Malaysia exported US$299 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2021. That dollar sum reflects an 37.4% gain since 2017 and a 28% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
Malaysia 5 biggest trading partners are mainland China, Singapore, United States of America, Hong Kong and Japan. Those 5 main customers accounted for over half (53.2%) of worldwide Malaysian export revenues.
Apply a continental lens, well over two-thirds 70.3% of Malaysia exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 12.9% were sold to importers in North America. Malaysia shipped another 9.8% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (3.4%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Africa (2.4%) then Latin America (1.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Malaysia’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 25 of Malaysia’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Malaysian shipments by dollar value during 2021. Also shown is each purchasing country’s percentage of total Malaysian exports.
- China: US$46.3 billion (15.5% of Malaysia’s total exports)
- Singapore: $41.8 billion (14%)
- United States: $34.3 billion (11.5%)
- Hong Kong: $18.5 billion (6.2%)
- Japan: $18.2 billion (6.1%)
- Thailand: $12.6 billion (4.2%)
- Vietnam: $11 billion (3.7%)
- India: $10.9 billion (3.6%)
- Taiwan: $9.8 billion (3.3%)
- Indonesia: $9.5 billion (3.2%)
- South Korea: $9.1 billion (3%)
- Australia: $8.5 billion (2.8%)
- Netherlands: $7.5 billion (2.5%)
- Germany: $6.9 billion (2.3%)
- Philippines: $5.5 billion (1.8%)
- Turkey: $3.4 billion (1.1%)
- Mexico: $2.8 billion (0.9%)
- United Arab Emirates: $2.6 billion (0.9%)
- United Kingdom: $2.4 billion (0.8%)
- Bangladesh: $2.3 billion (0.8%)
- Italy: $1.7 billion (0.6%)
- Belgium: $1.54 billion (0.5%)
- Canada: $1.53 billion (0.5%)
- Pakistan: $1.44 billion (0.5%)
- France: $1.4 billion (0.5%)
About nine-tenths (90.7%) of Malaysian exports in 2021 were delivered to the above 25 trade partners.
The strongest gainers among the top Malaysian export customers were: Turkey (up 87.6% from 2020 to 2021), Bangladesh (up 83.8%), Canada (up 62.5%), India (up 50.5%), Vietnam (up 49.3% then Australia (up 46.5%).
The most modest uptick in consumption of Malaysia’s exported goods year over year was the flatlining 0.1% increase for the United Kingdom.
Countries Causing the Greatest Trade Deficits for Malaysia
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$8.9 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2021)
- Taiwan: -$8.4 billion
- Indonesia: -$4 billion
- South Korea: -$3 billion
- Ireland: -$2.8 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$1.8 billion
- Brazil: -$1.8 billion
- Argentina: -$1.5 billion
- Switzerland: -$1.4 billion
- Ivory Coast: -$764.1 million
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Malaysian surpluses with Ireland (up 829.5%), mainland China (up 198.3%) and Indonesia (up 141.6%) grew at the fastest pace from 2020 to 2021.
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.
Countries Generating the Greatest Trade Surpluses for Malaysia
Malaysia posted an overall $60.9 billion surplus on goods traded during 2021, up 38.4% from $44 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$19.2 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2021)
- United States of America: $16.3 billion
- Hong Kong: $14.2 billion
- Netherlands: $6.3 billion
- Vietnam: $5.3 billion
- India: $5 billion
- Philippines: $3.1 billion
- Australia: $3 billion
- Turkey: $2.7 billion
- Mexico: $2.2 billion
Among Malaysia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Malaysian surpluses with India (up 280.1%), Australia (up 163.7%) and Turkey (up 102.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2020 to 2021.
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.
Major Malaysian Companies Servicing International 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 Exports and Malaysia’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, Country Profiles. Accessed on March 27, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 27, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 27, 2022
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on March 27, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Malaysia. Accessed on March 27, 2022