Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Cross-strait trade increases to record US$46.3m in 2003

LOVE-HATE RELATIONS China is now Taiwan's No. 1 trading partner, with exports rising by 20 percent and imports expanding by 38 percent

CNA , TAIPEI

China was Taiwan's top trading partner last year for the first time, with two-way trade across the Taiwan Strait hitting an record of US$46.3 billion, according to government statistics released over the weekend.

Taiwan exported US$35.4 billion worth of products to China last year, up 20 percent from 2002, while its imports from China increased 37.9 percent to US$11 billion, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said.

Shipments to China accounted for 24.5 percent of Taiwan's total exports last year, and imports from China made up 8.6 percent of the total.

Taiwan enjoyed a trade surplus of NT$24.4 billion with China last year, marking an increase of US$2.9 billion over a year earlier.

Taiwan's main export items to China included electric engineering facilities, optical and photographing equipment, and synthetic fibers.

Strong recovery

DGBAS officials attributed last year's booming cross-strait trade to a combination of factors, including a stronger-than-expected global economic recovery, China's continued economic growth and a further deepening of cross-strait industrial division of labor.

Last year, China replaced the US and Japan to become Taiwan's No. 1 trading partner for the first time.

During the year, Taiwan-US trade totaled US$44.6 billion, while Taiwan-Japan amounted to US$42.8 billion.

Chiu Hsiu-chin (邱秀錦), a section chief with the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development, said Taiwan had become increasingly reliant on China, which now accounts for a quarter of exports.

Given that China still refuses to renounce the option of using force against Taiwan, Chiu said, local companies should devote more efforts to diversifying their export markets to minimize risks.

Moreover, Chiu said Taiwan must be careful not to become marginalized amid China's efforts to promote regional economic integration.

Since China was admitted to the WTO, many countries have accelerated investment there, contributing to growth in their trade with China and fueling regional economic integration, Chiu said.

In addition, China has negotiated free-trade agreements with ASEAN countries and South Korea.

In this process, Japan's economic clout in the region is expected to decline steadily while China's expands, Chiu said, adding that Taiwan may face increasing competitive pressures in the new scenario.

He said the question of what Taiwan's role should be in the ever-changing and increasingly competitive Asian and global markets deserves careful thought and discussion.

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