What are the current trade levels between Canada and Malaysia?

MANK: Trade levels between Canada and Malaysia have been fairly steady over recent years and certainly during the two years that I have been High Commissioner here. They are in and around the $3bn mark both ways. Malaysians are selling about $2bn to Canada, and Canada is exporting $1bn into the Malaysian market. It is a good trade relationship. It is one of the largest for Canada in ASEAN, and we are looking for increased levels over the future years. I think there are bright prospects in that regard.

Within which sectors and industries are Canadian companies most active here in Malaysia?

MANK: The number one sector for us in this economy is oil and gas. This is in both directions. We have a tremendous opportunity in both markets for investors to come in to Malaysia and, for example, help with marginal recovery of the oil and gas fields here. Talisman of Canada is the biggest player in this market for us. PETRONAS, the national oil company for Malaysia has recently begun to invest in Canada, and that is a really exciting prospect. They are looking at shale gas. There has been a recent announcement of a proposed takeover of a Canadian company which builds on a joint venture with a company called Progress Energy Resources. It has shale gas deposits in British Colombia, and we are looking at a potentially very large investment that could be one of Canada’s largest.

What are some other major Canadian companies active in the Malaysian market today?

MANK: We have many Canadian companies active in Malaysia. Beyond oil and gas we have a lot of strength in infrastructure. SNC-Lavalin, a large engineering company from Canada, has worked on the rail projects here along with Bombardier, another Canadian company based in Montreal that does aviation and rail. Bombardier has also sold some aircraft here, and we are hoping to sell even more in the future. This is a potential growth area. Aviation is a very important sector for Canada. CAE of Montreal sells flight simulators, and it is probably the largest flight simulator company in the world. It is doing very well in Malaysia training AirAsia pilots, and Malaysian Airlines pilots also do training on Canadian flight simulators. We have Scotiabank and Manulife Insurance, so in the financial services sector we are very active as well. There is a whole array of Canadian companies, and we are active in just about every sector you can think of.

Where do you see future opportunity for Canadian companies in Malaysia and Malaysian companies in Canada?

MANK: It is virtually limitless. The opportunities in both markets are very strong. Felda, for example, is a land development agency in Malaysia, and they have found a niche opportunity in grape seed canola production in Canada using technology from the palm business here, which Malaysia is dominant in globally. They are crushing seeds and producing oils in Canada. They also do a small amount of soybean. We are the largest exporters of soybeans into this market. Basic commodities like soybeans and wheat are what Canada is still very strong at in this market, but this is just one example. Agriculture and certainly the high technology and the IT area, and we have got a lot of opportunity both ways. Also, there is future opportunity within the education sector. We have a tremendous opportunity to educate more Malaysians in Canada. Canadian universities are very excited about the prospects of getting more Malaysian students. We have a very good history in the education sector. We have had about 70,000 Malaysians educated in Canada over the years. Right now, that turns out at about 1500 Malaysians in Canada at any given time. We issue about 800 new visas per year for students going to Canada. This number has grown steadily over the two years that I have been here in Kuala Lumpur. We have seen about a 10-15% increase year on year, and we expect the same this year. There is tremendous opportunity. The Canadian Universities and Colleges come twice a year in large numbers and recruit Malaysian students. They do very well in Canada.

Are there specific challenges inhibiting trade or cooperation between the two countries?

MANK: I do not think there are specific barriers to trade or investment on either side in that sense. The issue is really knowledge, connectivity, and networking. This is true for just about any two countries that are not immediate neighbors. For Canadians, they do not always know enough about Malaysia and vice versa. This is where people like myself come in. It is our job to go out, spread the word, and identify specific opportunities to try and be a marriage broker between the two sides and to find where there are opportunities to build greater understanding. I really do not think there are structural impediments or policy impediments so much as it is just a matter of getting to know each other better.

How would you describe the bilateral relations between Malaysia and Canada?

MANK: The bilateral relations between our two countries really could not be better. We are distant geographically, yet very close through our commonwealth ties. Canada was one of the first countries to recognize Malaysia when it was a new country. We have built on the relationship since. We have had some very interesting visits lately. Our Canadian Governor General paid his first state visit abroad to Malaysia. Last year, it was the first visit by any Canadian Governor to Malaysia, and our trade Minister also visited earlier this year. With these high level visits I think it has helped us increase the attention on both sides to what we have to offer, and I am very optimistic about the future of this relationship. The main messages are that Canada is a great place for doing business for Malaysians, and we are open to that. We would love to see more investment and trade in that direction. At the same time, Canada is very interested in becoming more engaged with Malaysia. They are interested in taking advantage of the friendships and the opportunities that it engenders. Also, this fits in with Canada’s efforts to expand relations in Asia, more generally. Canada is looking to expand relations with ASEAN, APAC, and many of the great institutions that Asia is developing. Canada is a player, wants to be a bigger player, and remains deeply committed and engaged.