The impact of the slow economic recovery is also visible on two-way US-Malaysian trade figures.
According to data from the US Department of Commerce for January-October 2013, total bilateral trade between the US and Malaysia increased by 3.9% to US$33.68 billion, compared to US$32.41 billion in the corresponding
period of 2012.
Total US imports from Malaysia continued to grow at 4.6%, reaching US$22.74 billion (2012: US$21.73 billion), while total US exports to Malaysia increased by 2.6% to US$9.8 billion (2012: US$9.6 billion) during the first 10 months of 2013. The US recorded a trade deficit of US$11.79 billion (2012: US$11.05 billion).
Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, the Malaysian trade commissioner in New York, is optimistic that the ongoing economic recovery in the US will soon show "more positive effects" on bilateral trade.
"According to the data compiled by us, I believe that two-way trade between the US and Malaysia in 2013 will rebound from the US$38.8 billion level in 2012 to reach at least a similar level of 2011 (US$40 billion). However, we expect US
imports from Malaysia will continue to strengthen from US$26 billion in 2012 to roughly US$27 billion for the entire year 2013," Shahrulmiza told Bernama.
As the economic recovery gained steam, there was higher consumer spending which, in turn, has led to an increase in US retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2013, he said.
Also, there is an upsurge in the manufacturing index, as reported by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM): the economic recovery has resulted in a 3.5% GDP growth in the third quarter compared with 2.5% in the previous quarter.
With two-way trade surging to US$40 billion in 2011, the peak year for bilateral trade in the post-crisis years, Malaysia’s exports to the US accounted for US$25.8 billion with imports from the US at US$14.2 billion, resulting in a
trade deficit of US$11.6 billion for the US in 2011.
One of the most promising new export segments for Malaysia has been processed foods whose potential in the US market can be tapped with some savvy marketing.
The New York office of the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) has been aggressively translating the Malaysia Kitchen Programme (MKP) into an effective marketing vehicle in the US since 2010, and highlighting Malaysian cuisine to American consumers through several promotional events.
The Malaysian government launched the MKP as a global initiative to educate consumers about Malaysian cuisine and Malaysian restaurants worldwide.
The recent opening of another Malaysian restaurant called "Rasa" in Manhattan has been well received by New Yorkers.
The restaurant, which is operated by renowned Malaysian chef Tommy Lai and his sister and co-owner Camie Lai — both of whom are from Rasa, Selangor — as well as Michael Lai, a former sushi chef, and Bibi Singh, a Singaporean businesswoman, has received good notices in the US media.
This, according to Shahrulmiza, will popularise Malaysian cuisine and boost the prospect of increasing exports of Malaysian food products, ingredients and spices.
The New York/New Jersey region saw the opening of two more new Malaysian restaurants, Mamak Food House and Taste of Malaysia, bringing the number of Malaysian restaurants now operating in the US and registered under the MKP to86.
"Our media and publicity campaign is aimed at arousing the interest of American food lovers to try Malaysian cuisine and visit Malaysian restaurants in the US.
"The MKP also seeks to facilitate local chefs and restaurateurs to introduce Malaysian cuisine in their establishments," Shahrulmiza said.
Matrade’s New York office plans to take the MKP to the next level in the 2013-2015 period under the slogan "Bringing Malaysian cuisine into every American home".
To sustain the momentum of the past campaign, American consumers will be encouraged to continue to eat Malaysian food not only in restaurants but also prepare it at home, entailing purchases of Malaysian spices, food ingredientsand ready-made food products at various outlets in the country.
Besides Asian supermarkets, efforts will also be intensified to encourage more mainstream supermarkets to sell Malaysian food products.
Shahrulmiza said Malaysia will be participating in at least six major food-related trade fairs in the US. - Bernama, December 27, 2013.