Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 10 News List

December trade deficit hits US$1 billion

RECORD HIGH The finance ministry said the deficit resulted from decreasing exports of information-technology and communication products, as well as precision instruments

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's export-oriented economy saw a record high trade deficit of US$1.1 billion last month compared with a US$830 million surplus a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance reported yesterday.

Exports last month rose by 6.2 percent to US$14.9 billion from a year ago, the slowest pace in 17 months. Imports grew by 21.3 percent year-on-year to a historical high of US$16 billion in the same period, the ministry said in a statement.

"The trade deficit came from decreasing exports of information-technology and communication products, as well as precision instruments ... against the record-high import value of crude oil, which aggregated around US$1.8 billion, aircraft imports worth US$380 billion, as well as soaring steel and machinery imports," said the ministry's director of statistics, Hsu Kuo-chung (許國忠).

Hsu attributed the deficit to the decelerating growth of exports to Hong Kong, China, the US, Europe and Japan while imports from those regions rose from 12.7 percent to 25 percent. For the whole of 2004, exports increased 20.7 percent to US$174 billion from a year earlier, while imports grew even faster by 31.9 percent to US$167.9 billion, leading to a slimmer trade surplus of US$6.1 billion, largely down from US$10.8 billion in 2003.

Academia Sinica predicted last week that Taiwan's exports may grow at a slower pace of 8.8 percent this year to reach about US$236 billion.

The value of shipments to Hong Kong and China saw a record high of US$63.9 billion last year, making up 36.7 percent of the nation's total exports.

Hsu predicted that the value of exports to China, the nation's largest export destination, would be a continuing trend in the future.

Looking ahead, the nation's export growth is expected to level out this year, dragged down by the global economic slowdown, the ministry said. US economic growth is expected to drop to 3.1 percent this year from 4.4 percent last year, according to the latest forecast of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) last month.

The EIU predicted a cooling-down of the Japanese economy, with an expected 1.7-percent growth rate this year, down from 3.9 percent last year. European economies are expected to grow at a rate of 2.3 percent this year, compared with 2.2 percent last year.

In addition, the weakening US dollar, interest rate hikes and China's economic clampdown measures could all impact on Taiwan's economic prospects, the ministry said in the statement.

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