Mon, Jan 20, 2020 - Page 16 News List

Taiwan could skirt trade deal squeeze

CONCERNS REMAIN:While the ‘phase one’ deal might not hurt the nation, proposed harsher restrictions on Huawei could affect Taiwan’s role in technology supply chains

By Chen Cheng-hui  /  Staff reporter

A predicted sharp rise in Chinese imports of US goods as part of a “phase one” trade deal signed by the nations last week would squeeze other trade partners, but should have a limited impact on Taiwan, DBS Bank Ltd (星展銀行) said on Friday.

Taiwan has been a major beneficiary of the US-China trade dispute and reaped the rewards of order transfers since the tit-for-tat tariffs began in July 2018. However, China’s pledge to purchase US$200 billion of US goods and services over the next two years has raised concerns that demand for Taiwanese goods could fall.

Singapore-based DBS economist Ma Tieying (馬鐵英) said it is unlikely that Taiwanese exports to China would be replaced by US goods, if China is to honor its purchase commitments.

“The overlap of the US’ and Taiwan’s export structure is low,” Ma said in a report, adding that China’s imports from Taiwan are largely concentrated in electrical machinery and equipment, while its US imports are equally comprised of agricultural goods, transport equipment and electrical machinery.

“Moreover, China’s imports from Taiwan are partly driven by intracompany supplies, ie, the purchase of semiconductors and other components by Taiwanese tech firms based in China from their parent companies. Substitution of these products should be unlikely,” Ma said.

As for China’s pledge to open its financial services sector to US firms, including banking, securities, insurance, asset management and credit-rating services, the impact on Taiwan’s financial institutions should be small, she said.

“Taiwanese financial institutions operating in the Chinese market currently focus on providing corporate banking services for the Taiwanese firms based there,” Ma said. “Direct competition with US counterparts is limited.”

However, as the US-China trade dispute has shifted to focus on technology, the risk of supply chain disruption has not fully subsided, despite the preliminary trade agreement addressing intellectual property and technology transfer, the DBS economist said.

Last week, Reuters reported that the US government would still push for tougher rules to block shipments of foreign-made goods to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為).

“From a long-term perspective, Taiwanese tech firms would still find it necessary to shift sensitive production out of China and to diversify their supply chains,” Ma said.

The sentiment was echoed by S&P Global Ratings, which on Friday said: “The chance that negotiations for a final agreement will stall, or enforcement of the phase one deal doesn’t materialize, continue to cast uncertainties over corporate supply-chain strategies.”

Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) analysts, led by Calvin Wei (魏建發), on Thursday said a more stringent ban on sales to Huawei would negatively affect the 5G supply chain and undercut the global economy, as Huawei is not only the world’s largest supplier of mobile base stations and optical communication equipment, but also the second-largest smartphone brand on the planet.

It would also adversely impact Taiwanese firms in the supply chains of networking, handset, semiconductor and printed circuit board (PCB) sectors, Yuanta analysts said in a report.

“Based on our analysis, optical communication and base station equipment suppliers in the networking sector would see the greatest impact on sales (by 10 to 30 percent), followed by handset sector (10 to 25 percent), semiconductor sector (15 percent) and the PCB sector (10 percent),” they said.

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