More than 200 attendees participated in a conference in Atlanta on Feb. 25 concerning opportunities for doing business in Malaysia that ranged from the development of cyber cities to opening markets for Halal food products that follow Islamic dietary laws.

“There is still considerable scope to increase the volume of two-way trade between the U.S. and Malaysia,” Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia's minister of international trade and industry, told the attendees of the event held at the Omni Hotel in the CNN Center. Nevertheless, she added, that total trade between Malaysia and the U.S. exceeds that of the total trade of the U.S. with Russia and India combined. “That's already astonishing,” she added. Ms. Rafidah led the delegation of Malaysian government and local officials and representatives of Malaysian companies to Atlanta, the first of a three-city tour in the U.S. that would also take them to Raleigh, N.C., and Houston. Ghazzali Abdul Khalid, Malaysia's ambassador to the U.S., also attended the seminar. Malaysia and the U.S. signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in May 2004. The first meeting of the Malaysia-U.S. Joint Council on Trade and Investment was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, earlier in February. “With a Muslim majority and non-Muslim minorities, Malaysia is regarded as the model of a progressive, modern and moderate Muslim country,” Ms. Rafidah said. “Muslims in Malaysia practice the fundamentals of Islam, which emphasize peace, tolerance and harmony.” Malaysia also is focused on developing “high value-added, knowledge and technology-intensive industries,” she said, pointing out frequently that other countries including China are better places to start up enterprises that need many, low-wage workers. For instance, she said that pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia are moving “from basic processes and conventional assembly to product and process research and development, design and prototyping, distribution and logistics.” She said that the automotive, biotechnology, electronics, information and communications technology and medical products industries are those that her country is promoting the most today. U.S. automotive component manufacturers should take advantage of the expanding automotive market in the ASEAN region, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, she said. Last year Malaysia had 49 percent of the total passenger car sales in ASEAN, she said. And, according to Ms. Rafidah, opportunities abounded in other sectors such as offshore banking and tourism. To learn more about the opportunities for doing business in Malaysia, call Phang Ah Tong, consul/investment director, Consulate General of Malaysia in New York, at (212) 687-2491.