Malaysia’s exports may exceed RM1t in 2019

Malaysia’s total exports for the January to May 2019 period stood at RM405.4b, up 0.3% from the same period last year, says Wan Latiff


MALAYSIA’S exports could exceed the RM1 trillion mark this year on demands for local products amid positive newsflow, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking (picture).

This is despite the country’s exports falling 0.2% short of the RM1 trillion target last year, having reached RM998 billion in 2018 amid global trade tensions.

“This year, we believe we will have some growth between 3% and 3.4%, and hopefully with continued talk of positive news on the country, we might reach over RM1 trillion (in exports),” Leiking told reporters at the Beyond Paradigm Summit 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The minister’s comments follow Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) CEO Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa’s statement on Tuesday that Malaysia’s exports are expected to fare better in the second half of this year, driven by stronger shipments of high-value products and the uptake in foreign direct investments.

Wan Latiff has expressed his confidence that the country’s exports are already ahead of the target and “will go well beyond RM1 trillion”, as exports grew by 0.3% in the first five months of the year, leaving just 0.2% more growth to reach the RM1 trillion mark.

According to Wan Latiff, Malaysia’s total exports for the January to May 2019 period stood at RM405.36 billion, up 0.3% from the same period last year.

“Despite all the challenges last year, RM998 billion is a good result for now. Of course, we are concerned that we would not meet 100% of our target, but this year, let’s hope and pray that we will. My officers and the private sectors who are working with us are collaborating to make sure Malaysia is a market people will source from,” Leiking said.

He added that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to see conclusive talks by year-end, following the most recent round of discussion between its member countries in Thailand last month.

“I think the member countries are looking for common grounds (and) reasons to conclude it. Malaysia, the other nine Asean countries, as well as the six dialogue countries are moving towards the conclusion of the RCEP.

“We will have a meeting (in the) next (two) weeks in Beijing, where I’ll be attending on behalf of the government to try and close some chapters to give a better direction for Asean, so we can hopefully conclude it by the end of the year,” Leiking said.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade pact between the 10 Asean countries plus six Asia-Pacific nations — namely India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Seven years after its official launch in 2012, the proposed trade agreement remains unresolved due to reluctance from certain countries to open up their economies and lower import tariffs.

India is also hesitant to open its doors as this could flood one of the world’s largest consumer markets with imports from China, India’s biggest economic rival.

“Since the Pakatan Harapan government took over, we’ve managed to close quite a few chapters without putting our sovereignty at risk. Plus, with the emergence of the current economy and the way things are going, China is working very closely with all Asean countries. India, after its elections, is also looking towards some sort of a conclusion,” Leiking said.

The proposed pact consists of 18 chapters, but just seven have been finalised as at November last year. If successful, the agreement would encompass some 50% of the global population and 30% of total trade.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the local industry — and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in particular — risks losing out on potential new innovations from the “innate but untapped talent” that exists within Malaysia, if the industry does not catch up to Industry 4.0 and its advancements.

In his launching address at the Beyond Paradigm Summit 2019 yesterday, he said global value chains and production centres are shifting towards Asean, thus SMEs and local businesses must be at the forefront of digital innovation to remain attractive for investors and remain competitive on the global scale.

“A paradigm shift among SMEs, especially on innovation and creative solutions, are key in propelling the manufacturing industry forward as they account for 98.5% of manufacturing companies and 42% of employment,” the PM said.

Furthermore, projections show 65% of today’s children currently in primary education will be working in jobs that do not exist today. As 70% of Malaysia’s current workforce are SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) graduates, reskilling Malaysians of all ages is imperative in order to ensure long-term success within our economic landscape.

However, Dr Mahathir added that the focus on Industry 4.0 “should not be solely on its technological growth, but on the people and societies it touches”.