A Malaysian delegation was in Southern California to interact with the American business community.
The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) organized a seminar on “Malaysia – U.S. Business Opportunities” held at the Wilshire Grand Hotel Los Angles on December 8. The seminar which was well attended aimed at providing the latest updates on the economy, policies and incentives for business and investment in Malaysia, and a venue to network with Malaysian business leaders.
The panel included Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, Malaysia’s Ambassador to the United States and Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Mahbob, Chairman of MIDA. The seminar was chaired by Marc Mealy, the Acting Vice President of the US-ASEAN Business Council. They pointed out that one of Malaysia’s assets is that Malaysia is a good gateway to trade in the ASEAN region, as well as into China and India.
Malaysia’s imports and exports through Los Angeles have been significant. “Malaysian consumers are eager for American products,” said Mealy. Looking at the present and the near future, Dr Jarjis said that Malaysia has to do a transformation of its economy.
“We’re moving towards a higher technology base and high skilled global talent. We are also excited about the Trans-Pacific Partnership announced by President Obama,” he added.
Datuk John F. Coyne, President and CEO of Western Digital Corporation gave the audience another perspective, from the other side of the coin, so to speak. Western Digital has been in Malaysia for 36 years, and is the country’s largest US corporation employer.
“Our facilities are run by Malaysians. The quality of the employees has enabled us to compete. Labor cost in Malaysia is not the cheapest; but the labor management and technical skills have provided value for over 36 years,” Coyne said.
Coyne gave an interesting comparison of factors considered by Western Digital in deciding to invest in Malaysia in 1973 and in 2009. The main factors considered in 1973 were industrial policy, political stability and tax structure. Labor cost was important at that time.
In 2009, one main factor for the company’s continuing investment and growth in Malaysia is the very consistent industrial policy and political stability over 36 years. Another important factor today is the access to “touch” labor in Thailand and the access to form a manufacturing cluster in the region. ( Touch labor is defined by BusinessDictionary.com as production labor reasonably and consistently assignable to a unit of work.)
One of the participants wanted to know, from Coyne’s experience, what is a mistake that Americans can make in investing in foreign countries. He answered: “We take our own experience from our little world and immediately apply it to another culture, without considering the local context and environment.”
The Malaysian trade delegation also included executives from Malaysian companies and representatives from the state of Pahang, Johor and Penang.