《TAIPEI TIMES》 Exports fall at a slower pace as trade anxiety lingers
Exports declined 1.5 percent from a year earlier to US$28.99 billion last month. Photo: Allen Wu, Liberty Times
By Crystal Hsu / Staff reporter
The nation’s exports declined 1.5 percent from a year earlier to US$28.99 billion last month, easing from a 4.6 percent fall in September, but remaining in negative territory as US-China trade worries linger, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.
Electronics shipments gained 5.3 percent to US$10.65 billion, led by semiconductors, which rose 8.5 percent, the ministry’s report showed.
Information and communications technology （ICT） products advanced 20.8 percent to US$3.84 billion, thanks to strong demand from customers in the US and China, it said.
That was due in part to Apple Inc’s new iPhones being more popular than expected, coupled with demand for next-generation laptops and other consumer technology products, Department of Statistics Director-General Beatrice Tsai （蔡美娜） told a media briefing in Taipei.
The robust growth was likely due to some firms front-loading their shipments to avoid punitive tariffs that the US is slated to slap on Chinese goods, including smartphones, on Dec. 15, Tsai said.
While the US and China have agreed to put the newest rounds of tariff hikes on hold, the two sides have not worked out details of the deal, she said.
Trade tensions remained a drag on shipments of chemicals, minerals, plastics and base metal products, which contracted between 11.5 percent and 26.7 percent, the report said.
Imports shrank at a faster pace of 4.1 percent, inflating the trade surplus by 18.9 percent year-on-year to US$3.95 billion, Tsai said.
Cheaper oil and raw materials accounted for the decline, even though local firms aggressively acquired capital equipment to meet business needs, she said.
Capital equipment purchases rose 20.2 percent to US$4.39 billion, with start-up airline StarLux Airlines Co （星宇航空） making the biggest contribution, Tsai said, adding that capital equipment bought by local semiconductor firms soared 44.6 percent.
For the first 10 months of this year, exports weakened 2.4 percent annually to NT$271.27 billion, while imports shed 1.5 percent year-on-year to US$234.57 billion, the ministry said.
However, exports are expected to expand on an annual basis this month, fueled by 5G deployment, the ministry said.
The trend is evidenced by record-high shipments of semiconductors and ICT products, which together drove 50 percent of overall exports, Tsai said.
Exports are likely to come out of the woods this month, rising by 1.5 to 2.5 percent from a year earlier, but non-tech sectors might remain weak, she said.
Optimistic forecasts by major technology firms lend support to the assumption, she said, referring to observations by local electronics suppliers that international technology brands look set to launch 5G smartphones next year.
Exports might hold steady with a positive bias this quarter, compared with the same period last year, Tsai said, calling a mild retreat inevitable for the whole of this year.