Malaysia exported US$234 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects an 18.9% gain since 2016 but a -3.7% dip from 2019 to 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 23.2% gain since 2016 but a -1.8% reduction from 2019 to 2020.
Apply a continental lens, approaching three-quarters (71.5%) of Malaysia exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 12.4% were sold to North American importers. Malaysia shipped another 10.3% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (3%), Africa (2%) then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.8%).
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 2020. Also shown is each purchasing country’s percentage of total Malaysian exports.
- China: US$37.8 billion (16.1% of Malaysia’s total exports)
- Singapore: $33.9 billion (14.5%)
- United States: $26 billion (11.1%)
- Hong Kong: $16.2 billion (6.9%)
- Japan: $14.7 billion (6.3%)
- Thailand: $10.8 billion (4.6%)
- South Korea: $8.2 billion (3.5%)
- Taiwan: $8.1 billion (3.4%)
- Vietnam: $7.4 billion (3.1%)
- India: $7.3 billion (3.1%)
- Indonesia: $7 billion (3%)
- Germany: $5.9 billion (2.5%)
- Australia: $5.8 billion (2.5%)
- Netherlands: $5.6 billion (2.4%)
- Philippines: $4.2 billion (1.8%)
Over four-fifths (81.2%) of Malaysian exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Gains for top Malaysian export customers from 2019 to 2020 were limited to 5 countries: United States (up 12.4%), Singapore (up 2.6%), South Korea (up 1.1%) and Hong Kong (also up 1.1%).
Leading declines in consumption of Malaysia’s exported goods year over year were Australia (down -15.5%), India (down -19.6%) and Thailand (down -19.9%).
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.
- Taiwan: -US$5.7 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- China: -$3 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$2.9 billion
- South Korea: -$2.5 billion
- Indonesia: -$1.7 billion
- Brazil: -$1.4 billion
- Argentina: -$1.1 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$855.5 million
- Switzerland: -$820 million
- Ivory Coast: -$680.1 million
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Malaysian deficits with South Korea (up 101.4%), Brazil (up 43.2%) and Taiwan (up 17%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
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 $44.2 billion surplus on goods traded during 2020, up 33.3% from $33.2 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.
- Singapore: US$16.3 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- Hong Kong: $12.9 billion
- United States: $9.5 billion
- Netherlands: $4.5 billion
- Vietnam: $3.1 billion
- Thailand: $2.6 billion
- Philippines: $2.1 billion
- Mexico: $1.6 billion
- India: $1.4 billion
- Turkey: $1.3 billion
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Malaysian surpluses with United States (up 44.3%), Singapore (up 43.0%) and Turkey (up 7.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
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 24, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 24, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on February 24, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on February 24, 2021