Tag Archives: MATRADE

Blazing a Path in International Trade 披荆斩棘之国际商道


Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum

CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) 2011-2015

“The different settings of each ministry have given a rounded education and experience that money cannot buy.”

Taking the lead in a challenging industry such as international trade is not an easy task and one that not many can boast of. Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum is one such leader who had led the industry to greater heights during her service as the Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Having spent decades in the public sector, Wong has held various capacities in several ministries which she believes was a privilege. “The different settings of each ministry have given a rounded education and experience that money cannot buy,” she said of the various departments she had worked in.

She first started out her career in the Ministry of Health (MOH) as an assistant secretary in the Contracts and Supply Division and later the Budget Division. “I learnt the length and breadth of planning, budgeting and supplying in a government setting from the beginning,” she said.

It was also while holding that position that she discovered civil service is not a nine-to-five job but one that demands more. “It is full of challenges especially when MOH is such an important part of the social sector,” she said. After serving in MOH, she eventually went on to serve in other ministries including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs and finally, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

She was the Chief Executive Officer of MATRADE up till June 2015 but during her tenure there, she had successfully led the execution of over 100 events domestically and internationally each year. “Over the 2012 to 2015 period, I was involved in many projects domestically and internationally,” she said. Amongst the projects within the country that she had led included conferences such as the World Trade Promotion Organisations (TPO) Network Conference, developmental programmes such as Youth-in-Trade and Mid-Tier Programme and international exhibitions such as MIHAS and INTRADE. “I also led numerous ‘buyer-seller meets’ for international events such as International Construction Week (ICW), Offshore Technology Conference Asia (OTC) and Kuala Lumpur International Aerospace Business Convention (KLIABC),” said Wong.

Internationally, Wong took charge of major projects in the likes of Malaysia Night at Trafalgar Square in London, Discover Malaysian Art in Melbourne, China ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), Malaysia Week in Myanmar and India. “My last 6 months being with MATRADE was the World Expo in Milan, where I was the Deputy Commissioner General for Malaysia,” she said.

The Malaysian team with Datuk Dr Wong, (front row; 4th from right) and Ch’ng (front row; 1st from right)

“The greatest challenge is creating a balance. The government is not without limitations and as service providers we need to prioritise and stay focused on our kpis for appropriate results.”

Taking charge of such a large and important organisation is not a bed of roses as Wong can attest to. “The greatest challenge is creating a balance. The government is not without limitations and as service providers we need to prioritise and stay focused on our KPIs for appropriate results,” she said. Being a woman in a man’s world also carries with it some challenges but Wong said this was also to her advantage.

“Admittedly, it is still a man’s world especially at the top and women must stay strong to get there,” she said. While it is true that a woman needs to put in extra effort to show their capabilities as leaders and managers, she believes that it is women’s passion that drives women to success. “I believe that women are creatures of passion and this passion is what drives them to achieve the unexpected. Contrary to common thought, women of today handle things differently and are capable of controlling their emotions,” she added.

On facing up to the challenge of promoting Malaysian products and services to the world, she said it is no easy task because most Malaysian products are not outstanding in terms of quality and finishing. “Malaysians are slow in terms of branding and differentiating their product and service offerings,” she said. While Malaysians generally provide better after sales service, Wong said Malaysian products are simply not competitive enough especially in a price war. “For certain exports which are agro-based, the supply situation is still wanting and certain domestic processes still need to be improved,” she said.

“Malaysians are slow in terms of branding and differentiating their product and service offerings.”

Even for the services sector, it is another challenge to move Malaysian service providers out of their comfort zones to venture out overseas. “For some who are more adventurous, they face stumbling blocks such as accreditation, job experience overseas and adequate financing,” she said. Therefore, it is not easy to promote Malaysia to the world especially in countries that have very high technical barriers in terms of standards and procedures. “For such countries, a market presence is essential and events and programmes must be done repeatedly to gain attention and mind share,” she said. “It also requires a lot of intervention with the authorities, industry association, chambers of commerce and the trade community in the host country,” Wong added.

Datuk Dr Wong, presenting ‘Salam – London’, a national gift by the Malaysian government to the City of London, received by Victoria Borwick, Deputy Mayor of London during the Malaysia Night 2013 celebration at Trafalgar Square.

Now that Wong has retired from MATRADE, she is not sitting on her laurels but continued to provide service and this time, through education. ”Currently, I am spending a lot of time engaging with the young through teaching at universities,” she said. Together with some friends, she had started a finishing school called Le NouveauPro (The New Professional). She explained that it is a training platform which is aimed at filling the gap between the academia and working life.

“It is not just about eating right and dressing right but about the soft skills needed to fit into the work environment. So, I hope to make a difference for both employers and employees,” she said. The Le NouveauPro is open to university and college students, as well as young recruits. Wong is also actively contributing to the private sector and holds positions on several boards of large corporations.

