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CLICK TO ENLARGEPETALING JAYA: Corporate Malaysia is on track to chart a robust trade surplus this year in spite of headwinds led by the electrical and electronics (E&E) sector as the key driver of export growth.
Although exports could hit some speed bumps, they are expected to be transitory as global trade gains momentum and with the ringgit likely to weaken against the US dollar, it will make exports cheaper and imports more expensive.
RAM Rating Services Bhd senior economist Woon Khai Jhek said the country’s external trade, which has been the bright spot for the nation’s economy this year, is envisaged to remain robust in 2021.
He told StarBiz that the overall export volume had recovered above the pre-pandemic levels despite the still underwhelming domestic demand conditions – indicative of the strength of the global demand recovery.
Malaysia’s total export rebounded 25.9% year-on-year (y-o-y) as of year-to-date in July, fuelled by the robust rebound in global demand as well as elevated demand for rubber gloves and E&E goods.
The country’s trade is anticipated to remain healthy through the rest of the year on the back of the rosy global economic recovery, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting global growth to come in at 6% in 2021 (2020: minus 3.2%).
“Demand momentum is likely to be especially strong among developed economies owing to their high vaccination rates, which have allowed them to reopen faster.
“IMF upped its 2021 GDP growth projection for advanced economies to 5.6% in its July report, from 5.1% in April. This bodes well for Malaysia, as the United States and Europe make up about 20% of Malaysia’s total exports, not accounting for the indirect demand attained through the global value chain.
“Sector-wise, we expect E&E to remain the key driver to export growth owing to the current semiconductor super cycle. The current global chip shortage, which could remain a mainstay through 2022 and 2023, should also ensure that the sector continues to see relatively sustained demand,” he noted.
Woon said petroleum and natural gas exports should also remain a major contributor moving forward. Global energy demand is envisaged to continue rising, in line with the ongoing recovery in economic activities, he said.
Nonetheless, he said Malaysia, being a small and open economy that is highly integrated in the global supply chain, is still susceptible to disruption in global trade flow.Such risk has been rising as of late, he said as the rising Covid-19 infections in the region hit industrial activities. This has the potential to impact the country’s supply of production inputs, which could in turn impact exports.