As the global economy continues to recover, Taiwanese exports and imports last month rose to their highest levels since the global financial crisis began at US$23.37 billion and US$21.87 billion respectively, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Exports rose US$7.8 billion, or 50.1 percent, year-on-year, while imports were up US$9.74 billion, or 80.3 percent. Both posted growth for the fifth consecutive month, with the trade surplus reaching US$1.5 billion last month, the ministry said.
“The figures show that exports and imports are continuing to recover steadily amid growing demand for overseas trade,” Lin Lee-jen (林麗貞), head of the ministry’s statistics department, told a press conference.
In the first quarter, exports rose US$21.28 billion, or 52.5 percent from a year ago, to US$61.8 billion, the second-highest figure for that period in history. With strong exports, local manufacturers have increased the pace in purchases of new equipment and thereby driven imports, which were up US$25.1 billion, or 78.4 percent, year-on-year for the quarter, ministry data showed.
Exports to China, including Hong Kong, rose to a record US$10.26 billion last month, accounting for 43.9 percent of total exports, followed by ASEAN at 14.4 percent and Europe at 10.5 percent.
“Among all products exported to China, electronics, chemicals, plastics and machinery reached the highest amounts in history,” Lin said, adding that exports to China rose by US$11.38 billion, or 75.6 percent, to US$26.42 billion in the first quarter.
Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), head economist at Citigroup Taiwan Inc, said the strong first-quarter data would increase upward adjustments in the bank’s GDP forecast for Taiwan.
“We appear to be heading toward 5 percent GDP growth this year rather than our current forecast of 4.5 percent,” Cheng said in a report yesterday.
Tony Phoo (符銘財), Taipei-based chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank, however, said by telephone that the economic recovery in the US and Europe remained moderate.
Whether Taiwan’s exports sustain their growth momentum would depend on the economic performance of these two markets [US and Europe] and demand from China.
Because of a strong rebound in the semiconductor industry, imports of equipment rose US$1.95 billion, or 106.6 percent, to US$3.77 billion, with machinery totaling a record US$2.49 billion for the same period, ministry data showed.
As last month’s exports were 7.3 percent lower than the record US$25.2 billion set in August 2008, Lin said the chances of exports exceeding the record level this year were much higher.
“Exports are likely to show two-digit growth in the coming months because of a lower comparison base last year,” Lin said, predicting a fresh record in exports in the fourth quarter.
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