Taiwan ranked eighth this year in trade freedom, convenience, ease and risks, the fifth annual survey by the Importers and Exporters Association of Taipei (IEAT, 台北市進出口公會) showed yesterday — as the group urged the government to help in value chain integration and retaining personnel to boost competitiveness.
The overall ranking was the same as last year’s, though the nation made headway in national competitiveness and trade freedom while staying flat in trade convenience, ease and risks, said Leu Horng-der (呂鴻德), a business administration professor at Chung Yuan Christian University, who delivered the results at a press conference in Taipei.
The latest results placed Taiwan behind major trade rivals Singapore and Hong Kong, which placed first and third respectively among 50 markets worldwide, but ahead of South Korea (14th) and China (26th), Leu said.
Most Taiwanese companies think China has the most trading potential, followed by Indonesia, India and Brazil, and Vietnam, in that order, he said, adding that many firms believe the government should pursue trade agreements with the US, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Australia because of their importance as trade partners.
In terms of production costs, Taiwanese firms consider India to have the most competitive edge, followed by Mexico, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, Leu said, adding that companies are looking for cheaper raw materials to help reduce costs.
China is losing its appeal as a manufacturing base because labor costs have soared in recent years and are expected to catch up with those of the US in four years, the EU in five years and Japan in seven years, Leu said.
“That accounts for a noted migration of foreign capital to places with lower labor costs,” he said.
Companies cited intensifying competition and a lack of trained personnel as the biggest headaches for development, Leu said.
He said firms, especially small and medium-sized, must become more cost-efficient and economically viable, while the government should help firms tap frontier markets such as Angola and Nigeria.