“Malaysians love Thai products and services, because they are very diverse,” says Patcha Wutipan, Minister Counsellor (Commercial), Malaysia. “For Thai companies interested in doing business with Malaysia, just follow regulations and make everything right so you can trade there.”
Malaysia is a major trading partner with Thailand, when compared with other ASEAN countries. Each year the average trade is $20 billion, with current growth more than 7%.
According to Wutipan, Malaysia’s own economic growth makes it an interesting trading partner for Thailand. So far in 2018, Malaysia’s GDP growth rate stands at 5-5.5%, which is high compared to other ASEAN countries. Another reason is Malaysia’s high purchasing power, with a population of about 31 million and an average income of more than US$10,000 per annum.
Wutipan believes that tourism can play an important role in promoting trade between the neighbouring countries. “Thailand’s tourism industry can draw Malaysians to visit [the country] and get to know Thai products and services very well,” she says. “Most Malaysians visiting Thailand have a massage, shop and eat Thai food. The number of Malaysian tourists visiting Thailand is second only to China, standing at about three million per year.”
One of the challenges in doing business with Malaysia is the country’s regulations. “For food, there is the Food Act that lists the substances that are allowed and which are not allowed to be put in food,” Wutipan says, adding that agricultural products must be clearly labelled.
As with the rest of the world, Malaysia’s e-commerce is growing, with online shopping sites, such as Lazada, 11street and Shopee, in high demand.
“Businesses do not need to be manufacturers themselves. They can be consolidators who collect the goods and then provide delivery services. This is another interesting business,” she adds. “Malaysians prefer different products, so this provides an opportunity for Thailand to penetrate Malaysian markets. Thai entrepreneurs need to explore what they already have in the country. Then offer something different.”
The Top Thai brand exhibition will be held at the KL Convention Centre, Malaysia’s premier trade show centre, in May this year to help promote Thai products in the country. Around 100 booths will display products from Thai businesses, with further stalls for Malaysian agents and importers.
Wutipan adds that this year, the DITP in Malaysia is pushing for more e-commerce, with discussions with 11street about how to promote goods from SMEs, emphasising both the quality and uniqueness of the products.
Words by Natthinee Ratanaprasidhi