Exports fall 10 months in a row, says Taiwan's Ministry of Finance

Exports fall 10 months in a row, says Taiwan's Ministry of Finance
Containers are seen stacked up at Keelung port, northern Taiwan.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Exports dropped 16.9 per cent to US$22.13 billion (S$31.1 billion) in November, marking the 10th consecutive month of annual decline, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) reported on Monday.

The 16.9-per cent tumble was also the gravest in six years. Export products fell across the board. Taiwan's electronic products, the top category in terms of export value, shrank 11.5 per cent.

Other major exports such as base metals, machinery, optical instruments, plastics and chemical products, and information and communication technology products, all suffered double-digit decline.

A slow economy means firms have been unwilling to restock inventory and low agricultural and industrial raw material prices have undercut the nation's exports, the MOF says in the report's summary.

Orders slumped from all major export markets. Mainland China and Hong Kong, Taiwan's biggest markets absorbing 21.2 per cent of all exports, plunged 19.6 per cent.

Exports to six core ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand) sank 19.3 per cent.

Exports to Japan, the US and Europe fell 5.8 per cent, 10.9 per cent and 6.1 per cent, respectively.

Exports Dwindle around the World

Imports in November shrank as well, by 13.7 per cent to US$19.38 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of US$2.75 billion.

Between January and November, exports decreased 10.3 per cent while imports plunged 16.5 per cent.

The underperformance is not unique to Taiwan, according to the MOF's report. While the nation's exports fell 10.3 per cent cumulatively in the first eleven months of the year, they also went down 7.4 per cent in South Korea.

Exports tumbled 14.3 per cent in Singapore between January and October, 9.7 per cent in Japan, 6.5 per cent in the US, 2.5 per cent in China and 1.7 per cent in Hong Kong.

Chinese Demand Critical

Looking on the bright side, big data and Internet of Things applications as well as a series of export promotions launched by the government are expected to drive new opportunities, the MOF said.

Also, semiconductor firms have hiked equipment purchases since June this year - by 14.4 per cent compared with the same period last year - indicating a potential output surge in electronics products in the future, the MOF pointed out.

However, the nation's exports may still be compromised by a slow global recovery, intensified competition, falling raw material prices, and China's increasingly independent supply chain and excess output, the ministry cautioned.

If Chinese demand does not rebound, Taiwan's exports for the year may see a double-digit reduction overall, the MOF predicted.

The good news is that there has been only one month with falling equipment imports, a sign that manufacturers are ramping up capacity, said Yeh Maan-tzwu, director of the Finance Ministry's statistics department.

Semiconductor firms are certain to deplete inventory by the end of the year and will begin to recover next year, Yeh said.

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