Malaysia flag Malaysia: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Malaysia

Foreign Trade in Figures

Malaysia is well known for its openness to international trade. Foreign trade represented 116.5% of the country’s GDP in 2021 (World Bank, 2022) making the country vulnerable to external demand. The country mainly exports electrical and electronic equipment (37% of total exports in 2021), Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (11%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (8.6%), animal, vegetable fats and oils, cleavage products (5.8%) and rubbers (4.8%). It mainly imports electrical and electronic equipment (30%), Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products (12%), machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers (9.4%) and plastics (4.1%) (Comtrade, 2021). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting a increase of more than 7.7% in the volume of exports of goods and services of the country in 2022, after an increase of 7% in 2021 and a fall of 11.1% in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, and an increase of more than 11.3% of its imports, after an increase of 5.4% in 2021 and a fall of 8.6% in 2020.

In 2021, Malaysia's main trade partners were China (17% of total exports in 2021), Singapore (15%), United States (12%), Hong Kong (7.2%) and Japan (6.5%). Its main suppliers were China (23% of total imports), Singapore (10%), United States (9.4%) and Japan with 8.3% (Comtrade, 2021). Even though exports of electronic equipment suffered from the Chinese slowdown, U.S. demand should stay dynamic and support exports. The government supported the creation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral free-trade agreement negotiated between Asia-Pacific and North American countries. The treaty, signed by Malaysia and eleven other nations in order to boost inter-regional trade, was renamed as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after the withdrawal of the United States in January 2017. It was signed in March 2018 but Malaysian government has not set any deadline for ratifying. An increasing number of foreign companies are exploring Malaysia as a potential base for regional operations with the CPTPP member markets. On the 15th of November 2020 Malaysia has signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with 14 other Indo-Pacific countries. This free trade agreement is the largest trade deal in history, covering 30 per cent of the global economy. It includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN : Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and ASEAN’s free trade agreement partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea). The RCEP covers goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation. It also creates new rules for electronic commerce, intellectual property, government procurement, competition, and small and medium sized enterprises.

According to WTO data, exports of goods amounted in 2020 to USD 238.2 billion and imports reached USD 205 billion. As with regard to services, Malaysia exported USD 40.8 billion worth of services and imported USD 43.2 billion. Malaysia's exports fell by 1.1% 2020 as the country recorded lower commodity sales to major importers such as Australia, Japan, China and Thailand. Meanwhile, Malaysian imports declined by 2.3% in the same period resulting in a trade surplus of USD 123.1 billion (WTO, 2021). This was the 22nd consecutive year of trade surplus since 1998. Malaysia's trade surplus widened to a new record high of MYR 26.2 billion (USD 6.22 billion) in October 2021 from MYR 22.1 billion (5.25 USD billion) in the same month a year ago amid a further recovery global demand and surging commodity prices. Exports surged 25.5 to a fresh record high of USD 114.4 billion, led by higher sales of mining (66.7%), agriculture sectors (28.9%), and manufactured goods (23.3%). Imports soared 27.9 percent to a new record high of USD 88.2 billion as purchases grew for all sectors: intermediate goods (35.5 percent), capital goods (15.1%) and consumption goods (10.8 percent) Considering the first ten months of the year, the trade surplus widened sharply to USD 202.5 billion from USD 145.3 billion a year earlier (Department of Statistics, Malaysia, and Trade Economics, 2021).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 195,417217,602204,998189,856237,980
Exports of Goods (million USD) 218,130247,455238,195234,127299,028
Imports of Services (million USD) 41,95844,33643,36633,06035,609
Exports of Services (million USD) 36,97240,15440,90521,78020,869

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 126.9133.2130.4123.0116.5
Trade Balance (million USD) 24,53527,31628,42629,78433,207
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 19,99021,98824,05427,15121,783
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.410.21.5-2.5-8.3
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.38.71.9-1.3-8.8
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 60.163.161.957.855.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 66.870.068.665.261.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 6.3-1.36.43.83.4
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 10.6-4.55.83.04.3

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Malaysia is a member of the following international economic organisations: IMF, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), ICC, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Commonwealth, G-15, G-77, WTO, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Malaysia click here. International organisation membership of Malaysia is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
Malaysia is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Malaysia can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
China 15.5%
Singapore 14.0%
United States 11.5%
Hong Kong SAR, China 6.2%
Japan 6.1%
See More Countries 46.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
China 23.2%
Singapore 9.5%
United States 7.6%
Japan 7.5%
Indonesia 5.7%
See More Countries 46.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

299.2 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 19.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 6.9%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 4.7%
Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, incl...Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, incl. gloves, mittens and mitts, for all purposes, of vulcanised rubber (excl. hard rubber and footwear and headgear and parts thereof) 4.4%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.3%
See More Products 60.6%
238.3 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Electronic integrated circuits; parts thereofElectronic integrated circuits; parts thereof 18.0%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 8.4%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 1.8%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 1.8%
Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor...Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, incl. photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels (excl. photovotaic generators); light emitting diodes; mounted piezoelectric crystals; parts thereof 1.8%
See More Products 68.3%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

Return to top

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.

 

© Export Entreprises SA, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: November 2022