He said the target is based on the anticipation of a recovery in global economic environment, as well as improving commodity prices.
“A healthy target is to see (total trade) to reach almost RM2 trillion (before the coronavirus outbreak) or a 2.0 per cent increase in import and export.
“That is a good target to aim for as we would not able to reach it last year. Perhaps with the improving global situation, as well as crude palm oil and oil prices, that is beneficial to oil exporting countries like Malaysia.
“RM2 trillion would be good target to aim for,” he told reporters after announcing Malaysia's trade performance for 2019 here today.
The country's total trade contracted by 2.5 per cent to RM1.835 trillion in 2019 in tandem with softer global demand amid trade tensions and unfavourable external economic conditions.
Malaysia’s trade surplus continued to register a double-digit growth for three consecutive years, widening by 11 per cent to RM137.39 billion compared with RM123.78 billion in 2018.
This was the largest trade surplus since 2009, representing Malaysia’s achievement of 22nd consecutive year of trade surplus since 1968.
Exports decreased marginally by 1.7 per cent to RM986.4 billion from the preceding year, while imports declined by 3.5 per cent per cent to RM849.01 billion.
Lower trade was recorded with Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Thailand and Japan, while higher trade was registered with the US, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico, and the UK.
On the impact of the ongoing US-China trade war on Malaysia, Ong said the E&E exports to the US had increased significantly and that was part of output diversification happening in Southeast Asia as a global E&E value chain.
“Other countries benefited more. Vietnam definitely benefited more than Malaysia in terms of this diversification strategy but I think that we do not have to be worried about that.
“What we want for Malaysia is sustainable increases in terms of trade and output,” he added.
China remained as Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years and accounted for 17.2 per cent of Malaysia’s total trade in 2019.
Trade with China valued at RM315.19 billion with a marginal increase of 0.2 per cent from 2018.
Export volume for palm oil and palm oil products increased 10.9 per cent to 28 million tonnes despite a decline in export value by 4.0 per cent to RM64.84 billion.
India led as the top export destination for palm oil and palm oil products in 2019, with trade value increasing by 43 per cent to RM9.78 billion, followed by China (RM9.17 billion) and the Netherlands (RM4.52 billion).
“We are cautiously optimistic that our palm oil exports to India will grow in 2020. India reduced its CPO tariffs for ASEAN due to a free-trade agreement to 37 per cent in 2019.
“Recently the tariff rate has gone up again to about 44 per cent but that is not something targeted to Malaysia alone but also for other countries outside Indian's free-trade agreements,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ong said the National Automotive Policy had gone through the necessary tabling to the Cabinet and had been approved.
“We are still waiting for the Prime Minister to give us a date on when it will be launched,” he added.