Roberto Benetello, CEO EUMCCI
Roberto Benetello, CEO EUMCCI

Highlighting the strengths of the Malaysian business landscape, as the most cost-effective entry-point into the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, Roberto Benetello, the CEO of the European Union-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is proud of EUMCCI’s role as a strong business ally of entrepreneurs from both sides of the partnership.

European Times: What is the state of affairs in bilateral and multilateral economic relations between Malaysia and the EU?

Roberto Benetello: The EU and ASEAN have enjoyed a close relationship in the past 30 years. Both share a commitment to regional integration for fostering stability, building prosperity and addressing global challenges. The EU is providing support in developing harmonized legislative frameworks and common practices. Malaysia and the EU cooperate in a wide range of areas such as: higher education, environment, human rights, and sustainable economic development. However, cooperation in trade and economic issues has been the driving force for ever closer ties. The EU delegation the Malaysia and the EUMCCI have been key players in sustaining strong relationships between stakeholders from both sides of the equation. The EU is a strong advocate for the development of Malaysia’s service sector, assisting its international competitiveness.

European Times: Which countries in Europe are Malaysia’s largest trading partners? Which markets should Malaysia look at when targeting for new partnerships?

Roberto Benetello: Within the ASEAN, Malaysia is the largest destination for EU services in education, healthcare, construction, professional services, ICT and franchise operations. Tourism, including its medical subcategory, represents an important sector of the Malaysian economy generating €40 billion in 2016, up by 9.4% from 2015. The Netherlands, Germany, the UK, France and Belgium are the top five countries receiving Malaysia’s exports. Some of the largest European brands such as Volkswagen, BMW, IKEA, Novartis, Bayer, Unilever and TUV Rheinland have large business operations in the country. Regarding the business sectors in high demand of international partnerships, I would single out intermediate and capital goods and instruments in electrical machinery, mechanical appliances, base metals and chemical products, as well as consumption goods, such as pharmaceutical products, meat and vegetables.

European Times: Why should European investors consider Malaysia over the other ASEAN countries? What incentives does the Malaysian government offer to foreign investors?

Roberto Benetello: Malaysia is the most cost-effective entry point to ASEAN with its developed infrastructure, highly educated workforce with strong English language capabilities, excellent regional positioning and investment environment. Tax incentives, duty exemptions, and special provisions governing capital investments in research and development are part of the investment packages offered to foreign investors. We encourage potential investors from the European Union to reach out to us, so that we can provide further information, support and networking.