August export growth slows to 1.9%

HIGH SEASON::The finance ministry said it was not clear whether the US-China trade war might have caused the slowdown, while the economy ministry saw an opportunity

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 12

Exports rose a mild 1.9 percent from last year to US$28.3 billion last month, the weakest growth in nearly two years as demand for electronic components picked up, but short of what was forecast for the high season, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

The critical economic gauge could slip into negative territory this month, due to fewer working days and a high comparison base last year, Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai (蔡美娜) said.

“Exports for this quarter will have difficulty meeting the government’s forecast after all, based on the showing thus far,” Tsai told a news conference in Taipei.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics last month forecast that exports would increase 3 percent year-on-year to US$86.43 billion during the July-to-September period.

That would require a surprise gain this month, whereas exports could contract up to 3 percent as most employees take three days of holiday for the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsai said.

On a yearly basis, electronic component shipments inched up 1.3 percent to US$9.76 billion, while information and communications exports rose 0.3 percent, a finance ministry report said.

Semiconductor shipments showed a 0.4 percent increase, while optical product sales plunged 14.3 percent and exports of base metals and related products shrank 3.5 percent, the report said.

Mineral product shipments swelled 46 percent on the back of a 45.7 percent hike in crude oil prices last month from a year earlier, Tsai said.

“Otherwise, major export product categories saw low to modest growth in August,” Tsai said.

It is not clear whether the latest export data reflect effects from the trade war between the US and its major trading partners, including China, she said.

Taiwan could benefit from order transfers as foreign firms flee China to avoid heavy tariffs imposed by Washington, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said.

Imports advanced 7.9 percent year-on-year to US$23.77 billion last month for a trade surplus of US$4.53 billion as local firms bought capital equipment to upgrade or expand production facilities, Tsai said.

Imports of semiconductor equipment totaled US$1.6 billion, a 73.5 percent increase from the same period last year, the finance ministry report said.

The New Taiwan dollar’s depreciation against the US dollar elevated import prices, Tsai said.

Exports for the entire year are forecast to hit a record high, with exports in the first eight months gaining 8.9 percent to US$220.48 billion from the same period last year, Tsai said.

Over the eight months, imports rose 11.7 percent to US$188.17 billion, titling the trade balance in Taiwan’s favor by US$32.32 billion, the report said.