Malaysia eyes new, expanding investments from Italy

by S BIRRUNTHA/pic by Muhd Amin Naharul

MALAYSIA is looking for new and expanding investments from Italy, with a particular focus on new growth areas, including digital investments.

Minister in the Prime Minister Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (picture) said Malaysia recorded a significant 21.7% growth in total trade with Italy last year.

Mustapa added that during the first four months of 2022, Malaysia’s total trade with Italy has increased by almost 30% to about US$1.5 billion (RM6.63 billion) compared to the corresponding period in 2021.

“Malaysia would like to see more Italian investments in our country and in the region. There is no reason why Italy should stop at being only the third-largest European Union (EU) trading partner in Malaysia.

“Malaysia is, of course, proud to be home to a number of Italian investments. As of December, last year, a total of 75 manufacturing projects with Italian participation (valued at US$363.8 million) have been implemented across the country,” Mustapa said in his keynote address at the High-Level Dialogue on Asean-Italy Economic Relations 2022 in Kuala Lumpur today.

These investments have created 4,320 job opportunities for locals, he added.

Currently, Italy is Malaysia’s third-largest global trading partner among the EU member states.

He also highlighted that Italian investments are generally perceived in Malaysia to signify quality investments that create quality jobs for locals.

“Besides that, Italian cultural exports, such as art, music, and football, have only served to further solidify the good reputation that you (Italy) enjoy in our part of the world,” said the minister.

Malaysia and Italy have always enjoyed a longstanding relationship, where its diplomatic ties were first established in 1957 — the year of Malaysia’s independence.

He noted that over the decades, the two countries have effectively cooperated not only in trade and business but also in maintaining that more elusive relationship of enjoying genuine friendly people-to-people ties.

Mustapa reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, promote environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, and strive toward becoming a more circular economy.

“Of course, I believe we can learn a lot from our Italian friends on this. I note that in February this year, the Italian government amended its constitution to explicitly include protecting the environment as a fundamental principle,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mustapa also said during these unprecedented times, all countries in Asean should take the opportunity to forge even closer ties with each other, and also with neighbouring countries outside the region.

He noted that Asean has a GDP of approximately US$3 trillion and a population of 660 million dominated by a young workforce.

According to the Asean Development Outlook (ADO) Report, the region will be the fourth-biggest economy in the world by 2030 after the US, China, and the EU.

“As long as all of us work together, and implement the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), we will come out of this crisis stronger. The ACRF is key to maximising the potential of the intra-Asean market as a means of economic recovery.  

“An open Asean economy unafraid of seizing the opportunities presented by free trade agreements, comprehensive economic partnerships and foreign direct investments, will lead to a more prosperous and stronger Asean community,” he said.

The Asian Development Bank is forecasting Asean’s GDP to expand by 5.2% in 2022 and 5.3% in 2023.

According to Mustapa, the Asean economy expanded by 3% in 2021, and FDIs in the region grew for the third consecutive year in 2021, rising 19% to an all-time high of US$619 billion.

“South-East Asia is an area fast becoming the preferred investment destination of nations all across the world.

“This year, I think I speak for all of us when I say that the region will be able to maintain this growth momentum,” he said.