“AT Kearney ranked Malaysia last year the third best country in the world for outsourcing, after India and China – and that’s a close three,” she told delegates. “So when you think outsourcing, don’t just think India and China; also think Malaysia.”
Many investors are thinking about Malaysia, and this is partly a consequence of the minister’s tireless travel around the world signing trade deals, promoting inward investment and making the business case for setting up operations in Malaysia.
Mrs Rafidah is candid when describing the perception problems her country faces in dealing with international investors. “I am a fundamentalist Muslim,” she announced when addressing the question of whether Malaysia is a safe location. “The real tenants of fundamental Islam are tolerance, respect for other religions, non-violence and moderation. By this definition, the majority of Malaysians are fundamentalist Muslims,” she said.
She is equally straightforward about the rigours of crafting trade agreements: “World Trade Organization negotiations are a tortuous process – I am ageing in the process.”
She shows no signs of giving up, though. The day after her Birmingham appearance, she was travelling to the US to make a joint announcement about a prospective free trade agreement between Malaysia and the US.