Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports

Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports


Comprised of two similarly sized land masses in Southeast Asia–Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia–Malaysia shipped US$217.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a -4.6% drop since 2013 but a 15% gain from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Malaysia’s exported goods plus services represent 75.2% of total Malaysian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 70.6% of Malaysian exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 11.2% were sold to importers in Europe. Malaysia shipped another 10.9% to North American customers with 4.2% going to Oceania (mostly Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Papua New Guinea). At 2.2%, a smaller percentage was exported to customers in Africa.

Given Malaysia’s population of 31.4 million people, its total $217.9 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $6,900 for every resident in that country.

Malaysia’s unemployment rate was 3.3% as of December 2017 down from 3.5% 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 2017. 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 most valuable exported products are electronic integrated circuits plus related parts followed by refined petroleum oil, palm oil, petroleum gases then diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices including photosensitive (solar power) semiconductor devices, and also computers in general.

  1. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$68.8 billion (31.6% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $33.3 billion (15.3%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $23.9 billion (11%)
  4. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $13.6 billion (6.2%)
  5. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $7.9 billion (3.6%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $7.5 billion (3.4%)
  7. Rubber, rubber articles: $7.2 billion (3.3%)
  8. Other chemical goods: $4.3 billion (2%)
  9. Organic chemicals: $3.8 billion (1.7%)
  10. Wood: $3.5 billion (1.6%)

Malaysia’s top 10 exports accounted for four-fifths (79.7%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up 25.44% from 2016 to 2017 led by boosted international sales of Malaysian petroleum oils and gases.

Close behind in second place was the 25.43% gain for rubber and articles made from rubber, followed by miscellaneous chemical goods which went up 18.3%.

Posting the most modest increase among Malaysia’s top 10 export categories was wood via its 0.7% year-over-year improvement in global sales.


Overall Malaysia posted a $22.7 billion surplus on goods traded during 2017, up 7.9% from the $21-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. Electrical machinery, equipment: US$14.1 billion (Up by 18.9% since 2016)
  2. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $11.9 billion (Up by 6.8%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $8.4 billion (Down by -8.4%)
  4. Rubber, rubber articles: $3.3 billion (Up by 16.3%)
  5. Wood: $2.8 billion (Down by -2.9%)
  6. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $2.3 billion (Up by 18%)
  7. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $1.6 billion (Down by -1.3%)
  8. Other chemical goods: $1.2 billion (Up by 16.1%)
  9. Machinery including computers: $1.1 billion (Down by -43.6%)
  10. Cereal/milk preparations: $641.6 million (Up by 12.1%)

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-$3.8 billion (Down by -7.9% since 2016)
  2. Iron, steel: -$2.9 billion (Down by -12.1%)
  3. Inorganic chemicals: -$1.5 billion (Up by 19.8%)
  4. Cereals: -$1.4 billion (Up by 1.3%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: -$1.4 billion (Up by 65.2%)
  6. Aircraft, spacecraft: -$1.4 billion (Down by -12.1%)
  7. Copper: -$1.3 billion (Up by 23.4%)
  8. Pharmaceuticals: -$1 billion (Down by -4.9%)
  9. Paper, paper items: -$947.8 million (Up by 9.3%)
  10. Ships, boats: -$916.9 million (Up by 4.1%)

Malaysia has highly negative net exports and therefore 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. 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)

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’s Top 10 Imports, Malaysia’s Top Trading 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 March 5, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 5, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 5, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 5, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on March 5, 2018

Forbes 2015 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 5, 2018