Malaysia breaks trade records in 1Q24

The uptick is fuelled by heightened shipments of manufactured and mining goods 


MALAYSIA’S trade performance for the first quarter of 2024 (1Q24) has surpassed all previous records, with trade, export and import values reaching unprecedented levels, said the Investment, Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI). 

During the period from January to March 2024, Malaysia’s total trade soared by 7.1% compared to the same period in the previous year, reaching RM690.59 billion with a trade surplus of RM34.22 billion in line with the ongoing recovery in global trade dynamics. 

In a statement on Malaysia External Trade Statistics, MITI said 1Q24 exports rose by 2.2% to RM362.41 billion versus 1Q23, on the back of higher exports of manufactured and mining goods. 

This uptick was fuelled by heightened shipments of manufactured and mining goods, including iron and steel products, machinery, equipment, parts, crude petroleum and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Notably, Malaysia experienced significant growth in exports to key markets such as Asean, the US and Japan, underscoring the country’s diversified trade relationships and market access.

Conversely, MITI said imports recorded double-digit growth of 13.1% to RM328.19 billion due to robust imports of capital and intermediate goods meant for the manufacturing of products for exports. 

Furthermore, the month-on-month (MoM) data for March 2024 revealed impressive growth rates, with trade, exports and imports all experiencing double-digit increases of 15.6%, 15.5%, and 15.7% respectively. 

“Total trade was RM244.47 billion, historically the highest value for the month of March,” said MITI. 

Meanwhile, the ministry said exports amounted to RM128.64 billion and imports were valued at RM115.83 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of RM12.81 billion, which also represents the 47th consecutive month of surplus since May 2020. 

For the month of March 2024 itself, MITI said trade and imports grew by 5.1% and 12.5% year-on-year (YoY) respectively, while exports reduced marginally by 0.8%. Meanwhile, Malaysia posted positive trade growth with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners in 1Q24, increasing by 4.4% to RM456.02 billion, representing 65.3% of total trade.

Exports edged up by 0.3% to RM248.17 billion and imports climbed 9.6% to RM207.85 billion compared to the corresponding period in 2023. 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) in its recent Global Trade Outlook and Statistics publication has projected world merchandise trade volume to grow by 2.6% in 2024 (2023: -1.2%) amid challenges from regional conflicts and geopolitical tension. 

While Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has projected that Malaysia’s economy will grow between 4% and 5% this year, MITI noted that as a highly open economy with a ratio of merchandise trade to GDP at 144.7% in 2023, Malaysia will also be impacted by global developments. 

“As such, MITI and its key export-focused agency, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (MATRADE), will remain vigilant to ensure that risks to trade growth and investment inflows are properly monitored and mitigated,” it said. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition