Malaysia 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

MDBC's network, guidance, and wide range of services will be key if Malaysia is to remain the second-largest trading partner of the Netherlands within ASEAN.

Marco Winter
Marco Winter has more than 30 years’ experience in events, leisure, recreational, and hospitality management, marketing, sponsorships, and TV and video production in the Netherlands, the US, and since 1993 in Malaysia. As Executive Director of MDBC since 2003, Winter has been responsible for the chamber’s growth in size and exposure, including a seven-fold increase in memberships, chapters in Penang and Johor, and special programs.

What have been the main recent highlights and achievements of MDBC?

In 2018, MDBC won the APAC 2018 International Chambers of Commerce Membership Engagement Program of the Year Awards. In 2019, we were recognized as one of the top Dutch chambers in the world, being only the second to receive the NLinBusiness quality mark at an accreditation ceremony held in the presence of the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Stef Blok. We surpassed the milestone of 1,000 placed students for our Student Internship Program (SIP) in 2018 and continue to grow the program. Equally important, we continue to see a growth in memberships from 40 in 2003 to nearly 300 in 2019.

What is the scope of services you provide to your members?

MDBC provides business services, representation, and networking for all members and businesses with Malaysian-Dutch links. Oftentimes, Dutch entrepreneurs looking to enter the Malaysian market will approach us. We guide them in the set-up process and put them in touch with the necessary local authorities and our members who provide a wide variety of services—everything from corporate secretariat, flexible work spaces, and relocation services to branding and logistics support, to name just a few. We also directly offer visa services, career services, and provide our member companies with Dutch student interns through our SIP program to help them with special projects. Additionally, as Malaysia's is a relationship-based business environment, we help them establish these relationships at the frequent informative and networking events that we organize. MDBC is recognized as one of the most active business councils in Malaysia, so there is ample opportunity for networking. With chapters in Penang and Johor, we are able to provide these services and networking opportunities even for organizations located in the northern and southern regions of the country. With our fellow, bilateral chambers, MDBC also does lobbying for our members as and when issues arise in the business community. With a collective presence, we can more effectively bring the issues and concerns of the Malaysian-Dutch business community to the Malaysian government, often resulting in a quicker resolution.

How do you assess the importance of the ASEAN region, and in particular Malaysia, for the Netherlands?

ASEAN and Malaysia are growing in importance to the Netherlands. The Netherlands' Ministry of Economic Affairs has now placed ASEAN-5 (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam) in second spot, only behind China, in its ranking of priority countries and regions. With a combined GDP of USD2.63 trillion and a fast-growing market of over 630 million consumers, the ASEAN market is a dynamic one. It provides interesting business opportunities for Dutch companies in a wide variety of areas. Within that, Malaysia is a significant market for the Netherlands. In 2018, trade between the Netherlands and Malaysia amounted to a total of EUR7.87 billion. Dutch investments in Malaysia increased with impressive numbers in 2018. Malaysia remains an important market for Dutch machinery and transport equipment, food products and live animals, and meat and meat preparations. Malaysia remains the second-largest trading partner of the Netherlands within ASEAN, leaving only Singapore ahead as the regional transshipment hub.

How do you assess the ease of doing business in Malaysia for Dutch investors?

Dutch investors benefit from the access that Malaysia provides to a much wider region, and there are similarities between the Netherlands' role in the EU and Malaysia's role in ASEAN. These past 10-15 years, significant improvements have been made in the ease of doing business in Malaysia, and the country has the rankings to prove it. Organizations such as MIDA, MDEC, and TalentCorp, together with the various state investment agencies and economic corridors, have all provided substantial support to foreign investors. As chambers, we have emphasized to the new government the importance of consistency in matters that effect trade and investments; certain laws and guidelines have to be maintained, or for any proposed changes there should first be a dialogue with the corporate sector.