National | 60 years of Malaysia-Japan ties

Extensive resources to support businesses

by Shah Nizam Ahmad

Matrade Tokyo Director

What is the mission of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE)?

The main mission of MATRADE is to assist Malaysian exporters to expand their market overseas, as well as to support foreign importers to procure products and services from Malaysia. As the National Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia, MATRADE also assists and develops Malaysian companies to be export ready. Aided by a network of more than 40 overseas offices located in major commercial cities around the world, MATRADE provides a wide range of services to both Malaysian exporters and foreign importers in promoting trade activities.

What is the background of trade between Japan and Malaysia and where do you see it in the future?

The history of Japan’s trade with Malaysia started with the trading of primary commodities, namely logs, tin and natural rubber. As the years went by, Malaysia’s shift to industrialization has largely contributed to changing the bilateral trade composition into more manufactured products.

In 2016, Japan was ranked as Malaysia’s fourth-largest trading partner, fourth-largest export destination and third-largest import source. Total bilateral trade between Malaysia and Japan last year was $28.98 billion, which included liquefied natural gas (LNG), electrical and electronic products, machinery, equipment and parts, transport equipment, chemical and chemical products and manufactured metal, among other things.

During the first six months of 2017, trade with Japan amounted to $15.59 billion, growing 17.5 percent from the same period a year ago. Exports to Japan were valued at $8.58 billion, up 14.4 percent due to higher exports of electrical and electronic products, LNG, chemicals and chemical products and crude petroleum, as well as petroleum products. Imports from Japan also rose by 4.9 percent to $7.02 billion.

Certainly, Japan is expected to continue as Malaysia’s major trading partner and there are new areas that Malaysia and Japan can further enhance and strengthen in our bilateral economic and trade ties.

In relation to this development, the year 2016 marked a milestone in the relationship between MATRADE and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), as a memorandum of cooperation to double the efforts in promoting trade between the two countries was signed and witnessed by the prime ministers of both countries in November.

What is the mission and focus of MATRADE Japan? What does MATRADE do to promote Malaysian businesses?

As for Japan, MATRADE Tokyo and Osaka have been assisting both Malaysian companies and Japanese importers in expanding their markets and businesses, while sourcing products and services from Malaysia in all sectors and industries. However, recent developments in Japan’s market have created a number of niche areas where Malaysian and Japanese companies could collaborate and leverage on each other’s capabilities to take advantage of available business opportunities. Among those sectors are halal, creative content industries, renewable energy, including palm kernel shell and wood pellet and wood-based products.

Opportunities in the halal area are getting serious attention from Japanese companies, particularly those in the food and services industries to cater to increasing foreign tourists in Japan. Japanese prefectures are aggressively promoting their Muslim-friendly business environment to accommodate the growing demand for halal food and services. More restaurants are currently offering halal menus and Muslim-friendly options to tourists as Japanese tour operators have begun to offer Muslim tour packages in Japan. Malaysian halal food products are able to leverage the widely recognized halal JAKIM logo in selling to Japanese companies and consumers. Additionally, Tokyo has also recognized the importance of halal in its preparations toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The memorandum signed in November between MATRADE and JETRO will intensify co-operation in areas of mutual benefit such as facilitation in trade promotion activities, exchange of information, collaboration in specific programs and projects to promote sectors, including the halal sector.

In this regard, export promotion for food and beverages, including halal products had been one of the core activities of MATRADE Japan. In March, MATRADE Japan participated in FOODEX Japan, the largest food and beverage trade show in the Asia-Pacific region for 15th consecutive year, together with Malaysian food and beverages companies showcasing their products and capabilities to Japanese and international buyers.

On the occasion of the International Sourcing Program held in conjunction with the Malaysia International Halal Showcase in Kuala Lumpur, 13 buyers from Japan attended, which resulted in sales of $8.77 million, or 8 percent of the total sales generated by 391 international buyers.

The other sector would be the creative, multimedia and content area of the gaming industry. Today, Malaysia’s digital content industry has succeeded in making the country a regional hub for digital content among Japanese digital content companies.

Based on observations and interactions with Japanese digital content companies, we’ve found that they are keen for outsourcing and finding joint venture partners to further expand both their business and market. At the same time, Malaysian creative talent is recognized for its capability to produce quality 3-D animation and visual effects, post-production work for films and TV and video game development, as well as mobile applications and games. A number of Malaysian digital content players are now providing services to Japan companies.

MATRADE Japan conducted the first Export Acceleration Mission on creative, multimedia and content to Japan in Tokyo last year. Sixteen Malaysian gaming companies and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation participated in the mission, and also took part in the Tokyo Game Show 2016.

MATRADE Japan, with the strong support of the Embassy of Malaysia, strives to promote Malaysia’s exports to Japan through various trade promotion activities such as trade fairs and business matching programs and welcomes enquiries from Japanese companies interested in sourcing products and services from Malaysia.


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