The nation’s exports grew 0.7 percent to US$303.22 billion last year from a year earlier, exceeding the US$302.5 billion estimated by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) in November, the latest government data showed.
“We had expected stronger growth in exports the previous year, but weaker-than-expected demand from various Asian markets hurt shipments in the second half of last year,” Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足), director of the Ministry of Finance’s statistics department, told a press conference.
Last month, outbound shipments declined 1.9 percent from the previous year to US$25.59 billion, causing quarterly exports to decline 1.1 percent year-on-year to US$76.59 billion, the ministry said in its monthly report.
The ministry said that the annual fourth-quarter drop was due mainly to sluggish demand for information and communication technology products, with the sector’s shipments down 22.1 percent to US$1.1 billion from a year earlier.
However, the NT$25.59 billion figure for last month was in line with the ministry’s expectations for outbound shipments and represents a monthly expansion of 2.8 percent, Yeh added.
The slow pace of the world’s economic recovery, intensifying competition among global industries and China’s strategy of supply chain localization all exerted pressure on Taiwan’s outbound trade last year, the ministry official said.
Yeh said that this quarter, exports may be hit by uncertainties because there will be fewer working days as a result of the Lunar New Year holiday — which falls between this month and next month — but added that she still expects exports to start recovering in the second quarter.
ANZ Research echoed the ministry’s views.
“Taiwan’s exports outlook remains generally positive,” Raymond Yeung (楊宇霆), a Hong Kong-based senior economist with ANZ Research, said in a note.
Global demand has firmed up somewhat in recent months, he said, adding that the uptick should benefit the Asian supply chains in which Taiwan plays a key part.
However, competitive pressure from Japan may continue to mount, following the yen’s steep depreciation of more than 20 percent against the US dollar last year, Yeung said.
In addition, Taiwanese mobile phones seems to be lagging behind South Korea’s, he added.
The ministry’s report also showed that imports last month stood at US$24.18 billion, up 10.1 percent from a year earlier and 13.1 percent from the previous month, snapping the year-on-year decline it posted the previous five months.
Capital equipments imports last month hit their third-highest level in history, posting an annual rise of 24.7 percent to US$4.09 billion, according to the ministry’s data.
With overall inbound shipments totaling US$270.07 billion last year — down 0.1 percent from a year ago — Taiwan reported a trade surplus of US$33.14 billion last year, adding about US$2.44 billion from a year earlier, the ministry said.