Malaysia consists of two similarly sized regions in southeast Asia: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). The country shares it borders with Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Malaysia exported US$238.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects an 18.9% gain since 2015 but a -3.7% dip from 2018 to 2019. The dollar figure represents roughly 1.2% of overall global exports estimated at $19.285 trillion for one year prior.
Apply a continental lens, almost three-quarters (72.3%) of Malaysia exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 11% were sold to North American importers. Malaysia shipped another 10.4% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (3.6%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Africa (1.9%) then Latin America (0.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Malaysia’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Malaysia’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Malaysian shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each purchasing country’s percentage of total Malaysian exports.
- China: US$33.7 billion (14.2% of Malaysia’s total exports)
- Singapore: $33 billion (13.9%)
- United States: $23.1 billion (9.7%)
- Hong Kong: $16.1 billion (6.7%)
- Japan: $15.8 billion (6.6%)
- Thailand: $13.5 billion (5.7%)
- India: $9.1 billion (3.8%)
- Taiwan: $8.9 billion (3.7%)
- Vietnam: $8.4 billion (3.5%)
- South Korea: $8.1 billion (3.4%)
- Indonesia: $7.4 billion (3.1%)
- Australia: $6.9 billion (2.9%)
- Germany: $6.3 billion (2.6%)
- Netherlands: $6.1 billion (2.6%)
- Philippines: $4.4 billion (1.8%)
Well over four-fifths (84.3%) of Malaysian exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Gains for top Malaysian export customers from 2018 to 2019 were limited to: Taiwan (up 10.9%), Philippines (up 5.1%), United States (up 2.7%) and India (up 0.7%).
Leading declines in consumption of Malaysia’s exported goods year over year were Australia (down -16.9%), Hong Kong (down -13.1%), Germany (down -10.5%) and Japan (down -8%).
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Malaysia incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$8.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- Taiwan: -$4.9 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$3.7 billion
- Indonesia: -$1.9 billion
- South Korea: -$1.2 billion
- France: -$1.1 billion
- Switzerland: -$1.1 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$1 billion
- Argentina: -$1 billion
- Brazil: -$944.2 million
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Malaysian deficits with United Arab Emirates (up 1,148%) and Saudi Arabia (up 6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Malaysia’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Malaysia to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall Malaysia posted a $33.2 billion surplus on goods traded during 2019, up 11.2% from $29.8 billion in black ink one year earlier.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Malaysia incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Hong Kong: US$12.7 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- Singapore: $11.4 billion
- United States: $6.6 billion
- Netherlands: $4.7 billion
- Vietnam: $3.7 billion
- India: $3.2 billion
- Thailand: $2.8 billion
- Philippines: $2.2 billion
- Bangladesh: $2.1 billion
- Mexico: $1.8 billion
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Malaysian surpluses with Thailand (up 38.7%), India (up 30.7%) and Singapore (up 27.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Malaysia’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Malaysia to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Malaysian Trading Partners
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)
See also Malaysia’s Top 10 Imports, Malaysia’s Top 10 Imports and Malaysia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Country Profiles. Accessed on February 28, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 28, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 28, 2020
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 28, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on February 28, 2020