Matrade senior commissioner in New York transferred to Dubai only after a year
NEW YORK, July 16 — It was perhaps one of the shortest stints for a Malaysian trade commissioner at one of the overseas offices.
Only a year into his posting — he had arrived on July 10, 2011 — the senior trade commissioner at the New York office of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Mohd Mustafa Abd Aziz, was transferred four days ago back to Dubai where he had served earlier as the Malaysian consul- general with focus on promoting trade and economic ties.
Mustafa described the transfer as a “routine thing” and “part of our professional lives”.
Mustafa, in an interview with Bernama in New York before he left for Dubai, said his past experience in the Gulf region would come in very handy.
“Of course, I liked the New York posting very much. The US is the world’s biggest market in value terms. It is still replete with opportunities despite the economic slowdown, but Dubai is also an interesting and promising turf for trade and business,” he said.
Mustafa, who served as consul-general in Dubai from December 2000 to January 2004, said Dubai, which has a thriving trade with Malaysia, would serve as an entreport and a hub for trade with the entire Middle East.
Mustafa said he was “excited” about his new posting because Dubai was a major trading hub in the Middle East and Malaysia had already established its brand in the region.
The outgoing senior Matrade commissioner, one of Malaysia’s top experts on trade in the Gulf region, is filling in the top position at Matrade’s Dubai office which was vacant for nearly half a year.
Mustafa averred that Dubai’s economy was rebounding after the economic downturn in that part of the world.
Malaysia, he said, had “worked hard” to position itself in that region in a number of areas.
He said Malaysia’s pioneering work in halal products would be its forte.
“I believe that halal certified products have good business potential in the Gulf,” he said.
Mustafa said he also discerned “good opportunities” for Malaysia in the services sector.
“Islamic banking, for example, is an area that is inherent with good business potential.
“The Gulf’s business community is aware of Malaysia’s brand name.
All we have to do is to build on that foundation. Malaysian companies are also equally keen to penetrate further into the Gulf market,” he said.
The Dubai posting is expected to keep him “on his toes” all the time.
He will be responsible for promoting trade and business ties with the region’s seven countries — a wide canvass that offers immense opportunities but is also not without its challenges.
Mustafa was “quite happy” about his “highly stimulating” posting in New York, a city that is noted for its vibrancy and fast-paced business deals.
American businesses, unlike their counterparts in other Western countries, make quick decisions, a characteristic that Malaysian business people would do well to keep in mind.
Two-way US-Malaysia trade during the first four months of 2012 amounted to US$8.252 billion (RM26.4 billion), down 2.04 per cent over last year.
Mustafa attributed the decline to the overall weak economic recovery in the US where demand for certain industrial products has fallen, but he discerned “bright spots” in the strong rebound in the US imports of furniture (20.24 per cent) and surgical instruments (9.68 per cent).
Integrated circuit (IC) exports from Malaysia took a big hit as they dropped 33 per cent. However, this was part of an overall declining trend in IC exports from the Asean region (-24.33 per cent) to the US.
Malaysia’s palm oil exports also dwindled by 15.98 per cent though Mustafa said this was “more of a reflection on the decline in commodity prices rather than the volume”.
Exports from Asean member countries to the United States posted a modest 4.92 per cent growth to US$39.47 billion compared with US$37.62 billion in the previous year’s corresponding first four months.
Thailand, with US$8.29 billion, is now Asean’s leading exporter to the US. Malaysia is the second largest Asean exporting nation to the United States.
Singapore takes the third position, followed by Vietnam (4th), Indonesia (5th) and the Philippines (6th).
Mustafa underscored the “great significance” of the US market for Malaysia’s exports “even though there are now new attractive emerging markets”.
“No doubt I see a continuation of our very good relationship with the US. Indeed, the US is important not only as a market but also as a strategic partner for Malaysia,” he said, recalling the recent “successful” Malaysia visit by two leading US Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman who had also called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Matrade’s New York office has also been actively pushing its buyers’ programme which entails sending representatives of importing companies to Malaysia and meeting their potential suppliers.
“This buyers’ programme has been a vital part of our match-making exercise,” said Mustafa.
The New York office is also aggressively promoting Malaysian food products to the US.
If in the past it marketed products in Asian supermarkets, there has been a shift to pushing such food products in mainstream American supermarkets.
Mustafa’s successor, Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, has already arrived to take charge of the New York office.
He said that he was “overwhelmed” by New York’s multi-faceted cultural and business diversity, coupled with its excellent infrastructure.
“The US will always be an important market for Malaysian products. We will look forward to building up on our existing strong ties with the US,” he added. — Bernama