The Business Year

Dato’ Wan Latiff Wan Musa

MALAYSIA - Economy

On a Growth Trajectory

CEO, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE)


Dato’ Wan Latiff Wan Musa has a wide experience in international trade. He started his career with Tourism Malaysia in 1984 before joining MATRADE in 1997. With MATRADE, he served as Trade Commissioner for almost nine years at MATRADE’s Cologne, Toronto, and New York offices, where he accumulated more experience in international trade. Currently, he is the CEO of MATRADE. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics from the National University of Malaysia and an MBA from Mara University of Technology. He also attended a two-year Intensive Education Program on Tourism at the Rikkyo University, Tokyo, and the fifth ASEAN Senior Management Development Program (5SMDP) at Harvard Business School.

MATRADE's large network of trade offices around the world provide valuable market intelligence and studies for Malaysian exporters.

How do you assess Malaysia’s trade performance over the past year?

In 2018, Malaysia continued to record a record-breaking trade performance by registering positive growth amid the high-base effect of 2017. Malaysia’s total trade expanded by 5.9%, valued at MYR1.876 trillion. The total export value has jumped closer to the MYR1-trillion mark, growing by 6.8% to reach MYR998.28 billion, while imports grew by 4.9% to MYR877.76 billion. The trade balance grew 22.3% to surpass the MYR100-billion mark and reach MYR120.52 billion, the highest level since 2012. Amid global headwinds, Malaysia’s trade remained healthy with growing exports and imports, maintaining an upward growth momentum with trade surplus recorded for over two decades. China, Singapore, the US, Japan, and Thailand were Malaysia’s top-five trading partners in 2018, accounting for slightly over 50% of total trade. Singapore was the largest export market for Malaysia, followed by China, the US, Hong Kong, and Japan.

What are the main opportunities for Malaysian manufacturers around the move toward Industry 4.0?

In essence, Industry 4.0 adoption is a major shift toward propelling productivity and enhancing competitiveness. The growth of Industry 4.0 will provide greater avenue for Malaysian companies to short circuit the growth cycle as it enables businesses to grow quickly and access new markets. Alternatively, companies can move up the value chain by providing more customized products, through the use of existing experience and data as well as investing in machines and particularly in CAD technology. The economic impact of Industry 4.0 could noticeably be significant for Malaysia’s manufacturing industry, especially sectors that are involved in development and marketing of products.

How does MATRADE help local SMEs to prepare themselves trends in international trade?

SMEs account for about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment across the world and are therefore a crucial backbone of any economy. In Malaysia, SMEs represent 98.5% of registered companies. It is critical to ensure that Malaysian SMEs are well prepared to expand and explore new markets overseas. Currently, SMEs’ contribution to exports is 17.3%, and MATRADE plays a pivotal role to assist export-ready SMEs to increase their contribution. For 2019, MATRADE has outlined 437 activities for exporters development, aimed to accelerate and strengthen the contribution of Malaysian companies, mainly SMEs, to exports. Going forward, we will continue to develop opportunities for companies to succeed in international trade by assisting SMEs to expand in the export market and grow as future mid-tier companies (MTCs) who will become regional and global champions. MATRADE has implemented an e-trade program with the aim of accelerating exports by encouraging Malaysian companies to adopt cross border e-commerce by participating in international e-commerce platforms. Taking advantage of the growing e-commerce trend, more than 2,800 companies have participated in the eTRADE program, penetrating more than 35 markets. MATRADE’s Exporters Development programs aim to assist around 10,000 exporters in 2019. For export-ready companies and SMEs, a total of 40 trade promotional programs will be implemented in 2019, which includes participation in iconic trade fairs and exports acceleration missions. The strong network of MATRADE’s 46 trade offices overseas will help provide market intelligence reports and product market studies and update our Malaysian exporters with the latest business trends and opportunities.

How do you envision Malaysia’s role in further building the global halal market?

Malaysia has to ensure that its halal ecosystem keeps on progressing with support and new initiatives from various government agencies, trade associations, financial institutions, universities, and industry players. Based on Thomson Reuters’ GIEI 2018/19 Report, the global Islamic economy is expected to reach USD5.9 trillion in 2022. In 2018, Malaysia’s export of halal products was MYR40 billion. Based on the Halal Industry Master Plan (2008-2020), Malaysia’s export of halal products will reach MYR50 billion in 2020.



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