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Malaysia hopes for stronger exports growth in 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's exports are expected to pick up this year after growing marginally last year amid global economic uncertainties, the trade ministry said Friday.

The ministry said exports rose 0.6 percent to 702.2 billion ringgit ($227 billion), slowing down sharply from 8.7 percent growth in 2011.

Imports expanded 5.9 percent to 607.4 billion ringgit ($196 billion) while total trade for 2012 rose 3 percent to 1.31 trillion ringgit ($420 billion), it said.

Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said a resilient Asia as well as a recovery in the U.S. market this year will boost demand for electrical and electronic products, palm oil and furniture.

He said goods exports are likely to grow between 2 percent and 4 percent this year, while imports are seen expanding 5 percent to 8 percent.

"It will be a better year. I am quite confident that it's going to be between 4 and 5 percent in terms of total trade growth. Anything above 5 percent is a bonus for us," he said.

The top five export markets last year were China, Singapore, Japan, Thailand and India.

Mustapa said Asia will remain the pillar of growth for exports but the ministry is expanding its focus on central and South America as well as Africa. A total of 136 trade missions have been planned for this year.

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