Speaking with The Star on the achievements in Malaysia’s export sector in the past year – along with the opportunities in 2022, as well as Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation’s initiatives and programmes moving forward (Matrade) – is Matrade deputy chief executive officer (export acceleration) Sharimahton Mat Saleh.
Q: Please share the current state of Malaysia’s exports.A: Malaysia’s trade continued its remarkable achievement in October 2021, registering another round of record high monthly value for trade, exports, imports and trade surplus. Trade expanded by 26.5% to RM202.61bil compared to October 2020, breaching the RM200bil mark for the first time and was the ninth consecutive month of double-digit growth since February 2021.
Exports rose by 25.5% to RM114.4bil, the 14th consecutive month of year-on-year (y-o-y) expansion since September 2020. Imports were higher by 27.9% to RM88.18bil and trade surplus increased by 17.9% to RM26.25bil.
For the first 10 months of 2021, trade expanded by 23.5% to RM1.805tril from the same period last year. Exports surpassed RM1tril in just 10 months, increasing by 25% to RM1.004tril and exceeded overall exports in 2020.
Additionally, exports surpassed the highest annual value ever recorded in 2018. Imports rose by 21.8% to RM801.17bil and trade surplus surged by 39.2% to RM202.58bil. Trade, exports, imports and trade surplus registered the highest value for the period.
What was Matrade’s performance in 2021, in terms of the latest results or achievements for your programmes and initiatives?Matrade’s programmes and initiatives focused mainly on export promotion and exporters development.
Between Jan 1 and Nov 30, Matrade had undertaken 40 export promotion programmes, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak. 1,667 companies were assisted and total export sales generated from these programmes were recorded at RM10.74bil.
Matrade had also organised 1,533 B2B meetings between 1,184 Malaysian exporters and 877 foreign buyers, which resulted in RM4.43bil worth of export sales.
In terms of exporters development,
> 1,568 companies were assisted through the Market Development Grant (MDG), a support initiative in the form of a reimbursable grant.
> 88 companies were assisted via the eTrade 2.0 programme, a programme to assist Malaysian SMEs to have sustainable and valuable presence on cross-border e-commerce platforms.
> 36 webinars were conducted to increase exporters’ knowledge in various topics, drawing a total of 10,783 viewers.
> 697 market alerts, 91 product market studies and 2,907 trade leads were disseminated to all Matrade members for them to stay ahead of their competitors with timely updates.
What are the opportunities and challenges you foresee for Malaysian exporters in 2022?Opportunities lie in the halal sector, electrical and electronic (E&E) and medical devices, to name a few.
One of Matrade’s iconic export promotion programme – the 17th edition of the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (Mihas) 2021 – which runs fully virtual from Sept 9 to Dec 31, is one of Matrade’s proudest achievements this year.
This longest running halal exhibition managed to generate a total of more than RM2bil export sales, combining sales from the virtual exhibition and the International Sourcing Programme. Additionally, through the virtual platform, we have first-time participants from, among others, Mexico, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Colombia.
This proves that Mihas remains a key platform for global halal players to converge and trade. Matrade is confident that the 18th edition of Mihas in 2022 will be on a bigger scale, with commitment for continued synergy between physical and virtual formats to reach out to more halal industry players to support the nation’s economic recovery.
The export growth in October 2021 was boosted mainly by higher shipments of petroleum products, manufactures of metal, E&E products, chemicals and chemical products, as well as palm oil and palm oil-based agriculture products. We foresee that the performance for these sectors will continue its momentum in 2022.
Despite the ample opportunities to look forward to in 2022, Malaysian exporters must also be on the lookout for the rising cost in logistics. According to the Malaysian National Shippers’ Council, sea freight charges have increased up to 700%, as compared to pre-pandemic levels. Matrade immediately responded to the situation by expanding the scope of MDG to also include logistics costs. However, this is only an interim measure to assist Malaysian exporters in this predicament.
What are Matrade’s plans and focus areas for 2022?The recently launched National Trade Blueprint (NTBp) by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is another one of Matrade’s proudest milestones. The first-of-its-kind blueprint outlines a five-year timeframe development strategies and initiatives from 2021 to 2025.
The development was timely, given the current economic recovery phase that our nation is in right now. It aims to enhance Malaysia’s export competitiveness, specifically for the merchandise sector. The blueprint will not only benefit Malaysian businesses, but most importantly, the rakyat. Besides advocating an economic agenda that is aligned with the nation’s social landscape, it strives towards inclusivity, elevating the livelihood of Malaysians, as well as providing positive impacts for the nation through higher income generation.
As part of the NTBp strategic thrusts, the call for sustainability and innovation will encourage Malaysian exporters to adopt sustainable good practices and standards and to gain strategic advantage in a global marketplace that is sensitised to the sustainability agenda.
What advice would you give to companies eyeing export in 2022?The adoption and integration of sustainability into trade is inevitable. Matrade is championing the sustainability agenda among exporters and acknowledges that sustainability will be an important element of trade in the future. Hence, it is crucial that we get the buy-in from everyone to be together with Matrade in this.
So as to improve our delivery, Matrade will carry out more digitalisation initiatives for companies to venture into global market through exporters development programmes such as eTrade, webinars and MyExport, among others, as well as export promotion programmes such as virtual business meeting (eBizMatch), virtual or hybrid Export Acceleration Mission and trade fairs, among others.
These are among Matrade’s efforts to be a more credible, client-centric and value creating organisation.
The Economic Action Council has approved Matrade to spearhead the Integrated Trade Events Platform, a dedicated platform to connect foreign buyers with Malaysian companies through hosting of virtual meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, as well as the Single Information Portal, which encompasses information across export value chain from various ministries and agencies to facilitate Malaysian companies going abroad.
Matrade has already lined up programmes to facilitate Malaysian companies’ businesses for 2022. Hence, it is hoped that we will get the support from Malaysian companies to elevate the economy together, particularly in the export sector.