Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 17 News List

Trade hits yet another record high

SHRINKING SURPLUS Taiwan's posting of record trade figures has prompted the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics to consider revising its economic growth forecast upward

By Cybil Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Shoppers check out hot new digital video systems in a discount computer store in Taipei. Strong worldwide demand for electronic goods has boosted Taiwanese exports while increasing demand for equipment within Taiwan has seen imports also rise sharply.

PHOTO: AP

Taiwan posted a record monthly trade figure of US$24.43 billion in April prompting the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS, 主計處) to reconsider its economic outlook.

Strong overseas demand and increased domestic investment were the main forces behind the country's high trade figure, according to the Ministry of Finance (財政部) which released April trade figures yesterday.

Increased imports of capital equipment, however, led the trade surplus down 88 percent to US$116 million, said Hsu Kuo-chung (許國忠) director of the ministry's statistics department.

Exports for the month rose 34.2 percent year-on-year to US$12.27 billion -- a record monthly high -- on the back of strong demand from Asia, the US and Europe, he said.

In April alone, Hsu identified Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Europe as Taiwan's main export markets.

Shipments to the US, the largest market for Taiwan-made goods, increased 11.6 percent to US$10.68 billion during the period.

Exports to Hong Kong, the main channel of Taiwan-China trade, came in second at US$9.30 billion, up 20 percent, followed by Europe at US$7.64 billion, with a jump of 15.4 percent.

Shipments to Japan surged 39.9 percent to US$4.99 billion while demand from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) rose 30.7 percent to US$4.82 billion.

Exports figures have grown 22.4 percent to US$45.16 billion so far this year, compared to the same period last year.

"Taiwan's exports have been expanding since the second half of last year as the US economy remains robust, while Europe and Asia have staged strong economic recoveries," Hsu said.

"Up until April, Taiwan's exports have been boosted by high demand for electronic, information and communications products, such as computer-related equipment and mobile phones," said Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), assistant research fellow at Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER, 台灣經濟研究院).

While exports have grown, imports have also surged ahead hitting a new monthly high of US$12.16 billion, up 48.5 percent from a year ago. Hsu pointed to strong activity in domestic investment coupled with higher costs for overseas materials as reasons for the rise.

"Meanwhile, imports during the same period have been boosted due to higher demand for production equipment -- largely from the US and Japan -- from international clients for electronics, information and telecommunication products," Cheng added.

The government is expected to raise its export and import estimates for 2000 as well as its GDP growth forecast later this month, he added.

Imports for the first four months of the year were up 31.2 percent compared to the same period last year, coming in at US$43.72 billion.

In February, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS, 主計處 ) said it expected 2000 GDP growth of 6.54 percent on the back of a 10.4 percent expansion in exports and a 12.9 percent increase in imports.

Officials at DGBAS said it will revise its forecast of various economic indicators for 2000 on May 16.

As for this year's trade outlook, Hsu said that imports are expected to continue to rise on stronger imports from ASEAN countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Hsu said imports are expected to continue to show growth in response to domestic demand resulting from the construction of the high-speed railway and the implementation of fixed network telecommunications projects. Expansion in exports will stimulate demand for imported raw materials, further boosting import figures, Hsu said.

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