A look at Taiwan's import statistics reveals that each year Taiwan imports about US$8 billion worth of agricultural, forestry and fishery products. The US is Taiwan's single largest supplier of these kinds of imported products, providing about a third of the overall total. In 2000, Taiwan imported $2.5 billion of US agricultural products, making it the fifth largest market in the world for US agricultural exports after Japan, Canada, Mexico and South Korea (based on US export statistics).
Almost all the wheat consumed on Taiwan in the form of baked goods and wheat-based products is imported, coming primarily from the US. Most of the corn fed to Taiwan's chickens and pigs is also imported, once again, mostly coming from the US. The same can be said about the soybeans consumed on Taiwan. Cotton is also on that list. About a quarter of the raw cotton that Taiwan imports for the vital textile industry is also imported from America. These bulk commodities in value terms make up over 50 percent of Taiwan's agricultural imports from the US.
Taiwan consumers also enjoy a wide variety of US semi-processed products (accounting for about 20 percent of total agricultural imports from the USA) and US consumer-ready products, (responsible for the remaining 30 percent). US consumer-ready exports to Taiwan include fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and treenuts, chilled and frozen meats and seafood, and pre-packaged products.
Taiwan-US trade of agricultural products is not a one-way street.
In 2000, Taiwan exported $360 million in agricultural, fishery, and forestry products to the US. These exports include consumer-ready products, value-added wood products, fish and seafood products, and other miscellaneous goods. The exchange of goods enhances the strong relationship of mutual interests between the US and Taiwan.
The quantity and diversity of US-Taiwan agricultural, forestry and fishery trade clearly demonstrate that over the years Taiwan and the US have forged close agricultural trade relations. This trade is beneficial to both sides. Taiwan imports temperate climate products from the US that cannot be produced in sufficient quantities on Taiwan, and the US imports subtropical climate products from Taiwan that cannot be grown in America.
WTO and US-Taiwan Trade Taiwan's upcoming entry into the WTO will provide an opportunity for US-Taiwan trade to expand. Of course, trade in agricultural, forestry, and fishery products will also benefit. In its 1998 WTO pre-accession agreement with the US, Taiwan agreed to open its market to a number of agricultural products that could not be imported in the past. Some of these import bans have already been lifted, and others will be eliminated after Taiwan actually enters the WTO.
At the same time, Taiwan agreed to lower its tariffs on many agricultural products. The process of phasing in tariff reductions, which began in 1998, will accelerate when Taiwan enters the WTO.
Once that happens, the trade expansion measures included in the Taiwan-US WTO pre-accession agreement will apply to all WTO members, improving trade flows and consumer benefits for all members.
Over the past year, food biotechnology has received increased attention in Taiwan and around the world. While the US is not the only country to produce foods using biotechnology, many American farmers have adopted this technology which improves productivity and also has significant environmental benefits through reduced use of agricultural chemicals.