Taiwan, China flag Taiwan, China: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Taiwan, China

Foreign Trade in Figures

Foreign trade has been the engine of Taiwan's rapid growth during the past 40 years. Taiwan is very open to international trade, which represented over 62% of GDP in Taiwan from 2015 to 2018 (WTO, 2020) . Main exports include electrical equipment, machinery, computers, plastics, medical apparatus, mineral fuels and vehicles;  while imports include electrical equipment, mineral fuels, machinery and computers. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is forecasting an increase of 4.7% in the volume of exports of goods and services of the country in 2022, after an increase of 2.8% in 2021 and a fall of 4.9% in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, and an increase of 5% of its imports, after an increase of 15.2% in 2021 and a fall of 3.2% in 2020.

Taiwan's economy is export-oriented. Exports account for around 70 percent of total GDP and its composition have changed from predominantly agricultural commodities to industrial goods (now 98%) during the past 40 years. Main exports products are: electronics (33.1% of total), information, communication and audio-video products (10.8%), base metals (8.8%), plastics & rubber (7.1%), machinery (7.5 percent). Main exports partners are Mainland China & Hong Kong (40% of total), ASEAN countries (18.3%), USA (12%), Europe (9%) and Japan with 7% (Trading Economics, 2022).

A lack of natural resources had made Taiwan dependent on imports. Taiwan imports mostly parts of electronic products (18.2% of total), mineral products (15.2%), machinery (12.4%), chemicals (10.8%) and base metals (7.3%). Main import partners are Mainland China & Hong Kong (19.6% of total), Japan (17.6%), Europe (12.6%), USA (12.4%), ASEAN countries (11.8%) and Middle East (7.7%).

Since Taiwan's economy is highly export-oriented, it depends on a regime open to international trade and remains vulnerable to fluctuations in the global economy. Political tensions between separatist and reunificationists in Taiwan made reaching policy consensus difficult. The United States commercial battle against China has increased risk in Asian economies. Lack of international recognition from other countries also complicates Taiwan's international position.

Taiwan exported USD 330.6 billion of goods and USD 51.4 billion of services in 2020, and imported USD 287.1 billion of goods and USD 56.3 billion of services (WTO, 2021). Electronics industry is the largest industrial export sector and it receives the most US investment. Taiwan's trade surplus widened to USD 5.71 billion in November of 2021 from USD 5.14 billion in the same month last year, more than market expectations of USD 5.4 billion. Exports jumped 30.2% year-on-year to a fresh record of USD 41.58 billion, way more than market forecasts of a 23.05% hike, mainly driven by robust demand for tech products ahead of the peak holiday season. Accordingly, shipments rose the most for machinery & electrical equipment (25.5%); followed by base metals & articles thereof (67.7%); and plastic & articles thereof (33.4%). Meanwhile, imports advanced 33.8% to USD 35.86 billion, led by purchases of machinery & electrical equipment (20.3%); mineral products (133.9%); and chemicals with 37.7% (Ministry of Finance, R.O.C., 2021). Taiwan's membership in the WTO as an independent economy has also supported its commerce since 2002. The island has also a free trade agreement with New Zealand.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 230,568259,266286,333287,164288,053
Exports of Goods (million USD) 280,321317,249335,909330,622347,193
Imports of Services (million USD) 52,40752,77156,18256,28937,306
Exports of Services (million USD) 41,44344,72149,83251,47540,992

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 7.43.32.51.10.8
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 8.94.14.13.23.2

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Taiwan is a member of the following international economic organisations: ICC, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), WTO, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Taiwan click here. International organisation membership of Taiwan is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Taiwan can be consulted here.
 
 
 
 
 

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Latest Update: June 2022