Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports

Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports


Comprised of two similarly sized land masses in Southeast Asia, namely Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, Malaysia shipped US$247.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 5.6% gain since 2014 and a 14.3% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

Reported as of September 6, 2019, Malaysia exported $116.9 billion worth of goods during the first 6 months of 2019 down -4.6% compared to the same period one year earlier.

From a continental perspective, 72.2% of Malaysian exports by value in 2018 were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 10.6% was sold to importers in Europe. Malaysia shipped another 10.3% worth to North American customers with 4.1% going to Oceania (mostly Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Papua New Guinea). Smaller percentages were exported to customers in Africa (1.9%) and Latin America (0.9%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given Malaysia’s population of 31.8 million people, its total $247.3 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $7,800 for every resident in the Southeast Asian country.

In macroeconomic terms, Malaysia’s total exported goods represent 24.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($999.4 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 24.7% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2018 compares to 32% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Malaysia’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Malaysia also provided $39.6 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 4% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Malaysia’s unemployment rate was 3.4% as at April 2019 up from 3.3% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.

Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Malaysian global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Malaysia.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$83 billion (33.6% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $38.4 billion (15.5%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $25.4 billion (10.3%)
  4. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $12.1 billion (4.9%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $9.4 billion (3.8%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $9.4 billion (3.8%)
  7. Rubber, rubber articles: $7.5 billion (3%)
  8. Organic chemicals: $4.9 billion (2%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $4.4 billion (1.8%)
  10. Aluminum: $3.9 billion (1.6%)

Malaysia’s top 10 exports accounted for four-fifths (80.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Organic chemicals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 28.9% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place was the 26.1% gain for plastics and articles made from plastic, followed by exported aluminum which went up 22.1%.

There was one decliner among the above top 10 exports, the animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes category retreated by -10.3% year over year.

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Malaysia’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.


Overall Malaysia posted a $29.8 billion surplus on goods traded during 2018, up 32.2% from the $22.6-billion surplus one year earlier.

The following types of Malaysian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Hong Kong: US$14.8 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
  2. Singapore: $9 billion
  3. United States: $6.4 billion
  4. Netherlands: $4.7 billion
  5. Vietnam: $3.7 billion
  6. Australia: $2.9 billion
  7. India: $2.5 billion
  8. Thailand: $2 billion
  9. Philippines: $1.9 billion
  10. Bangladesh: $1.8 billion

Malaysia has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electronics including consumer electronic gadgets. In turn, these cashflows indicate Malaysia’s strong competitive advantages under the electrical machinery and equipment product category.


Below are exports from Malaysia that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Malaysia’s goods trail Malaysian importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Vehicles: -US$4.4 billion (Up by 16.8% since 2017)
  2. Iron, steel: -$3.4 billion (Up by 17.6%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: -$1.9 billion (Up by 38.2%)
  4. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.8 billion (Up by 41.1%)
  5. Cereals: -$1.6 billion (Up by 14.6%)
  6. Inorganic chemicals: -$1.5 billion (Up by 6.1%)
  7. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 20.2%)
  8. Paper, paper items: -$1.1 billion (Up by 16.5%)
  9. Ores, slag, ash: -$1.1 billion (Up by 146.5%)
  10. Meat: -$903.5 million (Up by 0.8%)

Malaysia has highly negative net exports and therefore international trade deficits for automobile parts or accessories, cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Malaysia’s competitive disadvantages in the international vehicles market, but also represent key opportunities for Malaysia to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.


