The Malaysia-Russia Business Council (MRBC) has been given a facelift and revived to foster bilateral economic ties and enhance business cooperation between Malaysia and the Russian Federation.
Set up on 15 March 2016 in Kuala Lumpur with its official Business Secretariat at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Incorporated (ASLI), MRBC's initial formation was witnessed by H.E. Mrs. Valentina Matviyenko, the Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. YB Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohammed, the then Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was also present. The Council had, however, been inactive until recently revived.
The revival of the MRBC in September 2019 saw Mr. James Beltran being appointed as the Chairman of the Council. Mr. Beltran is a prominent business figure with close connections with business entrepreneurs and officials of the Russian state. He is also the Deputy Chairman of Melewar Holdings, a company with more than 20 years of presence in Russia.
MRBC is officially mandated by both the Russian and Malaysian governments to facilitate B2B trade and business investments between the two countries. As such, the Council is tapping on ASLI's unique value proposition.
ASLI's International Trade and Business Advisory Centre (ITBAC), headed by the Executive Director Dr. Praba Koran, serves as a conduit between Malaysia and Russia in advancing trade and investments between the two nations. ASLI's ITBAC offers international trade support services. It has a successful track record of promoting FDIs and business matching for several foreign, governments. Their primary focus region is ASEAN, particularly the seven key countries, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.
ASLI's ITBAC also facilitates market analysis and growth strategies by connecting strategic partners across the region. It develops bespoke packages of international trade support services for companies, aligning to their specific commercialisation needs, as well as advising them on the viability and competitiveness of their products or services entering the ASEAN market.
Additionally, MRBC's revival has reactivated the Malaysia-Russia Joint Commission for Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation (JCESTCC). The JCESTCC was signed in November 2015 . Thus far, no activities have been undertaken. Its primary objective is to foster closer bilateral ties between the two countries.
The Russian Federation was Malaysia's 28th global trading partner in 2018.
In March 2019, during the Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace Exhibition (Lima'19), the then Economic Affairs Minister, YB Datuk Seri Azmin Ali expressed hope that the reactivation of the JCESTCC will enhance economic relations between Malaysia and Russia.
Both countries agreed to hold the inaugural JCESTCC meeting in October 2019  in Moscow led by both co-Chairmen. A total of 75 agenda points were raised and discussed between the counterparts at the offices of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.
Mr. Beltran actively participated at the pre-summit discussions with a formal address to the JCESTCC summit on MRBC and its objectives.
With the closing of the inaugural JCESTCC meeting, Mr. Beltran and Russian officials kept in constant communication, taking the mandates of the Joint Commission and its objectives seriously. In October 2019, the Russian Trade Office (RTO) in Malaysia invited ASLI to a meeting at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Mr. Nikita Ponomarenko, represented the Russian RTO.
ASLI, as the official Business Secretariat of the MRBC, was officially invited to lead the Russian Business Mission to Malaysia in November 2019. Companies from several core industries, namely aviation, ship-building, transportation, medical and digital solutions, had indicated their participation in the Mission.
The Russia Trade and Business Investment Forum was, then, successfully staged in November 2019, over two days, in Kuala Lumpur. It showcased the investment opportunities and value propositions from each of the participating Russian companies. Business Roundtable sessions and business matchings were also organised for core industries. During the first day of the Forum, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) played host
to the Russian visitors with fruitful bilateral meetings between the Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Mr. Alexey Gruzdev and representatives of governmental bodies, namely the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA), Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE).
Following that successful event, Mr. Beltran invited two office bearers from the Russian Federation, Dr. Vladimir N. Sautov, Chairman of the Business Council for Cooperation with Malaysia and H.E. Vladimir N. Morozov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to ASLI for a dialogue session.
The meeting led to an optimistic directional outcome, concluding that the collaboration with ASLI and the strategies in place stepped in the right direction to enhance the economic relations between Malaysia and Russia.
In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges as well as opportunities. During the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, efforts were made to facilitate more conference calls with various governmental agencies from both countries to roll out plans and preparations for business activities to normalise. This included a call between YB Dato' Seri Hishamuddin Hussein and Mr. Lavrov, the Foreign Ministers of Malaysia and Russia respectively. An official letter was also sent to the new co-Chairman of the JCESTCC, H.E. Yury Borisov, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, briefing him on MRBC's activities and planned areas of further cooperation.
A crisis almost always produces new opportunities and obstacles can sometimes yield positive results. MRBC firmly believes that the way forward is for MRBC, MIDA, MITI, MATRADE and the RTO to work closely together in both G2G and B2B efforts, and seek alternative and creative solutions to enhance the ties between Russia and Malaysia.
Let's look forward to the future with renewed expectations.