The nation’s exports contracted 6.5 percent last month year-on-year, easing to a single-digit percentage for the first time in 11 months, as demand for electronics improved slightly and oil prices stabilized, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
The downturn has now continued for 15 consecutive months, longer than the trough following the 2008-2009 worldwide financial crisis, as international trade is in the doldrums and the nation’s exporters have failed to introduce game-changing innovations or tap new markets.
“The global economy remains soft and the improvement has much to do with a low base last year,” Department of Statistics Director-General Yeh Maan-tzwu (葉滿足) said.
The pace of the decline might widen this month, given the relatively high base of the same period last year and the continuing effect of this quarter’s off season for technology products, Yeh said.
Exports shrank 6.5 percent annually to US$22.25 billion last month, while imports fell 9.6 percent to US$17.45 billion, rendering a trade surplus of US$4.8 billion, ministry data showed.
All product categories posted negative year-on-year growth, except for machinery shipments, which gained 2.4 percent, due to the sector’s competitive advantage in the global market, the report said.
Exports of electronic products declined 3.4 percent to US$6.89 billion, while information and communications shipments retreated 11.4 percent to US$2.38 billion, the report said.
Together, the two product categories make up 41.7 percent of the nation’s exports, and the performance of the two sectors is key to the economy, the report said.
Shipments to China — which with 39.2 percent of total exports last month was the nation’s most significant export destination — last month dropped 6.8 percent annually to US$8.72 billion, narrowing from a 14.2 percent decline in March, the report said.
Sales of electronic components to China posted a 4 percent pickup, while shipments of optical, plastic and mineral products retreated, the report said.
A decline in exports to the US last month worsened to 12.7 percent year-on-year, from 8.5 percent in March as the world’s main end-market for consumer electronics bought fewer handheld devices, Yeh said.
However, demand from Europe appears to have stabilized with outbound shipments last month growing 10.4 percent to US$2.24 billion from the same period last year, compared with a 3 percent fall in March, the report said.
Yeh attributed the upturn to improving sales of basic metal, chemical and machinery products.
In the first four months, exports declined 10.7 percent from the same period last year, while imports fell 12.9 percent.
The ministry sees no indications of any recovery in the near term, Yeh said.
Capital equipment imports, a barometer of private investment, gained 6.4 percent year-on-year to US$3.07 billion, accelerating from a 0.3 percent increase in March, the report said.
However, local semiconductor companies acquired less equipment last month from a year earlier, although the year-to-date sum did show a modest increase, Yeh said.
Demand aside, crude prices continued to weigh on exports, but the impact appears to be tapering off, the official said.
Exports would have returned to positive territory last month in the absence of crude price disruptions, Yeh said.