Malaysian Export Companies

Seventeen Malaysian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Malaysian companies that Forbes included:

  • Axiata (communications equipment)
  • IOI Group (food processing)
  • MISC (shipping company)
  • Petronas Chemicals (specialized chemicals)
  • Petronas Dagangan (oil, gas)
  • Sime Darby (rubber, industrial/energy products)

Wikipedia lists some other large international trade players for Malaysia:

  • Hup Chong Furniture SDN BHD (bedroom furniture, beddings, miscellaneous wooden furniture)
  • Ly Furniture SDN BHD (furniture, furniture parts)
  • POS Malaysia Berhad (paper bags, envelopes)
  • R1 International Malaysia SDN BHD (latex, transmission belts, natural rubber in smoked sheets)


Searchable List of Malaysia’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Malaysia’s most valuable exported products are electronic integrated circuits plus related parts followed by refined petroleum oil, petroleum gases and palm oil followed by solar power components then computers.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Malaysia during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankMalaysia's Export Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Integrated circuits/microassemblies$45.8 billion+39.7%
2Processed petroleum oils$16.2 billion+23.3%
3Petroleum gases$10.8 billion+8%
4Crude oil$9.4 billion+36.4%
5Computers, optical readers$9.4 billion+11.3%
6Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$8.8 billion+3.9%
7Palm oil$8.7 billion-10.1%
8Unrecorded sound media$4.5 billion+15.9%
9Clothing, accessories (vulcanized rubber)$4.4 billion+19.7%
10Phone system devices including smartphones$3.7 billion-7.6%
11Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$3.5 billion+24.4%
12Printing machinery$3.3 billion+0.5%
13Computer parts, accessories$2.7 billion+0.9%
14Aluminum (unwrought)$2.3 billion+12.8%
15Ethylene polymers$2.2 billion+63.8%
16Industrial fatty acids and alcohols$2.2 billion-6.6%
17TV receivers/monitors/projectors$2 billion-1.9%
18Miscellaneous furniture$1.9 billion+3.9%
19Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)$1.7 billion+20.2%
20Aircraft parts$1.7 billion+12.5%
21Animal/vegetable hydrogenated fats, oils$1.7 billion-13.9%
22Microphones/headphones/amps$1.6 billion+53.9%
23Lower-voltage switches, fuses$1.6 billion+4.2%
24Acyclic alcohols$1.5 billion+29.6%
25Nickel (unwrought)$1.4 billion+154.5%
26Vacuum cleaners$1.4 billion+31.1%
27Jewelry$1.4 billion+3.1%
28Electrical machinery$1.3 billion-13.1%
29Air conditioners$1.3 billion+2.2%
30Miscellaneous machinery$1.2 billion+11.5%
31Electric water heaters, hair dryers$1.2 billion+0.8%
32Printed circuits$1.2 billion+6%
33Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$1.1 billion+29.7%
34Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$1.1 billion+6.4%
35Electrical capacitators$1.1 billion+28.5%
36Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$1.1 billion+8.5%
37Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$1.1 billion-13.5%
38Iron ferroalloys$1.1 billion+44.7%
39TV/radio/radar device parts$1.1 billion-13.5%
40Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$1 billion+2.6%
41Machinery for making semi-conductors$1 billion+7.7%
42Electric storage batteries$1 billion+2%
43Saturated acyclic mono acids$999.1 million+13.9%
44Synthetic rubber$963.1 million-24%
45Natural rubber$936.5 million-14.4%
46Sawn wood$905.7 million+0.6%
47ALERT!$876.5 million+18%
48Cyclic hydrocarbons$864.4 million+54%
49Iron ores, concentrates$857.4 million-4%
50Automobile parts/accessories$838.6 million+7.8%
51Styrene polymers$837.1 million+45.2%
52Electrical converters/power units$820 million+11.7%
53Coconut/palm/babassu oil$819.4 million-20.5%
54Insulated wire/cable$790.2 million+2.4%
55Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$772.9 million-7.5%
56Copper wire$755.8 million+21.6%
57Regulate/control instruments$743.9 million+19.9%
58Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$736.5 million+12.2%
59Miscellaneous plastic items$688.4 million+8.8%
60Propylene/olefin polymers$672.9 million+38.1%
61Precious metal waste, scrap$666.7 million-44.8%
62Telecommunication receivers$657.1 million-8.8%
