It is a pleasure for me to be here with you tonight and see and feel the richness of the business relations between Malaysia and Denmark. The number of companies, partners, business associates, governmental authorities, and friends of the Danish business community, who are represented here tonight, is testimony to the solid and beneficial bilateral relations.
The geographical distance and cultural differences between Malaysia and Denmark might, in the first instance, appear large. However, the thriving business relations confirms the old Malay proverb that two so different ingredients; as salt from the sea and tamarind from the mountains go perfectly together [”Asam di gunung, garam di laut bertemu dalam satu belanga”].
Centuries ago – despite the enormous geographical distance – merchant ships from Denmark established contact with, what is now, Malaysia. In the 19th century, adventurous Danes arrived to seek their fortune as traders, craftsmen and workers on plantations. The lives of some of them have even become a part of the history of Malaysia.
Take for instance; Feilberg.
Having trained as a photographer in his home town of Ribe in Southern Jutland, he crossed half the globe to arrive in Penang in 1862, where he established himself with a business in Beach Street. Kristen Feilberg may not have thought much about history when he climbed the tower in Light Street to get a bird’s eye view of Penang, but from this vantage point he captured the now famous ten-part panorama of Penang. Feilberg took the very first photographic documentation of what is today Malaysia, and captured images of the people who were living here 150 years ago.
Since then, contacts became more frequent. The plantation industry was particularly attractive for many Danes. And around the time of independence it was estimated that there were more Danes living in Malaysia, than in the rest of Southeast Asia combined.
Denmark immediately recognised the new nation of Malaysia after independence and established an embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 1963. Exactly 50 years ago. 1963 was also the year that my mother in law, the Queen of Denmark – at that time a young Crown Princess – visited Malaysia.
Since independence, the trade between our two countries has grown steadily. And many of you here tonight are the faces behind that growth. Products such as palm oil, timber and furniture are among the goods imported to Denmark. While industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals, food and agricultural products and consumer goods are among those we export to Malaysia.
In addition to physical goods, the export of services is increasing, particularly in the areas of; IT, engineering, design, architecture and financial services, and of course shipping and tourism, both of which are important parts of the services sector.
It is worth noting that in 2012, Denmark was one of the largest European investors in Malaysia. And likewise, Malaysian investments in Denmark were equal with its investments in some of the largest European economies.
However, in the modern age of globalisation trade relations have become more complex and therefore also difficult to capture in traditional statistics on bilateral trade. For example, such statistics do not account for Danish companies with production in Malaysia that are almost exclusively aimed at exports to third countries. But they are here; from Johor in the South to Penang in the North.
Currently, there are around 65 subsidiaries of Danish companies established in Malaysia, and many more that are represented through local agents and distributors. There is a strong and growing presence of Danish Companies, which reflects the important and profitable business relations between our two countries.
There are no reasons why Danish-Malaysian trade relations should not continue to grow and expand. Malaysia and Denmark are both open economies with a vibrant private sector, who energetically pursue growth opportunities around the world. In international studies, both are ranked among the best in the world with respect to ‘the ease of doing business’.
Malaysia is also working together with its Southeast-Asian neighbours towards realising the ASEAN Economic Community by the end of 2015. And the EU and Malaysia are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, which will further reduce the limitations for doing business and thereby increase bilateral trade opportunities.
As Malaysia continues its economic and governmental transformation to become a high-income nation, many of Denmark’s strong competences will become increasingly relevant for Malaysia, in particular; life sciences, ICT, food processing and cleantech sectors with enormous unrealised potential.
Tonight’s event is but a small contribution to realising our full potential and I hope that the coming years will see an expansion of the solid business relations between our two countries.
Thank you – terima kasih.