For more than 7 years, Alexander Stedtfeld was the Executive Director of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MGCC) in Kuala Lumpur. On 1 August, 2015 he returned to Germany to assume his new post at the Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy in Berlin. His successor in Malaysia is Mr. Daniel Bernbeck, formerly Executive Director of AHK Iran.
MALAYSIA INSIGHTS had the opportunity to talk to Mr Stedtfeld shortly before he left Kuala Lumpur.
Mr. Stedtfeld, looking back on your tenure in Malaysia since 2008, what is your personal assessment?
It was an exciting time and we were able to achieve a lot in the chamber. By expanding our range of services we have responded to the growing interest of German companies in the Southeast Asian market. We are now able to serve the enterprises during the complete timeline of their commitment in Malaysia with our experienced and motivated team. In that, we have a special look at the demands of the mid tier.
In addition, we have established ourselves in the past few years in some strategic areas. These include corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental technologies, renewable energies and energy efficiency as well as vocational training. One highlight is certainly the development of a dual vocational training for industrial and logistics merchants who went into their second year in June 2015 and – starting this year – mechatronics. Thus, we bring German standards to Malaysia.
What, in your opinion, were the most important developments that have occurred in Malaysia during your tenure?
The strength of Malaysia lies in its consistency, both economically and politically. The country shows a steady economic growth. Even in the crisis years, Malaysia’s economy has proven quite robust with clearly lower losses than many countries in the region.
Politically, we observed a higher commitment of the government to the interests of a diversified civil society. Certainly, the country can catch up in terms of transparency and integrity, but with the transformation programs in politics and business initiated by the government a good path has been taken.
This year, Malaysia holds the ASEAN chairmanship. How do you rate the first six months? What has been achieved, what is still on?
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) coming into force this year is a process in which no great leaps are to be expected during a presidency. The Malaysian government is concentrating on the main task, to make the AEC more transparent and to promote its benefits, in particular for civil society and small and medium enterprises.
With regard to the freedom of freight traffic ASEAN is well on the way towards a single market. However, the harmonisation of standards, norms and administrative procedures, the mutual recognition of registrations and licenses or the free choice of employment – at least for skilled workers and university graduates – still require considerable effort.
What are the advantages Malaysia for German investors compared to other Asian countries?
Malaysia’s strength lies in a well-balanced package. Other states in the region may have advantages here and there, but at the end of the day the overall evaluation is decisive, and in this regard Malaysia is often in the lead.
The excellent location factors include extremely pro-business policies, attractive investment incentives, efficient economic management, substantial governmental investment in the development of skilled labor and a solid level of protection of intellectual property. What makes Malaysia even more attractive, is the quite well-developed local industry. Many German companies work successfully together with Malaysian partner companies that meet the high level required in terms of quality, delivery and service.
How many German companies are active in Malaysia?
Some 400 German companies have a presence in Malaysia, including most of the DAX 30 companies. Many enterprises have already been here for a long time. For example, Behn Meyer will next year celebrate its 125th anniversary in Malaysia. Others can look back on many decades of successful engagements here.
What encourages us especially in the conviction of the long-term attractiveness of the business location Malaysia, is the large number of medium-sized companies that have established themselves successfully, and the continuous expansion of the activities of large companies.
We observed in recent years that the view goes to Malaysia always little on a low-cost manufacturing base, but the considerations are more focused on opening up the dynamic Southeast Asian market and often build companies doing their own innovation and training capacity. These are clear indicators of the long-term strategic direction and commitment for us.