63Other food preparations$650.6 million+5.2%
64Refined copper, unwrought alloys$640.2 million+44.8%
65Chemical industry products/residuals$630 million+6.4%
66Copper powder, flakes$627.3 million+221.2%
67Other measuring/testing machines$621.4 million+9.3%
68Machinery parts$619.1 million-6.4%
69Air or vacuum pumps$610.1 million+2.2%
70Flat-rolled stainless steel items$600.2 million+35.8%
71Organic surface-active goods, soap$600 million+3.3%
72Miscellaneous aluminum items$574.5 million+46.7%
73Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$562.9 million-0.7%
74Coffee/tea extracts, concentrates$543.5 million+9.2%
75Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$539.6 million+40.2%
76Glass fibers$517.5 million+4.3%
77Orthopedic appliances$517.3 million+50.6%
78Unwrought tin$514.7 million-4.2%
79Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$512.7 million+3.4%
80Nitrogenous fertilizers$497 million+19.1%
81Radar, radio communication items$473.3 million+13.3%
82Aircraft, spacecraft$419.6 million-10.6%
83Motorcycle parts/accessories$417.7 million+7.2%
84Cars$416.9 million+73.2%
85Taps, valves, similar appliances$411.8 million+20%
86Petroleum oil residues$411.3 million+31.9%
87Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes$410.3 million-72.2%
88Acyclic hydrocarbons$409.7 million+52.7%
89Chemicals used in electronics$400.7 million+22.2%
90Cocoa butter, fat, oil$390.6 million+3.7%
91Liquid/gas checking instruments$389.9 million+7.2%
92Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$383.1 million+10.7%
93Margarine$376.2 million-7.8%
94Biodiesel$362 million+110.6%
95Concrete/artificial stone items$356.6 million+25.3%
96Acrylic polymers$354.8 million+31.1%
97Cocoa beans$353.5 million+13%
98Aluminum bars/rods$350.3 million+69.7%
99Miscellaneous iron or steel items$334.6 million+2.2%
100Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$331.8 million+6%
101Pneumatic hand tool$325.5 million+3.9%
102Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$324.2 million+12.4%
103Copper tubes, pipes$322.9 million+14.3%
104Gold (unwrought)$318.3 million+267.4%
105Other organic cleaning preparations$315.4 million+27.6%
106Rubber tires (new)$312.1 million+7.7%
107Temperature-change machines$307.8 million+0.7%
108Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$296.1 million-9.1%
109Ligneous material/wood fiberboard$294 million+9.7%
110Physical/chemical analysis tools$293.8 million+20.7%
111Synthetic filament yarn$293.8 million+3.1%
112Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$286.4 million+5.2%
113Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$284 million+25.7%
114Miscellaneous oil cakes$282.8 million+30.1%
115Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$281 million+0.3%
116Organo-sulphur compounds$275.5 million+7.8%
117Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$268.9 million+16.2%
118Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$268.8 million-9.2%
119Rare-earth metal compounds$267.9 million+5.5%
120Copper ores, concentrates$266 million-7.9%
121Copper bars, rods$265.2 million-8.3%
122Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$263.2 million+27.3%
123Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$262.8 million-4.6%
124Turbo-jets$261.7 million+3.5%
125Crustaceans (including lobsters)$260.7 million+11.9%
126TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$256.7 million-29.9%
127Iron ore reduced products$248 million+55.1%
128Primary batteries/cells$243.2 million+6.6%
129Float/ground/polished glass in sheets$240.2 million+149.7%
130Concentrated/sweetened milk, cream$240.2 million+0.8%
131Carbon electrodes, brushes$239.3 million+186.6%
132Vulcanized rubber tubes, pipes$239.1 million+22.5%
133Miscellaneous garments (knit or crochet)$234.7 million+12.6%
134Cellulose fiber paper$233 million+22.1%
135Other machine parts, accessories$231.7 million-5.8%
136Rough wood$230.7 million-29.4%
137Vulcanized rubber items$229.5 million+10.6%
138Cocoa powder (no added sugar)$226 million-16.1%
139Moulding boxes/base$223.7 million+27.7%
140Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$223.3 million+23.5%
141Shaped wood$216.7 million+10.3%
142Iron or steel scrap$214.7 million+106.7%
