan.

“Taiwanese can do business in Malaysia speaking Mandarin because Chinese are its second-largest ethnic group,” Leong said.

Malaysia’s multilingual and multicultural population gives the nation a competitive edge as a location for companies to set up operational headquarters.

Malaysian companies in technology sectors have always favored Taiwan as a stepping-stone to the global market, she said.

Food and beverage businesses have flourished in recent years, and Malaysia’s instant coffee mix brand Oldtown White Coffee and the PappaRich restaurant chain have reached Taiwan.

OPPORTUNITIES

The global Muslim population is more than 1.6 billion, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s population, and will approach 2.9 billion by 2050.

Taiwan has made preparations for doing business with Muslim countries and Taiwanese enterprises have established export routes to Muslim markets, Leong said.

“There are scores of halal industrial parks in Malaysia and we encourage Taiwanese companies to set up a presence and export halal products to Muslim consumers in ASEAN and all over the world,” she said.

Halal refers to what is permissible or lawful under Islamic law, including dietary requirements. Halal certifications are aimed at preventing Muslim consumers from inadvertently violating dietary restrictions.

Various countries, seeing favorable business opportunities, have been vying to make inroads into the enormous halal market, Leong said.

Taiwanese participation in Malaysia’s certification program would help extend the reach of Taiwan’s biotech, health foods and cosmetics sectors, she said.

Food choices for Muslim tourists are still limited in Taiwan and the Malaysian trade office in Taipei has called for the incorporation of a halal certification system that is friendly and attractive to the Muslim world.

The Taiwan Halal Center began operations in April as part of the government’s effort to help local firms tap the Muslim market worldwide, according to the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (外貿協會), a cofounder of the center.

The center aims to offer market intelligence, assist exporters, facilitate halal certifications and serve as a match-making platform between Taiwanese firms and customers in Muslim nations, the council said.

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