Two newly arrived Malaysian diplomats in New York underscore the importance of forging closer ties with the US, and underscore the importance of trade in promoting bilateral ties.
Amir Farid Abu Hasan, the new Malaysian consul general in New York, who was transferred from the Malaysian High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, says that trade and business would lead to greater cooperation between the two countries.
Amir, who says that “New York is a different terrain altogether”, sees the crucial role the business-oriented Malaysian diaspora in the US can play in fostering closer bilateral ties. .
“We work closely with the Malaysian diaspora … there are about 21,000 Malaysians residing in the 17 state jurisdiction served by our consulate general and about 45,000 in the United States. The diaspora performs an important role in promoting Malaysia’s interests through people-to-people contacts, business and professional relations, etc. Since many Malaysians in the U.S. are engaged in business and trade, they help forge close business and trade relations with the US which is an important trading partner for us,” the envoy said in an interview with Global Trade Magazine.
The diaspora’s significance was also evident during the visit of the then Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob to New York in Septemer, when a dinner was hosted for the large diaspora in the U.S. with many guests coming from across the United States.
Besides providing consular services to Malaysian nationals in the country, the consulate general promotes Malaysia’s economic interests, and coordinates with the offices of dedicated agencies in New York like the Malaysian External Trade Corp. (MATRADE) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). “We cooperate with each other in various ways, including at the federal, state and city council levels,” the consul general said.
The U.S. which has, traditionally, been one of the top three trading partners of Malaysia, is viewed as a key market for the export-oriented economies of Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries. “With uncertainties characterizing the Chinese market, which has been very lucrative for most Southeast Asian countries, the current thinking is not to put all your eggs in the China basket … the mantra is diversification,” explains Thomas Lee, a Chinese-Malaysian businessman who participates in US trade fairs for his company based in Sabah in the Borneo region.
Indeed, at the networking luncheon he hosted for his counterparts from other Asian countries on Dec. 6 at Malaysia’s permanent UN mission in New York, Amir reinforced Malaysia’s “keen interest” to intensify trading and business ties with the United States. Edward Mermelstein, the commissioner in the New York Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, and his deputy Dilip Chauhan, were among the invited guests.
Amir’s resolve to improve US-Malaysian bilateral trade and economic ties is also shared by the newly appointed Malaysian trade commissioner, Nyaee Ayup, at the MATRADE office in New York.
The new trade commissioner worked at MATRADE’s head office in Kuala Lumpur before she was assigned to New York. Prior to that, she had served as Malaysia’s trade commissioner in the Philippines from 2014-2018. Nyaee has intimate knowledge of major industries that drive Malaysia’s exports, including electrical and electronics, information technology, green technology, etc.
A product of the National University of Malaysia, where she studied statistics, Nyaee has come at a time when the U.S. economy is facing a slowdown accompanied by high inflation, prompting many economists and pundits to believe that America may be headed towards a recession.
Nyaee acknowledged in an interview in her office that the US slowdown could pose a challenge “as it may possibly affect our overall exports to the US which is our third largest trading partner”.
But, as she put it, “you can also find opportunity in a critical situation”. Malaysia’s forte lies in having a strong base in such crucial industries as the electrical and electronic industry. The semiconductors product category is an area where Malaysia can use its existing presence in the US to further strengthen its market position, particularly since many American companies are seeking to diversify their supply chains. “This could open up new opportunities for Malaysia in the US market.”
Another industry in which Malaysia can flex its muscles is healthcare, with international buyers from around the world, including the US, showing interest in Malaysia’s medical devices, as is evident at the annual MEDICA trade fair, the world’s leading event for medical devices held in Dusseldorf, Germany, which attracts large Malaysian exhibitor contingents.
The Covid pandemic has led to an unprecedented demand not only for PPE products but also for scientific and medical devices. “The Covid has also aroused interest in many parts of the world, including the US, for medical devices produced In Malaysia,” Nyaee said, adding that the healthcare sector is inherent with strong business potential for healthcare products.
Nyaee said that trade fairs and exhibitions provided an excellent platform to showcase products; Malaysian companies, she said, were already participating in a number of industry-related trade fairs.
According to trade figures provided by MATRADE, Malaysia’s 2021 exports to the US amounted to US$ 34.31 billion, up from US$ 26.03 billion in 2020; imports from the US in 2021 amounted to $ 18.02 billion up from $ 16.60 billion in 2020. Malaysia’s exports during the first ten months (Jan-Oct) of 2022 amounted to $ 31.39 billion, up from $ 27.79 billion during the year earlier period, while imports in the Jan.-Oct. 2022 period amounted to $ 19.37 billion over $ 14.81 billion in the previous year’s corresponding period.
Malaysia’s major exports to the US consist of electrical and electronic products, rubber products, optical and scientific equipment, wood products, etc., while imports from the US consist of electrical and electronic products, chemicals and chemical products, machinery equipment and parts, optical and scientific equipment, etc.
Manik Mehta, a New York based journalist, writes extensively on foreign affairs/diplomacy, United Nations, U.S. bilateral relations, global markets, business/trade, shipping/logistics, etc.
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