CHT Pursuit of Excellence (Business : Government) Award 2013

CHT Pursuit of Excellence (Business : Government) Award 2013





2015年6月,黄丽心卸下了MATRADE首席执行员的重担,她在任期间,每年成功领导并执行超过100项国内外贸易计划。在2012年到2015年期间,黄丽心投入许多国内外计划。她在国内领导包含世界贸易促进机构(TPO)网络会议,青年贸易发展项目(Youth-in-Trade),中层计划(Mid-Tier Programme)和国际展览会MIHAS与INTRADE等。她也撮合引导许多买卖双方会面的国际会议:如国际工程建筑周(ICW),亚洲国际石油技术展览会(OTC)和吉隆坡国际航空航天商业会议(KLIABC)。








从MATRADE前线退下后,她没有坐享之前积攒的荣誉,而是继续提供服务,但这一次是透过教育渠道。目前,她耗费了大量心力通过大学教学与年轻人交流。她与志同道合友人设置了一家精修学校名为Le NouveauPro(新专业)。她解释,这个培训平台旨在填补学术技能与工作生活之间的鸿沟差距。

“不仅仅是正确标准的饮食和着装,但也强调软技能以适应工作环境。我希望雇主和员工双方都能做出良性转变。”Le NouveauPro开放予大学和学院生,只要是年轻的新兵。黄丽心同时活跃贡献于私营领域,并在多家大公司董事会担任职务。

Malaysia Setting Foot in Germany

Malaysian footwear and accessories industry have recently gained special exposure in Germany at the Global Destination for Shoes (GDS) and Tag It! event held in Dusseldorf, Germany. A total of 10 Malaysian companies, with the assistance of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), have participated in this international trade fair. 

GDS and Tag It! event is considered a good platform to highlight Malaysian capabilities in the footwear and accessories industry and it also helps create a stronger presence for Malaysian products in a global market particularly the European market.

The event concluded with RM42 million of export sales generated by the participating Malaysian companies.

In 2014, Malaysia’s global exports of footwear rose by 4% to RM 493.10 million as against 2013. For the first half of 2015, exports of footwear totaled at RM263.6 million, an increase of 7.9% as compared to the same period of last year.

International buyers that are keen to source from Malaysian companies can contact MATRADE by visiting
http://www.matrade.gov.my or email to

For more information, please visit http://www.matrade.gov.my or follow MATRADE on Twitter – @matrade and Facebook – MATRADE HQ

The Malaysian Art Industry

The Asian art market is currently one of the fastest growing business markets in the world, with China, Indonesia and India leading the charge followed by emerging countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore and even Myanmar. Auction houses are consistently hammering art pieces into record prices, making it hard to believe that some still consider art as nothing but a beautiful object that one should only acquire when spare cash is available. This primitive perception has long been overturned in the West where art is not only considered an important part of a growing civilisation, but is also a lucrative and exciting investment. Art in the West do not only to adorn walls, but are also regarded as assets that are kept in the accounting books.

Malaysian contemporary art scene has been relatively slow in entering the international arena. There are artists who have been struggling throughout the years on their own, trying to make a name in the West without the backing of their motherland and it is an uphill task.

The establishment of the National Art Gallery (now known as National Visual Arts Gallery or NVAG) in 1958 by Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was the most important milestone in the Malaysian art history. However, as it happens in almost every other developing country, art came to be considered the ‘adopted child’ in terms of priorities. Fortunately there have been some collectors and institutions collecting Malaysian art since its early days. Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) was one of the early institutions that, through the leadership of its second governor, Tun Ismail Ali, started collecting and supporting Malaysian art since 1962. It was indeed an important step towards recognizing art talents and helping the art industry but the influence then was very much limited.

Many art groups and art societies were formed in the name of art between the 1940s and the 1960s, but most did not survive as art was a tough profession then to be associated with. Remarkably, the oldest registered art society in Malaysia, the Penang Art Society, has not only survived, it has thrived and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2013 and boasts a national membership of more than 400.

Furthermore, the support from senior art promoters is invaluable. One of them, Dato’ Dr Tan Chee Khuan, is probably one of the heavyweights in promoting Malaysian pioneer artists since the early 1980s. He has published more than thirty books about Malaysian art and has also donated millions worth of art works to both the national and state art galleries. A person of such vision and patriotism is a rare breed.

Other art related figures are Ooi Kok Chuen and Dr Zakaria Ali, both art writers that have been consistently contributing to local art happenings and its progress through their pens for the past twenty odd years. The setting up of Petronas Gallery in 1993 provided extra avenues in the art market, and together with NVAG, both organisations have consistently collected, exhibited and supported Malaysian contemporary art. Another important Malaysian art movement was the art residency projects by both public institutions and private organisations that provided a platform for artists to excel.