143Electrical resistors$213.5 million-10.6%
144Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$212.9 million-3.1%
145X-ray equipment$212.5 million+20.5%
146Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$207.4 million+6.9%
147Agriculture/poultry/bee-keeping machinery$206.9 million+21.4%
148Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$206.9 million+4.4%
149Refrigerators, freezers$205.1 million+0.3%
150Polycarboxylic acids$204.2 million+20.9%
151Coated/laminated non-wovens$203.1 million+20.2%
152Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes$198.9 million-2.2%
153Lenses, prisms, mirrors$194.2 million+9.6%
154Iron or non-alloy steel wire$193.9 million+18.4%
155Live poultry$192.2 million+8.8%
156Ammonia$191.9 million+65.6%
157Electric motors, generators$191.8 million+31.6%
158Ball, roller bearings$188.1 million+2.8%
159Tissues, napkins, toilet paper$185.8 million+17.1%
160Medication mixes in dosage$185.1 million+1.3%
161Lead (unwrought)$184.5 million-14.7%
162Aluminum wire$183.2 million+95.5%
163Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$180.2 million-0.4%
164Aluminum foil (thin)$179.6 million+10.1%
165Printed books, brochures$178.6 million+15.6%
166Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$178.5 million+38.6%
167Paper containers, cellulose wadding$176.9 million-6.2%
168Magnets including electro-magnets$175 million+55.8%
169Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$174.1 million+20.7%
170Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$171 million+17.9%
171Calculators, accounting/ticket machines, cash registers$168.2 million-15%
172Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$166.9 million+12.4%
173Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$166.4 million+4.1%
174Musical instruments$165.1 million+62%
175Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$163.8 million+44.9%
176Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$162.8 million+39.8%
177Synthetic yarn woven fabrics$162.5 million+11.8%
178Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$160.3 million-21.5%
179Copper foil$159.9 million-8.8%
180Gas/liquid/electricity/production meters$159.3 million+55.5%
181Hydrogen, rare gases$157.6 million-13.6%
182Survey/hydro/weather instruments$154.8 million+17.6%
183Lifting/loading machinery$152.5 million+30.5%
184Prepared adhesives, glues$151.5 million+10.6%
185Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$150.2 million-5.8%
186Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$149 million+0.6%
187Other coloring matter, luminophores$148.3 million+7.2%
188Iron and steel stranded wire, cables (uninsulated)$148.1 million+9%
189Video recording equipment$147.6 million-27.9%
190Pile/terry fabrics$145.7 million+4.3%
191Birds' eggs in shell$144.7 million+30.4%
192Yarn (85%+ cotton)$142.7 million+38.7%
193Metals clad with platinum$142.5 million+16.7%
194Vulcanized rubber thread, cord$141.7 million-11.2%
195Iron or steel pipe fittings$141.3 million+14.4%
196Uncarded synthetic staple fibers$139.1 million+2%
197Machine-tool for metal$137.9 million+36.3%
198Other precious metal items$135.9 million-2.4%
199Sort/screen/washing machinery$134.8 million+12.8%
200Processed animal/vegetable fats, oils$131.6 million+60.2%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$226.2 billion or over 90% by value for all products exported from Malaysia during 2018.

See also Malaysia’s Top 10 Imports, Malaysia’s Top Trading Partners and Malaysia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Country Profiles. Accessed on September 6, 2019

Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on September 6, 2019

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 6, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on September 6, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on September 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on September 6, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on September 6, 2019

Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on September 6, 2019

World’s Richest Countries, Targeted research > Enriching insights > Global opportunities (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on September 6, 2019