POSITIVE trade growth between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China is expected to prove a boon to Malaysia's import and export trade with China.
The 10-nation ASEAN surpassed the United States to become China's second largest trading partner in the first six months of the year, according to China's official statistics, reported Xinhua.
Malaysia's deputy minister for international trade and industry, Ong Kian Ming, said the fact that ASEAN countries have overtaken the US in this respect "is not surprising."
The reasons he listed include the fact that China and ASEAN's economies are growing faster than the US, which would see a larger per cent increase in exports and imports among them, the greater supply chain integration between companies operating in China and Southeast Asia, as well as the effects of trade and production diversion due to US-China trade tensions.
Professor Azmi Hassan from University of Technology Malaysia sees China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the main catalyst for expanding trade between ASEAN countries and China.
Bilateral trade between China and Malaysia rose 10.7 per cent to US$57.35 billion in the first half of 2019. China's exports to Malaysia were up 12.7 per cent to $24.35 billion, while China's imports from Malaysia grew 9.3 per cent to $33 billion, according to statistics by China.
Mr Ong said Malaysia is "cautiously optimistic that total trade with China will grow at a higher percentage than the overall percentage trade growth for Malaysia."
"We will continue to work with China on policies to increase Malaysian exports to China, including palm oil, petrochemical products, manufactured goods and agricultural products," the deputy minister told Xinhua.
"With more investments coming from China to Malaysia and more Malaysian companies doing business with China and in China, I am confident that the total trade flows will continue to increase," he said.
China and ASEAN countries are also working towards concluding by the end of 2019 the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is expected to boost trade and economic integration among ASEAN members and its six trading partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.