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Malaysia is increasingly becoming a market of focus for businesses wanting to establish a beachhead in the vibrant Southeast Asian geography, largely due to its pro-business environment.

With relaxing government foreign ownership laws in the manufacturing sector and a range of incentives to attract investors, we can expect more WA companies to take a closer look at burgeoning opportunities across many sectors.

Malaysia has invested heavily in infrastructure and implemented numerous liberalisation policies to attract greater engagement and participation from foreign companies.

It was for this reason our International Trade and Investment Centre recently co-hosted an investment roundtable with senior representatives from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).

They presented the investment parameters and opportunities for WA in education, healthcare, aged health and hospitality amongst other emerging sectors of investment potential in Malaysia.

Those at the roundtable were able to hear how MIDA can help you pursue investment strategies and/or seek strategic partnerships in Malaysia.

Also in attendance was the recently posted Malaysian Consul General to Perth Edi Irwan Mahmud and the Western Australian Government Commissioner for Singapore John Catlin, who has responsibility for Southeast Asia, with both adding their insights and perspectives of doing business in Malaysia.

Australia has more than 60 years of a solid bilateral relationship with Malaysia – currently worth $20.5 billion in two-way bilateral trade of goods and services. According to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Foreign Direct Investment from Malaysia into Australia last year stood at $13.4b.

In WA, the value of our two-way bilateral trade in goods was about $4.3b, making Malaysia WA’s 12th largest export destination and fourth largest import destination, according to the WA Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

Underpinning the strong trade and investment between Australia and Malaysia has been the Malaysia Australia Free Trade Agreement, which since 2013 has made it attractive for several Australian companies to invest into Malaysia.

And then in 2015, both Australia and Malaysia agreed to elevate their six-decade bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership. This now underpins the closeness of collaboration and shared values.

Malaysia sits just to the north of Singapore, shares a border with Indonesia and has a population of more than 32 million. It is therefore conveniently located to act as a gateway of international engagement for companies seeking to participate in global value chain opportunities.

The education sector an area where there are opportunities for West Australian training organisations and higher education facilities worth exploring.

Curtin University is one WA institution that has already established a presence and reputation as a highly regarded provider of education in Malaysia, establishing an international campus in Miri, Sarawak in 1999.   

Representatives of MIDA were aware of Curtin’s campus in Malaysia and are eager to attract more players in the higher education and vocational education and training (VET) sectors to upskill Malaysians with the same quality of education that is offered in WA.

While seeking greater collaboration across all sectors, highlighting opportunities for WA businesses in health care, education and hospitality would create some other important favourable circumstances.

If they can attract our interest and investment into the hospitality sector, that can spin off into export of food and beverages, for example, as well as the export of VET training for hospitality services such as cleaning and hotel management.

If you are interested in Malaysian opportunities, it is important to do your research, starting with developing an understanding of the Malaysian business landscape.

Some of these include:

  • Having patience and cultural sensitivity of doing business in Malaysia
  • Considering the governance
  • Understanding the logistical issues and parameters.

Our International Trade and Investment Centre has a team of experts who can help you explore potential opportunities.

Michael Carter is the Manager of CCI’s International Trade and Investment Centre.