The Vietnamese and Malaysian economies are of a similar size and complement each other, Trade Counselor Le Phu Cuong at the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia has said.
In an interview with a Vietnam News Agency correspondent based in Kuala Lumpur on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic relations (March 30, 1973 - March 30, 2023), Cuong said Vietnam boasts advantages in terms of labour and development potential, while Malaysia's are in capital and deep integration into the world economy.
Malaysia’s market is not too large in size but diverse in segment with its consumers’ characteristics generally similar to Vietnam, he said, adding that its Halal requirements are the biggest difference to note.
According to the official, the two countries’ trade and investment relations have developed for a long time since Vietnam integrated into ASEAN and became a production location for many manufacturers, including those from Malaysia. However, in recent years, the flow of Malaysian investment into Vietnam has shown signs of slowing down, increasing just US$300 million from US$12.6 billion in 2019 to US$12.9 billion last year. In 2022, the country ranked 10th among Vietnam’s biggest foreign investors, down two places from 2019. Meanwhile, Malaysia has maintained a large trade surplus with Vietnam for many years, making it difficult to balance the sides’ current account.
Cuong recommended the two countries increase high-level visits and promote and support investment cooperation activities between their businesses. He said trade promotion should be given priority to assist Vietnamese and Malaysian firms in taking advantage of opportunities brought about by free trade agreements. It is also necessary to encourage Vietnamese businesses to join trade fairs and promotion activities in Malaysia seeking business chances and distribution partners, especially for agricultural products and food, he added.
During his visit to Vietnam in March 2022, then Prime Minister of Malaysia Ismail Sabri Yakoob mentioned the prospect of cooperation between the two countries in the Halal field, which, according to Cuong, implies the production and export of products meeting Halal standards. He said Malaysia now wants to promote the universalisation of the Halal standard for Vietnamese food products exported to the country and to cooperate with Vietnam in exporting those products to other Muslim markets. However, many Vietnamese manufacturers and exporters still consider the standard a barrier because it increases their production and business costs.
According to the trade counselor, Vietnam now has a number of establishments conducting inspections and issuing Halal certificates for businesses and products.
He unveiled that in the time to come, the Vietnamese Trade Office in Malaysia plans to organise more activities to attract the attention of domestic enterprises to the Malaysian market and increase the number of food firms meeting Halal standards, which will help boost export of Halal-compliant food products to not only Malaysia but also larger markets such as Indonesia and those in the Middle East and North Africa.
Concerning Vietnamese expatriates in Malaysia, the counselor said the community is quite large and participates enthusiastically in the host nation’s economic activities, contributing to its growth and the development of the Vietnam-Malaysia people-to-people and economy-trade-investment diplomatic relations. However, the majority of Vietnamese-run businesses in Malaysia are of small sizes with few linkages.