Taiwan exports hit high in 2022 despite weakness in 2nd half

Taiwan's exports set records in 2022, rising more than 7 percent from a year earlier, although many Taiwanese exporters fell victim to weakening global demand in the second half of the year, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said Saturday.

Data compiled by the MOF showed the country's exports totaled US$479.52 billion, up 7.4 percent from a year earlier, beating the previous high of US$446.37 billion recorded in 2021.

The electronic components industry served as the main driver to Taiwan's export growth for 2022, posting US$200.14 billion in outbound sales, up 16.4 percent from a year earlier and accounting for almost 42 percent of the total, with sales from semiconductor suppliers rising 18.4 percent to US$184.14 billion, the data indicated.

However, the country's outbound sales for the fourth quarter of the year fell 8.6 percent from a year earlier to US$111.81 billion after exports dropped 12.1 percent from the previous year to US$35.75 billion in December, marking the fourth consecutive monthly year-on-year decline, though the December fall moderated from 13.1 percent in November, the MOF said.

December exports were slightly lower than an earlier MOF estimate which indicated a range of US$35.8 billion to US$37.4 billion, down 8-12 percent from a year earlier.

In 2022, Taiwan's imports totaled US$427.60 billion, up 11.9 percent from a year earlier with a trade surplus of US$51.92 billion, down 19.4 percent from a year earlier, the MOF data indicated.

In December alone, Taiwan's imports fell 11.4 percent from a year earlier to US$30.96 billion, while the trade surplus dropped 16.7 percent from a year earlier to US$4.79 billion, according to the MOF.

Taiwan's exporters faced headwinds in the second half of last year, caused by a fall in global demand, which paved the way for inventory adjustments in many industries, while the stronger first half helped the country maintain its uptrend in exports for the full year, the MOF said.

Commenting on the decline in December, Beatrice Tsai (???), director-general of the MOF's Department of Statistics, told reporters that fast growing inflation, which prompted aggressive rate hike cycles by major central banks around the world, discouraged consumers from spending.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia also continued to hurt the global economy, while an outbreak of COVID-19 infections in China also sent global demand into a tailspin, Tsai said.

A relatively high comparison basis in December 2021 further dragged down exports last month, she added.

In December, except for the semiconductor industry, which posted US$14.91 billion in exports, up 0.8 percent from a year earlier, all major industries reported a decline in outbound sales.

The broader electronic components industry, which includes semiconductor suppliers, saw its exports fall 1.4 percent from a year earlier to US$16.04 billion in December, marking the second straight monthly year-on-year decline, Tsai said. The electronics industry accounted for 44.87 percent of Taiwan's total exports in December.

Exports posted by the information/communications and video/audio industry and the optoelectronics industry fell 10.7 percent and 30.3 percent, respectively, from a year earlier, to US$5.19 billion and US$732 million in December, the MOF said.

Old economy industries, in particular, felt the pinch from the global slowdown, with exports posted by base metal, machinery and plastics/rubber industries falling 22.0 percent, 9.4 percent, and 33.8 percent, respectively, from a year earlier to US$2.43 billion, US$2.24 billion and US$1.68 billion in December, the ministry said.

In addition, exports generated by the chemical, transportation and mineral industries also fell 28.4 percent, 11.6 percent and 25.4 percent, respectively, from a year earlier to US$1.49 billion, US$1.17 billion and US$893 million in December, the ministry added.

Taiwan's major buyers showed weaker demand in December, according to the MOF.

While China and Hong Kong remained the largest buyer of Taiwan-made goods in December, exports fell 16.4 percent from a year earlier to US$14.28 billion due to interruptions caused by COVID-19 infections, the MOF said.

ASEAN countries came second after purchasing US$5.73 billion worth of goods from Taiwan in December, down 10.8 percent from a year earlier, while exports to the United States, European and Japanese markets in December also moved lower by 2.6 percent, 10.5 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively, from a year earlier to US$5.67 billion, US$3.16 billion and US$2.59 billion in December, the MOF added.

For 2022 as a whole, the largest buyer, China and Hong Kong, purchased US$185.92 billion worth of goods from Taiwan, down 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the MOF.

Looking ahead, Tsai said weakening global demand and the reduced number of working days in January due to the 10-day Lunar New Year holiday mean Taiwan's exports are expected to post a year-on-year decline of 20-24 percent, with US$30.4 billion to US$32.0 billion.

While many major industries will continue to see a slowdown, Tsai said, the steel industry could see a revival as some steel makers in the region have raised wholesale prices, expecting stronger demand.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel