The nation’s exports regained traction last month, rising 16.7 percent from a year earlier to a record US$30 billion, driven by strong demand for high-performance chips, cryptocurrency mining and artificial intelligence applications, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Inventory rebuilding among major Chinese smartphone brands also lent support and deepened Taiwan’s trade dependence on the market to a record 44.8 percent, Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.
“The robust showing could sustain this quarter amid continued global economic expansion, while the trade war between the US and China poses the biggest uncertainty,” Tsai told a media briefing.
The two big economies bought 55 percent of shipments from Taiwan, which is home to the world’s largest electronics suppliers, the ministry’s report said.
Electronic parts climbed to US$10.55 billion last month, accounting for 35.2 percent of overall shipments on fast-growing demand for new technology applications and machinery tools used in “smart” production, Tsai said.
Meanwhile, exports of chemical products benefitted from price hikes in raw materials, with a 32.9 percent increase from a year earlier, the report said.
Imports grew 10.4 percent to US$23.4 billion, widening the trade surplus to US$6 billion, a 51.1 percent gain from a year earlier, the it said.
Fourth-quarter exports increased 10.6 percent to US$7.74 billion, beating a projection by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistic by 3.2 percentage points, Tsai said.
Imports picked up 11.3 percent to US$68.4 billion from January to March, allowing trade surpluses to accrue to US$11.6 billion, the report said.
“This warrants an upward revision in exports not only for last quarter, but also for this quarter, as shipments could advance by a double-digit percentage,” Tsai said.
Last year’s high comparison base accounted for the government’s earlier conservative forecast, she said.
All trade partners increased purchases, with China buying a record US$13.43 billion, Tsai said.
Chinese smartphone brands Xiaomi Corp (小米), Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Co (歐珀移動) and Huawei Technologies Co (華為) rebuilt inventory after months of adjustments and are planning new-generation devices, she added.
Imports of capital equipment edged up 1.9 percent to US$3.84 billion last month with purchases by local semiconductor firms staying in negative territory, the report said.
Capital equipment acquisition contracted 0.1 percent for the first three months to US$10.54 billion, it said.
The ministry said that the trade row between the US and China would hurt Taiwan’s exports if it materialized, but added that its effects should be bearable given the details disclosed thus far.
“Some US corporations might shift orders from China to Taiwan if necessary,” Tsai said.
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