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 shipped US$335.8 billion worth of products around the globe in 2018. That dollar figure represents roughly 1.9% of overall global exports estimated at $17.546 trillion one year earlier.
Applying a continental lens, nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of Taiwanese exported goods by value were sold to fellow Asian countries while 13.3% were shipped to North American importers.
Taiwan sent another 9.4% worth of goods to buyers in Europe. Smaller percentages went to Oceania (1.3%) led by Australia, Latin America (1.1%) excluding Mexico plus the Caribbean and 0.6% sent to Africa.
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 2018. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Taiwanese exports.
- China: US$96.7 billion (28.8% of Taiwan’s total exports)
- Hong Kong: $41.6 billion (12.4%)
- United States: $39.7 billion (11.8%)
- Japan: $23.1 billion (6.9%)
- Singapore: $17.3 billion (5.2%)
- South Korea: $16 billion (4.8%)
- Vietnam: $10.8 billion (3.2%)
- Malaysia: $10.6 billion (3.2%)
- Philippines: $8.9 billion (2.7%)
- Germany: $7.1 billion (2.1%)
- Thailand: $6.2 billion (1.8%)
- Netherlands: $5.9 billion (1.8%)
- United Kingdom: $3.9 billion (1.1%)
- India: $3.8 billion (1.1%)
- Australia: $3.6 billion (1.1%)
Almost nine-tenths (87.9%) of Taiwanese exports in 2017 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Leading the percentage increases from 2017 to 2018 were: Netherlands (up 18%), Australia (up 15.7%), India (up 14.5%), Japan (up 14.5%) then Germany (9.2%).
There were three decliners: Philippines (down -7%), Thailand (down -3.5%) and Singapore (down -1.7%).
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$21.1 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2018)
- Saudi Arabia: -$7.9 billion
- Australia: -$6 billion
- Kuwait: -$5 billion
- South Korea: -$3.6 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$3.4 billion
- Russia: -$3.1 billion
- Germany: -$2.9 billion
- Qatar: -$2.8 billion
- Indonesia: -$2.2 billion
Among Taiwan’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Taiwanese deficits with South Korea (up 64.1%), Kuwait (up 44.5%) and Russia (up 41.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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.
Taiwan enjoyed a $49.3 billion trade surplus from all goods bought and sold on international markets during 2018, down -15% from the $58 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:
- China: US$43 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2018)
- Hong Kong: $40.2 billion
- Singapore: $8.9 billion
- Vietnam: $7.1 billion
- Philippines: $6.4 billion
- United States: $4.7 billion
- Netherlands: $2 billion
- United Kingdom: $1.8 billion
- Mexico: $1.7 billion
- Thailand: $1.6 billion
Among Taiwanese trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Taiwan’s surpluses with Netherlands (up 32.7%), China (up 10.2%) and Mexico (up 5.2%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.
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
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 24, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 24, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 24, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on March 24, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Taiwan. Accessed on March 24, 2019
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on March 30, 2016
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Taiwan Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 8, 2018