Taiwan: Exports resume their ascension in March thanks to surging shipments to China
Merchandise exports grew a robust 16.7% year-on-year to an all-time high of USD 30.0 billion in March (February: USD 22.4 billion), resuming an 18-month export growth streak that had only been interrupted in February, when the Lunar New Year festivities caused shipments to dip slightly. The headline growth figure handily beat the 7.1% reading expected by market analysts, which is noteworthy as the first quarter is usually the weakest for the Taiwanese external sector.
Growth in exports accelerated in all major product categories in March, although the information, communication and audio-video category only grew modestly. Parts of electronic products, which represent about a third of total exports, again led the headline print and recorded double-digit growth, as did exports of machinery; base metals; and plastics and rubber. From a geographical perspective, growth was again carried by exports to China and Hong Kong, which increased more than thirty percent and comprised about half of total shipments. The 12-month trailing sum of exports expanded 12.1% in March, accelerating slightly from the 11.8% year-on-year growth logged in February.
A similar dynamic was at play for imports, which grew 10.4% year-on-year in March to a total import value of USD 24.0 billion (February: USD 19.5 billion), after recording a meager 0.9% increase in February. Imports of mineral products—notably petroleum—kept rising robustly, reflecting the country’s dependence on external energy sources. Growth in most import categories again accelerated, except for electronic parts, which remained largely stable from the previous month. Despite an improvement compared to February, machinery imports recorded the second consecutive month of contraction, although the decline in March was minimal. Growth in the 12-month trailing sum of imports decreased to 10.3% in March, from 10.9% in the 12 months leading up to February.
The trade surplus more than doubled from USD 2.9 billion in February to USD 6.0 billion in March, while the 12-month trailing trade surplus also increased, to USD 58.8 billion from USD 56.7 billion in the 12 months up to February.