CARI, which is focused on ASEAN Research and Advocacy, in partnership with ASEAN Business Club hosted a webinar under its flagship Invest ASEAN series on ‘Italian Industry Expertise in Malaysia’.

The session featured keynote speaker Dato’ Azman Mahmud, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA); His Excellency Cristiano Maggipinto, Ambassador of Italy in Kuala Lumpur; Luciano Pezzotta, Deputy Chairman of Eurocham Malaysia and Executive Board Member of the Italy Malaysia Business Association (IMBA); Lamberto Barbieri, Managing Director of CRIF Regional Headquarters (HQ) in Asia; Vincenzo Alaimo, President of the Italy Malaysia Business Association and Vice President of Asia Pacific, Global Sales of Leonardo (Helicopters Division); and Dr Luciano Giorgi, Country Manager (Malaysia) of Maire Tecnimont and Chairman of Allied Elite Limited.

Moderated by Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, Chairman of CARI, the discussion emphasised on the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement providing an outstanding platform for multinationals to tap into the regional trading area that represents 30% of the world’s GDP. Malaysia as a vibrant RCEP member provides significant trading and investment opportunities, including for the Italian businesses operating in the region.

Italian investments in Malaysia have ventured in various sectors as oil and gas, petrochemicals, aerospace, and the green and circular economy. Greater collaboration between Malaysia and Italy will further open Malaysia’s private sector to tap into Italy’s advanced technological expertise and expedite the momentum of Malaysia’s digital economy.

ASEAN as a growing trade and investment hub

Tan Sri Dr. Munir stated in his opening statement that the Invest ASEAN series intends to provide an active forum for influential policymakers and corporate leaders to share and identify key opportunities for growth and development in the ASEAN region through an analysis on the emerging trends affecting global business and markets.

“Notwithstanding the COVID-19-induced global slowdown, ASEAN remains a dynamic region. With a combined GDP of US$3.2 trillion in 2019, ASEAN represented the fifth-largest economy in the world. As the central player of the RCEP Agreement, ASEAN provides a regional platform for external businesses to tap into the largest free trade agreement in the world. With 15 signatories, RCEP represents a market of 2.2 billion people and a combined GDP of US$26.2 trillion,” said Tan Sri Dr. Munir.

He added, “On the other side of the equation, many of us do not recognise Italy is well above the EU average in the production and use of industrial robots and in the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies such as the cloud, IoT and M2M (machine to machine) communications. It is the second largest manufacturer in the EU, after Germany. Therefore, its strong industrial base and awareness of digitalisation are something which ASEAN countries would want to be engaged with.”

Italy remains committed to Malaysia as trading and investment partner

H.E. Cristiano Maggipinto stressed that Italy has pursued a strategy with the aim of strengthening relations with ASEAN, as demonstrated by the fact that, at the 53rd Session of the ASEAN Ministers of Foreign Affairs Summit, Italy’s candidacy as Development Partner of the Association was unanimously approved.

“This important outcome institutionalises political, economic and social ties grown over time, which give us a prominent role in Southeast Asia. In this framework, Italy has given new depth to the relations with Malaysia, which represents one of the most relevant actors in the area and offers a number of benefits not easily found in the region,” states Ambassador Maggipinto.

He points out that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade between Italy and Malaysia in the first seven months of 2020 remained at similar levels to 2019. Italian companies currently operating in Malaysia are found in a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, defense and aerospace, construction, automotive, and chemicals.

Government undertaking major initiatives to drive investments into Malaysia

Dato’ Azman Mahmud stressed that Malaysia continues to be a competitive investment destination despite the global uncertainties, with US$26.4 billion worth of approved investments in the overall economy in the first nine months of 2020. In fact, investments approved in the manufacturing sector for the period of January to September 2020 saw an increase of 16.6% in capital investments, compared to the corresponding period in 2019 which saw an increase of only 3.2%. The Malaysian government is currently undertaking additional initiatives to drive further foreign investments, such as easing operating of businesses through digitalising selected government services, providing tax incentives for the pharmaceutical and services sectors, and implementation of a One Stop Centre (OSC) to facilitate the entry of business travelers into the country.

“Malaysia’s economic structure and solid macroeconomic management continue to support the country’s economic fundamentals as we advance into the new normal. As we move towards strategic diversification, particularly in high-value products and high-end services, the country offers vast opportunities for Italian investments in high-quality machinery and equipment, aerospace, green technology, automotive technologies, and industrial design. MIDA is optimistic that more quality investment will be coming to Malaysia in the coming years,” said Dato’ Azman.

Dato’ Azman also urged Malaysia’s private sector to leverage upon Italian technological expertise to help facilitate Malaysia’s own digital economy, which is projected to grow by 21% between 2020 and 2025, reaching an estimated US$30 billion gross merchandise value (GMV) by 2025.

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