Vietnamese businesses are being encouraged to invest strongly in Malaysia in order to capitalise on the nation's rising import demands.

According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Malaysia imported goods worth 168 billion USD in 2011, a rise of 51 billion USD from 2009.

For the first time in decades, last year Vietnam achieved a trade surplus of over 1 billion USD with Malaysia . Two-way trade also rose 17 percent in 2012 to 7.9 billion USD.

Statistics from the Vietnam Customs Department show that bilateral trade continued to flourish in the first seven months of this year, with Vietnamese exports generating 2.87 billion USD.

Major exports include crude oil, rubber, rice, computers and spare parts, phone handsets, coffee, seafood, steel, vehicles, machinery and equipment.

Vietnam mainly imports oil and fat, petrol, chemicals, plastic materials, timber and dairy products from Malaysia.

Shazryll Zahiran, Malaysian Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City , said that the two countries have signed a total of 13 bilateral agreements, creating plenty of opportunity for an increase in bilateral cooperation in investment, trade, banking, education, tourism, labour, sports, security and national defence.

Vu Van Canh, a Vietnamese trade counsellor in Malaysia , said that bilateral trade is expected to reach a record high this year as the Malaysian economy has already recovered from the global economic slowdown and is developing well.

According to Canh, two-way trade this year is estimated to hit up to 9 billion USD, of which 5.2 billion USD is from Vietnamese exports.

As of July 20, 2013, Malaysia had invested in 445 projects capitalised at 10.2 billion USD in Vietnam, ranking it eighth among foreign investors and second among ASEAN backers in the country.

By March 2013, Vietnam had nine investment projects in Malaysia , worth 413 million USD in total.-VNA