Located in Southeast Asia near powerful trade partners including Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia imported US$204.9 billion worth of goods from around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 16.3% gain since 2015 but a -5.8% downtick from 2018 to 2019.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Malaysian ringgit depreciated by -6.1% against the US dollar since 2015 and dropped by -2.7% from 2018 to 2019. Malaysia’s weaker local currency makes its imports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively more expensive when converted starting from Malaysian ringgits.
Malaysian imports represent 1% of total global imports which totaled $19.665 trillion estimated for one year prior.
From a continental perspective, almost three-quarters (73.5%) of Malaysia’s total imports by value in 2019 were purchased from fellow Asian countries. European trade partners satisfied another 10.9% of import sales to Malaysia while 8.7% worth originated from North America. Smaller percentages came from suppliers in Oceania (3.2%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Latin America (2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Africa (1.6%).
Given Malaysia ‘s population of 32.8 million people, its total $204.9 billion in 2019 imports translates to roughly $6,200 in yearly product demand from every person in the Southeast Asian country.
Malaysia’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Malaysia’s import purchases during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Malaysia.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$55.8 billion (27.3% of total imports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $29.8 billion (14.6%)
- Machinery including computers: $20.8 billion (10.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $8.9 billion (4.4%)
- Iron, steel: $6.6 billion (3.2%)
- Vehicles: $6.5 billion (3.2%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.6 billion (2.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $4 billion (2%)
- Organic chemicals: $3.8 billion (1.9%)
- Other chemical goods: $3.7 billion (1.8%)
Malaysia’s top 10 imports accounted for over seven-tenths (71.1%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Optical, technical and medical apparatus posted the fastest-growing increase in value among the top 10 import categories, up 2.7% in value from 2018 to 2019. In second place was the vehicles category which expanded 2.3%. The only other product category to expand in Malaysian purchases was plastics including articles made from plastic via a 1.9% increase.
Leading the decliners year over year were gems and precious metals (down -15.2%) and organic chemicals (down -14.3%).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under other virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
In 2019, Malaysian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electrical products including consumer electronics.
- Integrated circuits/microassemblies: US$31.9 billion (down -8.3% from 2018)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: $4 billion (down -7.1%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $3 billion (down -19.3%)
- Printed circuits: $2.2 billion (down -2.6%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $1.9 billion (down -2.1%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $1.2 billion (down -6.6%)
- Unrecorded sound media: $956.3 million (down -5.8%)
- Electric motors, generators: $940.8 million (down -8.2%)
- TV/radio/radar device parts: $936.8 million (down -13.2%)
- Electrical capacitators: $913.5 million (down -8.9%)
All the above import subcategories decreased year over year. The slimmest declines were for Malaysian purchases of lower-voltage switches or fuses (down -2.1%), printed circuits (down -2.6%) and unrecorded sound media (down -5.8%).
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among Malaysian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Malaysian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related products.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$17.5 billion (down -13.4% from 2018)
- Crude oil: $6.5 billion (up 13.2%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $2.9 billion (down -8.6%)
- Petroleum gases: $1.7 billion (up 45.2%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $512.8 million (up 31.5%)
- Coke, semi-coke: $402.3 million (down -6.9%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $255.1 million (up 89.4%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $43.2 million (down -2.2%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $15.4 million (down -59.4%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $8.4 million (up 67.7%)
Among these import subcategories, Malaysian purchases of high-temperature distilled coal tar oils (up 89.4%), natural bitumen, asphalt and shale (up 67.7%) then petroleum gases (up 45.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported fossil fuel-related products among Malaysian businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Malaysian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$2.8 billion (down -13.7% from 2018)
- Computer parts, accessories: $2 billion (down -18.7%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $1.3 billion (down -15.9%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $1.2 billion (down -2.1%)
- Turbo-jets: $1 billion (up 17.4%)
- Printing machinery: $924.6 million (down -9.1%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $894.5 million (up 3.3%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $879.7 million (down -8.5%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $758 million (down -2%)
- Machinery parts: $638 million (up 12.4%)
Among these import subcategories, Malaysian purchases of turbo-jets (up 17.4%), machinery parts (up 12.4%) then centrifuges, filters and purifiers (up 3.3%) grew from 2018 to 2019.
In 2019, Malaysian importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of plastics.
- Ethylene polymers: US$2.4 billion (down -1.9% from 2018)
- Polyacetal/ether/carbonates: $966.6 million (down -0.2%)
- Propylene/olefin polymers: $808.9 million (up 22%)
- Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips: $778.3 million (up 0.9%)
- Miscellaneous plastic items: $758.9 million (up 6.5%)
- Styrene polymers: $409.9 million (up 2.4%)
- Plastic packing goods, lids, caps: $367.5 million (up 3.3%)
- Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips: $311.9 million (up 10.8%)
- Self-adhesive plastic in rolls: $310.9 million (down -8.3%)
- Acrylic polymers: $261.7 million (up 12.1%)
Among these import subcategories, Malaysian purchases of propylene and olefin polymers (up 22%), acrylic polymers (up 12.1%) then plastic plates, sheets, film, tape and strips (up 10.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported plastics among Malaysian businesses and consumers.
See also Malaysia’s Top Trading Partners, Malaysia’s Top 10 Exports, Top Asian Export Countries and Malaysia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Country Profiles. Accessed on February 28, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 28, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Databases (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 28, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 28, 2020