KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — Malaysia remains a preferred economic and trade investment destination in the Asean region for Italian companies due to its strategic location and a socio-politically stable climate.
Italian Ambassador to Malaysia, Cristiano Maggipinto, said this is evident in the growing number of Italian companies making Malaysia their hub over the past five years, from a mere 50 to the current 108 companies, he added.
“More and more Italian companies are interested to come to this region generally, as we know the Asean economy is growing very fast.
“And in Asean, many Italian companies prefer to come to Malaysia because they consider Malaysia as the gateway to other Asean countries due to its good geographical position,” he told Bernama International News Service in an interview at Wisma Bernama recently.
He said good infrastructure and connectivity, a highly skilled workforce, low cost of living and the wide use of English language are also among the factors that attracted Italian companies to expand in Malaysia.
Notable Italian companies operating in Malaysia include a global leader in the production of semiconductors, STMielectronics — of which its plant in Johor is one of the biggest and most important in the world — and Fassi, the manufacturer of loader cranes in Puchong, which export its products to other countries in this region.
In the aerospace and defence industry, global player Leonardo has long established itself in Malaysia for over 30 years, providing products and systems including helicopters, radar and air traffic control systems.
The company has also established the Leonardo Helicopter Training Academy Malaysia in Subang, Selangor, in 2012, providing training needs for customers across the region.
Maggipinto said bilateral trade between Malaysia and Italy is growing at an impressive rate. Data from the Italian Institute of Statistics had shown that Malaysia-Italy bilateral trade had increased by 23 per cent in the last five years, amounting close to €2.3 billion (RM10.7 billion).
Italian exports to Malaysia in 2018 accounted for almost €1.2 billion, with industrial machinery and equipment making up a third of its sales in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Malaysian exports to Italy in the same year amounted to over €1.1 billion, where a fourth of its export consists of agricultural products, particularly palm oil.
However, Maggipinto said there are still many unexplored opportunities that both countries should tap into, including in oil and gas, renewable energy, waste management and the automotive sectors.
“Bilateral relations between Malaysia and Italy is excellent from every point of view. Although there had been no visits by top leaders of both countries in recent years, at the ministerial level, engagements have been going on where at least two meetings between ministers at both sides had been held in the last six months.
“For instance, our Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano had visited Malaysia in December last year where he had met with his counterpart and also Deputy Minister of Defence,” he said.
He also saw the need for a closer partnership and further enhancements in fields such as education and culture.
There are currently some 350 Italian students studying in Malaysia. The University of Malaya is the only higher learning institution in Malaysia that has set up the Department of Italian Studies where about 45 students are majoring in Italian Studies.
“Student exchanges in this manner is still low and that is why it is important to create a framework where more cooperation between Malaysia and Italy can be worked out,” he added. — Bernama