Malaysia expected to move into more non-traditional markets next year

We will try to capitalise more on the halal sector by leveraging on what we have, says Matrade


Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) is expected to create a better platform for local exporters to move into non-traditional markets that would boost growth of the country’s total trade.

Matrade CEO Dr Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros (picture) said the agency’s upcoming trade programmes have been directed towards more trade in new markets including Uganda, the Middle East and Central Asia.

He said the areas that could be focused towards the new direction include six sectors which are the backbone of the economy, along with potential sectors such as aerospace, creative industries — films and animations — as well as fashion.

“The halal sector has been strong for us and we will try to capitalise more on that by leveraging on what we have, such as the Malaysia International Halal Showcase.

“We intend to explore more on Islamic finance and Islamic lifestyle — which include pharmaceuticals and fashion,” he said at a media briefing after announcing the agency’s work programme for 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

In terms of global demand, he said the big market for Malaysia is still within Asean.

“And Asean countries are growing. In that sense, it’s a good thing for us. Of course, the next one would be China. China’s growth will definitely impact us.

“However, we are not entirely dependent on China as we are also big in Europe and the Americas,” he said, adding that the country’s trade is quite well distributed.

Within Matrade’s Work Programme 2019, a set of programmes have been developed for the coming year including exporters development (ED) and export promotion (EP) activities.

The initiatives will serve as catalysts to help Malaysian companies build their business organic growth through market access and introduction of Malaysia-made and designed products and services to the global markets.

For 2019, Matrade will be organising 477 programmes comprising both ED and EP activities. Meanwhile, the global trade promotion programmes will be focused on Malaysia’s key trading partners — namely Asean, the European Union, Northeast Asia, West Asia and the Americas.

“The programmes will highlight Malaysia’s key export sectors such as electrical and electronics, oil and gas, construction, machinery and equipment, services, halal food and beverages, lifestyle, medical and pharmaceutical, and automotive.

“Emerging and high-innovation industries such as gaming, animation, fashion and aerospace will also be given due emphasis,” he said.

Mohd Shahreen said he is also “cautiously optimistic” about Malaysia’s export growth in 2019, due to the economic challenges and effects the world faces heading into 2019.

He added that the country’s export has been exceptional so far, based on the prevailing trend.

“If you look at all the global reports, I guess everybody is kind of cautious with the outlook. In every report that I’ve seen, the growth projection is between 4% and 5%.

“This year, up till October, our growth had been around 5% to 6%. We’re slightly better than the global outlook this year. We hope that trend could be sustained into the next year,” he said.

However, Mohd Shahreen said, “Prediction is a difficult game”, adding that whatever happens in the future would depend much on the global trend.

“The fact that we grew 5%-6% in 2018 is actually quite good. We are hopeful that with the current trend, as what we’d seen back in October, the current performance is actually much better — even better than last October.

“The trend seems to be sustaining,” he said.

Moving into 2019, Mohd Shahreen said the industries must be prepared for the strategic shifts that will be affected by the impact of e-commerce, Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, big data and digital transformation.

“All of this will have a strong bearing on how international trade is realised — particularly in the international supply chain system, as well as shifts in financial transaction platforms,” he said.

He said Matrade will play a leadership role in coordinating the EP activities by other government agencies and the private sector.

“A plan is currently underway to address this and make sure the various EP activities are streamlined to generate the best possible outcomes. Everyone is well aware of the financial challenges that the country has.

“With the limited budget that we have, there’s a lot of actual work among government agencies to coordinate the effort of going abroad.

“And Matrade is trying to take the leadership role of actually communicating, talking to all various agencies, so that we can work together in terms of realising it,” he said.