Often referred to as Chinese Taipei and officially called the Republic of China, the island of Taiwan is surrounded by major trading partners in the People’s Republic of China to its west, Japan to its east and the Philippines to its south.
Taiwan exported US$329.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 17.7% gain since 2015 but a -1.9% dip from 2018 to 2019.
Applying a continental lens, 72.1% of Taiwan’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian trade partners while 15.7% were sold to importers in North America. Taiwan shipped another 9.1% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia (1.2%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.9%) then Africa (0.6%).
Taiwan’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Taiwan’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Taiwanese shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Taiwanese exports.
- China: US$91.9 billion (27.9% of Taiwan’s total exports)
- United States: $46.3 billion (14.1%)
- Hong Kong: $40.4 billion (12.3%)
- Japan: $23.3 billion (7.1%)
- Singapore: $18.2 billion (5.5%)
- South Korea: $16.9 billion (5.1%)
- Vietnam: $10.8 billion (3.3%)
- Malaysia: $9.4 billion (2.9%)
- Germany: $6.5 billion (2%)
- Philippines: $6.2 billion (1.9%)
- Netherlands: $5.9 billion (1.8%)
- Thailand: $5.5 billion (1.7%)
- United Kingdom: $3.6 billion (1.1%)
- India: $3.3 billion (1%)
- Australia: $3.2 billion (1%)
Almost nine-tenths (88.4%) of Taiwanese exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Four top trade partners increased purchases of Taiwan’s exports from 2018 to 2019 namely the United States (up 16.6%), South Korea (up 6%), Singapore (up 4.9%) then Japan (up 1%).
Leading decliners were Philippines (down -31.1%) and India (down -13.3%).
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Taiwan incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Japan: -US$20.8 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- Australia: -$6.8 billion
- Saudi Arabia: -$6.8 billion
- Kuwait: -$4.1 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$3.1 billion
- Germany: -$2.9 billion
- Qatar: -$2.7 billion
- Netherlands: -$2 billion
- Russia: -$2 billion
- Indonesia: -$1.8 billion
Among Taiwan’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, only Taiwanese deficits with Australia expanded from 2018 to 2019 thanks to its 13.2% rise. However, Taiwan’s trade with the Netherlands transitioned from a $2 billion surplus in 2018 to $2 billion in red ink last year.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Taiwan’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Taiwan to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Overall Taiwan earned a $43.5 billion trade surplus from all goods bought and sold on international markets during 2019, down -11.7% from the $49.3 billion in black ink one year earlier.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Taiwan incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Hong Kong: US$39.3 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- China: $34.5 billion
- United States: $11.2 billion
- Singapore: $10.3 billion
- Vietnam: $5.5 billion
- Philippines: $4 billion
- Mexico: $1.9 billion
- United Kingdom: $1.6 billion
- Thailand: $1.3 billion
- Bangladesh: $1.1 billion
Among Taiwan’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Taiwanese surpluses with the United States (up 136.5%), Singapore (up 15.0%) and Mexico (up 14.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Taiwan’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Taiwan to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Taiwanese Trading Partners
Forty-seven corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Taiwanese companies that Forbes included:
- Advanced Semiconductor (semiconductors)
- Asustek Computer (computer hardware)
- Cheng Shin Rubber Industry Co. (automotive parts)
- China Steel (iron, steel)
- Delta Electronics (electronics)
- Formosa Chemicals (specialized chemicals)
- Formosa Petrochemical (oil, gas)
- Formosa Plastics (specialized chemicals)
- Hon Hai Precision (electronics)
- Mediatek (semiconductors)
- Nan Ya Plastics (diversified chemicals)
- Pegatron (electronics)
- Quanta Computer (computer hardware)
- Taiwan Semiconductor (semiconductors)
- Uni-President (food processing)
According to IMPORTERS.com listings for Taiwanese suppliers, the following are companies that ship products from Taiwan to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis are examples of products that the Taiwanese business provides.
- Ever Honor Industries, Inc (food coloring, additives)
- Fuho Technology Co Ltd (vehicle video recorders)
- Hoya International Co, Ltd (industrial tools)
- Intertrust Corporation (aerosol can goods )
- J&A Information Inc (computer memory products)
- Li Jun Enterprise Co, Ltd (marine diesel engines, parts)
- Lian Jeng Co (milling machines)
- Paichang Corporation (electronics, e-cigarettes)
- Stars Navigation Technologies Ltd (GPS, tracking equipment)
- Weld Want Group Co, Ltd (super glue, adhesives)
See also Taiwan’s Top 10 Imports, Taiwan’s Top 10 Exports and Taiwan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 23, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 23, 2020
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Taiwan Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 23, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 23, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 23, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Taiwan. Accessed on March 23, 2020
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 23, 2020