KUALA LUMPUR (June 29): Malaysia's total international trade in services grew 8% to RM341.2 billion in 2017, as compared with RM314.2 billion in 2016, representing 25.2% of gross domestic product at current prices.
The Department of Statistics Malaysia said exports of services expanded to RM159.2 billion in 2017 from RM147.6 billion in 2016, while imports of services increased by 9.3% year-on-year to RM182 billion in 2017 against RM166.5 billion.
In a statement today, chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir said exports and imports of services have increased about RM47.7 billion and RM77.1 billion, respectively, within seven years since 2010.
"The exports were mainly supported by travel especially on higher inbound tourists, other business services mainly on professional and management consulting services, and telecommunications, computer and information.
"[The imports] were impelled by higher payments for travel, transport and construction," he said.
In 2017, Asia was the main destination for Malaysia's exports and imports of services, which accounted for 70.4% and 68.2%, respectively.
The statistics found that Singapore remained the prominent partner for both exports (RM48.6 billion) and imports (RM35.4 billion) of services.
Mohd Uzir highlighted that China has leapfrogged Indonesia as the second largest exports' destination and remained as the second largest imports' market.
Overall, Malaysia's top export earners were Singapore, followed by United States and China. Imports of services were mainly from Singapore, while China and the US were the second and third largest import markets respectively.
Malaysia's strength in exports of services was mainly on travel, transport led by air passengers, contract manufacturing precisely in electrical and electronic products, business and management consulting, and computer services.
"Malaysia has always gained from exports of travel due to the increasing tourist arrival especially from Singapore, Indonesia and China," the statistices department said.
As for imports, between 2010 and 2017, imports of merchandise showed increasing momentum that led to higher payments to foreign freight and insurance activities.
"The ongoing projects on oil and gas industries and high-value infrastructure projects have attributed to the strong expansion in imports of construction," said Mohd Uzir.
This statistics provide the mechanism for policymakers to focus on Malaysia's niche exports markets and unlock the potential services sectors.