Blog Archives

Import & Export Procedures of Malaysia

Trade Policy

Malaysia was one of the WTO’s founding members in 1995 and its trade policy is to work towards creating a more liberalised and fair global trading environment. Malaysia has the following trade agreements:

  • Six regional free trade agreements (FTAs) signed under the auspices of ASEAN with six countries individually, including China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand
  • Seven bilateral FTAs with Japan, Pakistan, New Zealand, India, Chile, Australia and Turkey
  • Ongoing FTA negotiations with the EU, ASEAN and Hong Kong and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is responsible for facilitating trade in Malaysia, and Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD) is the agency responsible for clearance of import, export and transit related goods. Imports and exports are regulated under the Customs Act (1967).

Import and Export Requirements

Some products require a licence or Approved Permit (AP) before importing/exporting. These include motor vehicles, iron and steel, heavy machinery and chemicals. A full list of products requiring a licence can be found on the MITI website. Points to note about the AP process:

  • APs are issued by Permit Issuing Agencies (PIAs), i.e. the relevant ministries relating to products being exported or imported. Contact details for relevant PIAs can be found on myTRADELINK, Malaysia’s trade facilitation portal.
  • AP applications can be made via myTRADELINK through an electronic permit (ePermit).
  • It takes between three and seven working days for an AP to be issued; once issued, it will be valid for 6 months.
  • For all other products, no AP is required but import/export declarations should be submitted online through eDeclare on myTRADELINK. In addition, other supporting documents include invoice, packing list and Bill of Lading/Air Waybill.
Prohibited Items

A list of prohibited items can be found on the RMCD website.

Tariff Classification and Import/Export Duties

Malaysia adopts the Harmonised System (HS). All goods imported are liable for GST, unless specifically exempt, and all goods exported are zero‑rated for GST – further information can be found on the RMCD website.

Import Duties

The applicable rates are dependent on the origin of the goods and a certificate of origin will need to be presented. Further information on product origins can be found on the MITI website.

Approximately three quarters of Malaysia’s imports are duty free with the average duty at around 6%. Lower tariff rates are applicable for countries which Malaysia has a FTA in place and applicable rates can be found through the FTA Tariff Calculator on MITI website. The Customs Duties Order 2017 sets out all the rates applicable for countries in which there is no trade agreement is in place.

Export Duties

Almost all goods have zero export duties, with the exception of Malaysia’s main commodities (e.g. crude oil, palm oil). The applicable rates vary with the classification of the goods and range from 0% to 15%. Export duty rates can be found in the Customs Duties Order 2017.

Product Standards and Labelling Requirements

The Department of Standards Malaysia, under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, is responsible for providing guidance on product standards and labelling requirements.


Import from China into Malaysia

Malaysia’s tech-savvy population of 31.53 million and fairly developed infrastructure have made it a great destination for imports from nations like China, particularly cross-border purchases from marketplaces like Alibaba and Taobao.

If you are engaging in cross-border eCommerce, Klang Valley is of particular interest as this area has among the highest eCommerce adoption rates in the country. The Klang Valley includes major urban areas with well-developed infrastructure like Klang, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur, while also including major gateways into Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) and Port Klang (MYPKG).

But how do shipments from China, be they direct-to-consumer (B2C) or bulk freight (B2B) reach Malaysia? How do they reach addresses in Sabah and Sarawak, which is separated from West Malaysia by the South China Sea? First, we’ll need to consider the mode of transport.

Choosing Between Air Freight or Sea Freight


If speed is your priority, air freight’s speed is worth paying for. When not looking at other legs of the journey, a flight from Hong Kong or Shenzhen to Malaysia will take around a day at most. Sea freight could take a few more days to a week depending on the schedule.


On the other hand, if you are looking for the most economical way to ship your goods, sea freight is the way to go, as long as your shipment volume is large enough.

There are cases when air freight can be cheaper than sea freight. To understand this, it helps to see how air freight rates are calculated.

