Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports

Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports


Malaysia shipped US$189.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016, up by 20.1% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -5.3% from 2015 to 2016.

Malaysia’s top 10 exports accounted for 79.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Malaysia’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $863.8 billion in 2016. Therefore, exports accounted for about 21.9% of total Malaysian economic output.

From a continental perspective, 70% of Malaysian exports by value are delivered to other Asian countries while 11.6% are sold to North American importers. Malaysia ships another 10.9% to European customers with 2.4% going to Africa.

Given Malaysia’s population of 30.9 million people, its total $189.6 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $6,100 for every resident in that country.

Malaysia’s unemployment rate was 3.5% as of December 2016 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 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Malaysia. At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Malaysia’s number 1 exported product is electronic integrated circuits plus related parts followed by refined petroleum oil, palm oil, petroleum gas then diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices including photosensitive (solar power) semiconductor devices.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$58.3 billion (30.8% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $26.5 billion (14%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $22 billion (11.6%)
  4. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $12.5 billion (6.6%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $7.1 billion (3.8%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $6.9 billion (3.6%)
  7. Rubber, rubber articles: $5.8 billion (3%)
  8. Organic chemicals: $3.7 billion (2%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $3.6 billion (1.9%)
  10. Wood: $3.5 billion (1.8%)

Optical, technical and medical equipment was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 96% in value for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place was the 63.5% gain for miscellaneous chemicals, followed by organic chemicals which went up 49.4%.

Only two product categories posted a decline: machinery including computers (down -16.5%) and wood (down -7.6%).


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 is 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. Overall, Malaysia posted a $21 billion surplus on goods traded during 2016 down -37.6% from the $33.7 billion surplus in 2009.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$11.9 billion (Up by 50.6% since 2009)
  2. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $11.2 billion (Up by 5.5%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $9.2 billion (Down by -30.2%)
  4. Wood: $2.9 billion (Down by -14.3%)
  5. Rubber, rubber articles: $2.9 billion (Up by 9.6%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $1.9 billion (Up by 21,448%)
  7. Machinery including computers: $1.9 billion (Down by -74.7%)
  8. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $1.6 billion (Down by -17.5%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $1.1 billion (Down by -8.5%)
  10. Organic chemicals: $745.8 million (Up by 2,497%)

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 electronic 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$4.1 billion (Up by 50.3% since 2009)
  2. Iron, steel: -$3.3 billion (Up by 44.5%)
  3. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.6 billion (Up by 130.1%)
  4. Cereals: -$1.4 billion (Down by -3.7%)
  5. Inorganic chemicals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 134.2%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$1.1 billion (Up by 38.6%)
  7. Copper: -$1.1 billion (Up by 3.7%)
  8. Ships, boats: -$905.9 million (Up by 53%)
  9. Gems, precious metals: -$874.3 million (Up by 136.3%)
  10. Paper, paper items: -$870.2 million (Up by 22.2%)

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

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 for 2015. Below is a sample of the major Malaysian companies that Forbes included:

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

Wikipedia lists some other large international trade players for Malaysia:

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

Malaysia’s capital city is Kuala Lumpur.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Malaysia Major Product Supply Advantages, Malaysia’s Top 10 Imports, Malaysia’s Top Import Partners, Highest Value Malaysian Export Products and Malaysia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 23, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 23, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on February 23, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 23, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on February 23, 2017

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 23, 2017