In 2008, art entrepreneur and collector Datuk Vincent Sim pulled his resources together and created another milestone in the Malaysian art industry by conceiving Malaysia’s very own international art exposition – Art Expo Malaysia. It was a move that initially many had thought off as another white elephant, but Datuk Sim and son Sim Pojinn have proved the critics wrong as the show has gone from strength to strength through years of hard work.

Another instrumental development in the Malaysian art front was the Malaysian government’s helping hand in making this art expo even more successful. The 1MCAT (1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism) programme that was initiated in 2010 was the brainchild of the Ministry of Tourism (now known as Ministry of Tourism and Culture) with the intention to promote contemporary Malaysian art as a tourism product catering to the tourists visiting the country.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry, through its external promotion arm, MATRADE, also joined in providing certain tax claimable incentive for local exhibitors, making it more attractive to join in and promote Malaysian art in local and international expositions. Furthermore, it has provided special rates on the space rentals in MATRADE Exhibition & Convention Centre where the Art Expo Malaysia has been holding its expositions for the last few years.

In 2009, prominent Malaysian real estate consultancy, Henry Butcher (HB), teamed up with Vincent Sim and started the HB Art Auction. The arrival of the first proper art auction house in Malaysia was a major boost to the art industry, eliminating the taboo of Malaysian contemporary art having an almost non-existence secondary market. KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) Art Auction was the second one to join the party in 2012, followed by the Indonesian-owned Masterpiece Auction and the Edge Auction in 2013, making an unprecedented yet impressive record of four auction houses conducting more than 10 auctions annually!

With positive anticipation from local art patrons and collectors, the domestic market for Malaysian contemporary art is heading for a bull run. For example, top framer Pinkguy’s gallery reported sold out exhibitions in 2013 of two artists – Suzlee Ibrahim and Ch’ng Huck Theng – less than half an hour after the exhibitions’ openings.

On the other hand, important commercial art galleries, such as Valentine Willie Fine Arts, Wei Ling Gallery, Galeri Chandan and Richard Koh Fine Art, are among the Malaysian galleries that frequent regional art exhibitions, including Hong Kong and Singapore, to further promote their resident artists. The consistency of these galleries’ participations is highly dependent on the commercial return or simply how profitable, but it nonetheless is an applaudable move.

Back in 2009, the NVAG, then led by Director General Datuk Dr Mohamed Najib and its Board, decided to seek MATRADE’s expertise to assist in promoting Malaysian contemporary art overseas. It was not an easy task as art was never considered a product of trade by the ministry. The move was necessary and important as NVAG was of the opinion that there was no proper department in the government sector designated to promote Malaysian art professionally and efficiently in the international stage.

The first meeting was held in MATRADE with Zanita Anuar and Ch’ng Huck Theng representing NVAG and Mustafa Aziz representing MATRADE Centre. As Malaysian contemporary art was at its very early stages in international recognition and without the backing of the government, it was obviously a very difficult journey to pursue. It was akin to a new Malaysian brand or product with a lot of potential trying to penetrate the international market with limited funds and experience.

The big breakthrough was in 2011 for Malaysian contemporary art when it was considered by MATRADE as a product in the soft export category. In mid-2013 MATRADE CEO Datuk Dr. Wong decided to take up the challenge and assist the Malaysian contemporary art, promoting it as a brand and product of Malaysia. This collaboration with NVAG will see Malaysian art promotions in London, Melbourne and Miami. Arts Kuala Lumpur, or Arts KL, is the brainchild of MATRADE, spearheading Malaysian contemporary art into the international business of art by providing a vital connection between local Malaysian art talents and international art players. This is a move that will eventually prosper the Malaysian art business internationally and benefit generations to come.

Discover Malaysia Art

Malaysian Art Showcases In Melbourne

From 11 to 18 November 2013, Australian art lovers, collectors and the public had the privilege of personally getting acquainted with Malaysian art at a special exhibition titled ‘Arts Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne: Discover Malaysia Art’ that took place at the prestigious Melbourne art gallery, MiFA Events.

Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum, CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) officiated the exhibition on 14 November in a festive ceremony that served authentic Malaysian delicacies such as the satay and teh tarik.

The official opening was also attended by The Hon. Bruce Atkinson, President of the Legislative Council of Victoria; and Deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley, Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne. Also in attendance was the Malaysian Consul General to Victoria Dato’ Dr Mohamad Rameez Yahaya.

Wong, on behalf of the Malaysian Government, presented Riley a special Melbourne edition of Ch’ng’s ‘Salam’ sculpture as a gesture of friendship to the City of Melbourne. A second sculpture – ‘Salam – Victoria’ – was presented to National Gallery of Victoria.

The unprecedented event was the largest of its kind ever held and featured the works of 30 artists, ranging from Malaysian pioneer artists since the Independence to the young contemporary artists of modern Malaysia. Curated by Ch’ng Huck Theng, the exhibition was successful in generating great interest among art lovers in Melbourne.