For air freight, rates are charged to the order’s volumetric weight (how much space it takes up) or its actual weight depending on which is greater. For less-than-container-load shipments, sea freight is usually charged by volumetric weight, with a minimum chargeable volume being 1 cubic metre (cbm).

Sea freight saves you money if your order is larger than 2 cbm. However, you don’t get those economies of scale for items that aren’t that big like small cartons that take up between 0.5 to 0.9 cbm since you’re paying for unused space. This is where air freight can be more economical than sea freight.

Fortunately, you don’t need to work all of this out on your own. Logistics service providers like Janio can help advise you on whether air freight or sea freight is better suited to your current leg of the supply chain and also offer you both shipping modes for your orders. To find out more, reach out to us below:

Items shipped

When choosing between air freight and sea freight, consider the following:

  • The weight and size of your shipment
  • The products being shipped
    • Fragility
    • Perishability
    • Hazard
    • Shipment Speed

Air freight delivers shipments quickly, but can be limited in terms of what you’re allowed to transport. Bulky or oddly-sized items, or items deemed too dangerous to meet air freight’s restrictions on what can be shipped generally should use sea freight instead.

For instance, these products generally can’t be shipped via air freight: products containing gases, all things flammable, toxic or corrosive items like batteries, magnetic substances like speakers, perishable items and more. If you’re shipping these, it makes more sense to use sea freight.

B2C and B2B Shipping from China to Malaysia in 4 Steps

Infographic showing how air and sea freight from Guangdong Province/ Shenzhen and Hong Kong to Malaysia is done, including the customs documents needed to clear customs in Malaysia

Your logistics supply chain from China to Malaysia can vary depending on your requirements and addresses but tend to follow some general steps. We’ll be using an example of shipments from Guangdong Province in China to Malaysia.

China: First Mile

The international shipping process begins with first mile delivery. This is where your order leaves the origin address, which can be an address your business owns like an office or warehouse or your supplier’s address.

Prior to delivery, packaging and labelling your orders appropriately can minimise any hiccoughs that could arise during the delivery or at customs. Events like turbulence during flights could jostle your orders, so sufficient padding and securing your parcels with the h-taping method could help. You can learn more about the h-taping method and other packaging methods in our packaging guide.

Additionally, the orders’ shipping labels and the appropriate customs documentation must be accessible for customs officers to inspect the shipment. For more details, you can look at our full parcel labelling guide which you can also find in our resources for B2C shipping to Southeast Asia.

Depending on your arrangements with your shipping partner, they will either come to an address specified by you to pick up the order or collect your item from a drop-off point that you’ll need to deliver your items to first. If you’re shipping with Janio, you’ll be dropping off your shipments at our warehouse in Shenzhen – especially good for shippers operating in Guangdong province.

China and Hong Kong Origin Customs Clearance and Freight

After your shipments have been collected, they need to be cleared for export by China’s and/or Hong Kong Customs at the international port or airport closest to your origin address. For sea freight, this could be one of the ports at Shenzhen or Hong Kong Port.

If you are shipping via air freight, the airport your goods will be shipped from will defer depending on the type of goods you are exporting. If you aren’t shipping dangerous goods, also known as DG, your goods can depart from Shenzhen Airport (SZX). Otherwise, your goods will be shipped from Hong Kong Airport (HKG). The destination airport in Malaysia, if you’re shipping with Janio will be Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL).

To get your goods cleared for export, your shipment usually needs to have the following documents ready:

  • Export permit
  • Commercial invoice
  • Bill of lading
  • Packing list

Exporting in bulk from China requires you to have an export permit or exporter of record before you can ship your goods out. Additionally, if you’re shipping any restricted goods, you’ll need to apply for a special export permit for these goods before it can be exported. You can check the Ministry of Commerce Republic of China’s website to find out more on how to apply for the export permit.1 We’ve provided a site with an English translation in our references as well.2

To check if your goods fall under the restricted goods category, you can look up China’s Customs website.3 B2C exports from China don’t need export permits or exporters of record.

If you’re ever unsure about what kind of steps you need to take to export your goods from China, you can always check with our customs clearance experts if you’re unsure of which documents to apply for and how to declare your goods.