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Sluggish economic growth boosts exports slightly in '13

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Exports in December dipped 1.9 percent year-on-year, while exports for the whole year in 2013 grew 0.7 percent, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said yesterday.

The MOF released a report detailing Taiwan's imports and exports in December yesterday. Taiwan had a trade surplus of US$33.14 billion in 2013, which was a 7.9 percent increase year-on-year.

With sluggish economic growth around the globe, intense trade competitions and China trying to localize its supply chain, Taiwan's export momentum lost its edge in 2013, the report said.

High Import Figures

Imports in December grew 10.1 percent year-on-year. Imports of capital equipment totaled US$4.09 billion, which was a 24.7-percent growth year-on-year and the third highest figure in history. The MOF pointed out that semiconductor-related investment grew 58 percent. Imports of agricultural and industrial materials climbed 7.3 percent. Imports of consumer products also grew 9.3 percent.

Imports of capital equipment in the fourth quarter went up 10.5 percent year-on-year, while imports of semiconductor-related equipment surged more than 40 percent. This is expected to add momentum to Taiwan's exports of electronics, the MOF said.

With the Chinese New Year approaching, more purchases were also made in December, driving imports even higher, the MOF said.

Exports by Product Lines

Exports in December totaled US$25.59 billion, a 1.9 percent decline from a year ago. In terms of product categories, information and communication technology (ICT) products and optical equipment experienced the largest drop, 22.1 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Exports of electronics declined slightly in December. Non-electronic products, such as industrial machinery, plastic products and base metals, grew steadily in December and registered 16.8 percent, 5.2 percent and 4.7 percent growth, respectively.

Regarding the strong performance in industrial machinery, MOF Statistics Department Director Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) pointed out that except for Japan, exports of industrial machinery to all other markets saw double-digit growth. “This is a sign that the economy is improving and stabilized,” Yeh said.

Exports to Major Markets

Except for the mainland China and Hong Kong market, exports to all other markets declined in December.

Exports to mainland China and Hong Kong grew 2.3 percent, but exports to ASEAN-6 countries, Japan, the U.S. and Europe declined 4.3 percent, 10.2 percent, 1.5 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively.

According to Tony Phoo, Taipei-based economist for Standard Chartered, the approaching Chinese New Year contributed to higher demand in the Greater China regional market.

During 2013 exports to Asia went up 1.5 percent on average, including exports to ASEAN-6 countries and the greater China area (including Hong Kong) that went up 2.2 percent and 1.5 percent respectively. Exports to Japan, the U.S. and Europe dipped 0.3 percent, 1.5 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.

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