Belgium wants to make more inroads into Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Belgium may not figure prominently in Malaysia, but that has not stopped the small but thriving European nation from wanting to make further inroads here. 

After all, it is one of 16 countries that have enjoyed half a century of diplomatic relations with Malaysia. 

Belgian ambassador to Malaysia Dr Frank Van de Craen said not many here were aware of the long-standing bilateral relations between the two nations. 

“Belgium is one of the six founding members of the European Community and we can play a bigger role here in Malaysia,'' he told StarBiz in an interview. “Trade is going well but we can do much better.” 

Craen, who was posted here last year, said bilateral trade amounted to 800 million euros (RM4bil), with Malaysia's imports accounting for 500 million euros (RM2.5bil). 

“The Belgian economy is also performing well, with more than 3% gross domestic product (GDP) growth last year. Malaysian businessmen should take note,” he said. 

Malaysia’s main exports to Belgium comprised electronic products, plastics, fertilisers and wood, while its main imports were fertilisers, medicaments, flat-rolled products of alloy steel and organo-inorganic compounds. 

Although its geographic area (32,545 sq km) may not measure up to its European neighbours, Belgium’s per capita GDP ranks among the world’s highest. 

Craen drew attention to Belgium being a highly developed market economy and a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and its location “at the heart of one of the world’s most highly industrialised regions.” 

Being one of the “privileged” countries as far as relations with Malaysia were concerned, the envoy said Belgium planned to take advantage of commemorative events being planned to make its “presence” better felt. 

He said the 27-member European Union (EU) was planning a “European Week” in September for promotional purposes. 

“We are also planning some form of food and drinks festival,” he said. 

Belgium is famed for its exquisite chocolates and beer, and has universal appeal as a gourmet’s paradise. Its capital Brussels is one of Europe’s main restaurant cities. 

Craen said Europe’s interest in Malaysia was evident, with 19 of the EU member countries having diplomatic missions here. 

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