KUALA LUMPUR: MIDF Research expects Malaysia's external trade activities to expand steadily beyond 2023 amid the impacts of new trade agreements, apart from elevated commodity prices and lower monetary rates.
In a note today, it said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CTPPP) were also expected to alleviate the external trade performances in 2024.
"In the post-pandemic era, Malaysia has ratified the RCEP and CPTPP, which came into force on March 18, 2022, and Nov 29, 2022, respectively.
"As of 2022, RCEP members contributed 58.1 per cent of Malaysia's total trade while CPTPP members sponsored 27.5 per cent," it said.
Having these two free trade agreements (FTAs), the research house said Malaysian products are able to penetrate into wider markets and enjoy cheaper imported goods, hence Malaysia's exports and imports growth rates would touch +12.1 per cent and +10.9 per cent respectively in 2024.
Besides that, MIDF Research also viewed that the external front is still on a challenging path, with concerns of a global economic slowdown, inflation bite, tightening monetary policy in many countries and geopolitical risks in Europe and Asia.
"We foresee slight moderation in exports growth forecast from +25 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2022 to +9.2 per cent y-o-y in 2023.
"On the bright side, China's reopening provides a silver lining for global trade flows. Malaysia's exports market can still hold among others underpin by overseas sales of commodity products with commodity prices remaining elevated, crude palm oil at RM3,500 per tonne and Brent crude oil at US$94 per barrel for 2023," it said, adding that it has maintained a 'Neutral' stance on plantation sector.
As for imports, it is forecast to touch +9.5 per cent y-o-y, higher than exports as the research house views domestic demand to stay sturdy.
On the plantation sector, MIDF Research anticipated the palm oil supply tightness situation would likely ease in 2023 on better weather conditions aided by recovery in a foreign labour shortage in the second half of this year.
Meanwhile, it reiterated a 'Positive' call for the oil and gas sector, despite an estimated average price for Brent crude in 2023 to reach US$92 per barrel, as compared to US$98 per barrel last year, in emphasis to the risks and uncertainties from Russian oil and gas sanctions, US productions and China's long-term demand.
"We also maintain a favourable outlook on the semiconductor sector in 2023 due to its ongoing growth potential driven by advanced technologies and we believe that the recent decline in the tech sector has been overstated, offering opportunities for forward-looking investors to invest in growth stocks," it said.