TMCNet:  Malaysia's trade likely to grow 4-5pc this year [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]

[February 12, 2013]

Malaysia's trade likely to grow 4-5pc this year [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]

(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) KUALA LUMPUR: Trade is likely to grow by 4.0 per cent to 5.0 per cent for Malaysia in 2013, underpinned by brightening prospects and shift in momentum by its trading partners.

A modest surge in the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector, as well as a better performing region, will boost the trade outlook this year.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said the recovery in the US market, for instance, will enhance demand for semiconductors, solar photovoltaic products, medical devices as well as automotive parts and components.


"Malaysia's trade and exports of both goods and services are expected to see better growth in 2013 than 2012," he said at the annual trade performance briefing here yesterday.

In the case of merchandise goods, exports are expected to rise between 2.0 per cent to 4.0 per cent and imports by 5.0 per cent to 8.0 per cent. For services, exports are seen to be higher at 6.0 per cent to 7.0 per cent, while imports between 8.0 per cent and 9.0 per cent.

The Malaysia External Trade Development Corp, the national trade promotion agency,will leverage on various free trade pacts as well as negotiations to enhance trade.

"The export map will also be redrawn to include more untapped markets such as Angola, Mozambique and Ghana in Africa; Brazil, Chile and Peru in Latin America; Mexico in central America; and Russia." These emerging markets, the trade minister said, will be given priority this year although the fulcrum of growth will be China, India, Japan, South Korea and Asean.

"With the Asean Economic Community in 2015, that will see a major influence on trade performance in the region," he said, pointing out that most Asean countries enjoyed an average 6.0 per cent to 7.0 per cent growth in 2012.

On Malaysia's 2012 trade performance, Mustapa said total trade again surpassed the RM1 trillion mark, at RM1.31 trillion.

For the 12 months, exports only grew by 0.6 per cent, way below the official expectations of 4.0 per cent to 5.0 per cent.

Manufactured goods, which accounted for 67 per cent of total exports, shrank by 0.1 per cent.

The E&E sector has not been doing well. One of the reasons is that it has been behind the curve, he noted.

Exports of agricultural goods contracted in 2012, on the back of weaker exports of palm oil (13.3 per cent) and crude rubber (41.7 per cent), due to lower prices.

Imports expanded by 5.9 per cent to RM607.36 billion and the trade surplus, which was into its 15th consecutive year.

The Asean region was Malaysia's strongest trading partner, recording an 8.2 per cent increase, while trade with China also rose by 8.0 per cent.

Trade with the G3 economies, however, shrank slightly last year, led by the US (2.8 per cent), the European Union (2.4 per cent) and Japan (1.0 per cent).

On the strong imports growth vis-a-vis exports, Mustapa also said that it is important to maintain a healthy balance in the trade account, otherwise, there could be challenges going forward.

Malaysia has been enjoying strong trade surpluses since 1997.

Meanwhile, Miti said exports were 5.8 per cent lower in December, while imports fell 6.5 per cent.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch Asean economist Dr Chua Hak Bin said the surprise decline in exports was led by palm oil, liquefied natural gas and E&E.

But for this year, he expects export growth to be about 7.1 per cent for Malaysia, on the back of stronger Asian growth and a recovery in commodity prices, as well as zero export duties for palm oil.

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