Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz is one of South East Asia’s most dynamic and respected people. She is Malaysia’s longest serving Minister of International Trade and Industry, having been in the position for 21 years from 1987-2008. Much admired by her peers and colleague, she is regarded as an authority on global trade.
During her tenure as the Minister of International Trade and Industry, she contributed significantly to the development of Malaysia’s economy. With her sound knowledge of economic matters, she worked tirelessly to position and to promote Malaysia as the most favored destination for foreign direct investment.
Under her leadership, many multi-national corporations such as Intel, Western Digital, Panasonic, Samsung set up manufacturing, research and development facilities in Malaysia. Malaysia is now the 20th largest trading nation in the world and the largest exporter of semiconductors. On the domestic front, she strived to create opportunities for local enterprises to excel in their markets. Trade agencies such as SMIDEC, now known as SME Corp and Matrade, were set up. The establishment of SMIDEC was in recognition of the need for a specialized agency to further promote the development of small and medium industries (SMIs) in the manufacturing sector through the provision of advisory services, financial assistance, infrastructural facilities, market access and other support programmes.
Through her concerted efforts and passion in promoting Malaysia’s trade, many businesses have emerged from small/medium enterprises to become large corporations with offices around the world. The local media dubbed her as ‘Rapid Fire Rafidah’ and loved her forthright opinion and wit. Her expertise, visionary outlook and confidence have been a source of inspiration to many entrepreneurs and Malaysians. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’ from Kuala Kangsar, she is in her element when it comes to tackling trade negotiations or promoting the attributes of Brand Malaysia.
She continues to have her finger on the pulse on international trade and investments as patron of the Malaysia-Europe Forum. She was recently appointed as the Chairman of the fast-growing airline, AirAsia X.