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April 19, 2005 -
Florida District Export Council Makes History with “Opportunity Malaysia ‘05”
On Friday, February 25, 2005, 32 company representatives left Fort Lauderdale, Florida and journeyed the 28-hour trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. These 32 individuals were delegates on the Florida District Export Council’s (FDEC) trade mission to Malaysia, which was also the Export Council’s first mission and, according to the Commercial Service in Kuala Lumpur, the largest mission ever from the USA to Malaysia.
The Florida DEC mission, dubbed ‘Opportunity Malaysia 2005,’ took place from February 25 through March 6. FDEC organized the delegation in cooperation with a number of others, including the U.S. Commercial Service, state trade promotion partner, Enterprise Florida, Fedex and FDEC associate member Digital Media Network, Inc., whose principal, Bernhard Schutte, led the planning effort and the delegation while in Malaysia. The delegation visited three cities while in Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Sungai Petani in the state of Kedah. FDEC chose Malaysia as the destination for its first mission because of the perception that Malaysia is quickly becoming an economic hub for Southeast Asia, and is expected to be one of the next big economies for U.S. exports in the booming region. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s principal city, is within 5 hours by air from 60% of the world’s population. By contrast, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is within 5 air hours of only 5% of the world’s population. Nine companies on the mission participated in the U.S. Commercial Service’s Gold Key Service, which consists of highly qualified one-on-one appointments with pre-qualified potential agents, distributors and buyers in country. The Gold Key Service appointments were arranged by the U.S. Commercial Service’s office in Kuala Lumpur.
One of the main concerns voiced by participants prior to departure for Malaysia was nervousness to travel to a Muslim country and hesitation about the manner in which a delegation of American businessmen and women would be received. These fears were immediately laid to rest upon arrival in Malaysia. From start to finish, the delegation experienced red carpet treatment and quickly gained confidence in the receptiveness of the market to Americans and American products and services. William Zarit and Boni Chuah of the U.S. Commercial Service in Kuala Lumpur met the delegation at the airport, providing a commercial briefing and answering questions. While in Malaysia, the delegation received a warm welcome at every stop. In Kuala Lumpur, the group was given the opportunity to have a private, hour-long meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. The group also met with the Chief Ministers of Penang and Kedah, and was treated to an elaborate ceremony while visiting Kedah. Boni Chuah of the U.S. Commercial Service in Kuala Lumpur and Rosnah Majid, CEO of Electronic Business Management, sister company in Malaysia to Digital Media Network, were dedicated to making the mission a success from beginning to end, coordinating all the receptions and arranging the meetings with high-level government officials. Mission Leader Bernhard Schutte commented to the Malaysian press, “From what we have seen and experienced here, Malaysia is certainly the preferred place in the region for our Florida delegation. We are all returning home fulfilled.”
Indeed, the mission participants did return home to Florida fulfilled. The Center for Severe Obesity, headed by Dr. Norman Samuels, has entered into a deal with the Kumpulan Perubatan Johor (KPJ) chain of hospitals in Malaysia to provide training for obesity surgery. When asked about his success on the mission and the overall impression he had of Malaysia, Dr. Samuels replied, “I must say that [my wife] and I were extremely impressed with Malaysia and the friendliness of its people. It is certainly no third world country with its advanced infrastructure and technical advances. The widespread use of English and its British background were particularly helpful and the fact that I was trained in England was an additional advantage for me. Kuala Lumpur is a modern, bustling city and what we were able to see of the rest of the country is beautiful and extremely interesting. We will be returning soon and plan to visit more of the country as well as working with the hospitals owned by KPJ. In particular, we would like to visit Langkawi which appears to equal or exceed any island in the Caribbean in natural beauty and luxury accommodations.”All participants returned to Florida on March 7 with high expectations of success in Malaysia.
Malaysia is quickly becoming a hub for trade with Southeast Asia due to the advantages that it offers. English is the main language used for business in the country, making it easy to communicate directly with business contacts. As late as the 1970s, Malaysia was still a developing economy, based on raw materials and primary goods. Today, Malaysia has grown into one of the world’s major manufacturing hubs. It is a country that understands that to grow its economy, it must have trained and educated workers. The economy grew 4.2% in 2002, 5.3% in 2003, an estimated 7.2% in 2004, and the government has targeted 6% growth for 2005. The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is committed to the continued promotion of international trade and investment in Malaysia.
The leading sectors for U.S. exports and investment in Malaysia are: Healthcare, Franchising, Water and Wastewater Treatment Equipment, Oil and Gas Equipment, Information and Communication Technology and Broadcasting, Municipal Solid Waste Management, Biotechnology, Higher Education, Plastic Materials and Resins, Tourism, and Airport and Seaport Security Equipment. If you are interested in exploring the Malaysian market for yourself, please visit http://www.buyusa.gov/home/export.htmlto locate the U.S. Export Assistance Center nearest you. For more information on ‘Opportunity Malaysia 2005,’ visit http://www.malaysiamission.com/.
Photo by Spurlin Photography, www.spurlinphotography.com.