Tue, Feb 01, 2005 - Page 10 News List

2005 economic outlook positive, minister says

OPTIMISM The nation's strong position in the high-tech sector and incentives for firms to increase R&D spending will help preserve growth, Ho Mei-yueh said

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's economic outlook for the year is bright, given competitive advantages from its position in the high-tech sector's global supply chain, along with industry development policies, Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said yesterday.

Ho made the remarks at a seminar on the nation's economic status and future outlook. The event was held by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association, a business association founded by Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控) chairman Jeffrey Koo (辜濂松).

Addressing the seminar, which was attended by foreign business people in Taiwan, Ho said that although the world economy is expected to grow at a rate of around 3 percent this year, Taiwan is targeting 5 percent GDP growth, with private investment hitting 9.3 percent growth and an unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Last year, Taiwan's exports grew by 20.67 percent and imports increased by 32 percent over the previous year, and the ministry forecasts the figures this year will be 11.64 percent growth to US$194.3 billion for the nation's exports, and a 10.35 percent expansion to US$185.3 billion this year for imports, Ho said.

Although many firms are offshoring to China to cut costs and take advantage of its large market, Taiwan still plays an important role in the semiconductor, flat-panel display and other high-tech sectors, with its established production capacity and supply chains, Ho said.

Regional economic integration, especially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus One or Plus Three arrangements, from which Taiwan is excluded, are expected to cost the nation 0.1 percent to 0.98 percent of GDP growth each year, Ho said, citing statistics from a report by the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (中經院).

The regional economy is especially crucial to Taiwan given the increasing volume of trade with Asian countries, Ho said. According to the ministry's statistics, Taiwan's exports to Asia constituted 62 percent of the nation's total exports last year, up from 23 percent in 1994. Imports from other Asian countries to Taiwan meanwhile surged to 59 percent of imports last year, up from 47 percent in 1994.

To retain competitiveness, Ho said the government has been encouraging companies to set up R&D centers or innovation headquarters in Taiwan.

"Taiwanese companies can [create] innovative value-added products here, while mass producing them in China and ASEAN countries to reduce costs," Ho said. "It is a form of cross-strait cooperation, rather than competition."

About 80 local and 25 multinational firms have established innovation centers in Taiwan, she said.

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