That dollar metric suggests that the annualized export sales for Taiwan will be an estimated $493.5 billion for 2022, up about 10.3% year over year.
The remainder of this analysis will drill down on the latest published annual statistics for Taiwan during 2021.
A partially recognized state in East Asia and officially named the Republic of China, Taiwan shipped $447.6 billion worth of exported products around the globe in 2021.
That dollar amount reflects a 41.8% gain since 2017 and a 29.1% increase from 2020 to 2021.
Home to 23.4 million people or a tiny 0.3% portion of the overall global population, nevertheless Taiwan tallied 2.1% of the world’s total exports by value in 2021.
Note that the island of Taiwan was once known as Formosa and may be referred to as Chinese Taipei in some online documents.
Taiwan’s biggest export is electronic integrated circuits and related microassemblies. That commodity group represents over a third (34.8%) of the total shipments by value from Taiwan, Province of China.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, our estimates show that the new Taiwan dollar appreciated by 6.9% against the US dollar since 2017 and increased by around 4.4% from 2020 to 2021. Taiwan’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Taiwan’s Major Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that 86.6% of products exported from Taiwan were bought by importers in: mainland China (28.2% of Taiwan’s global total), United States of America (14.7%), Hong Kong (14.1%), Japan (6.5%), Singapore (5.8%), South Korea (4.5%), Vietnam (3.1%), Malaysia (3%), Germany (1.8%), Netherlands (also 1.8%), Thailand (1.6%) and the Philippines (1.4%).
From a continental perspective, 72.3% of Taiwan’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 16.3% were sold to importers in North America. Taiwan shipped another 8.7% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania led by Australia (1.3%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.9%) then Africa (0.5%).
Given Taiwan’s population of 23.4 million people, its total $447.6 billion in 2021 exports translates to a robust $19,200 for every resident in the East Asian province. That dollar metric exceeds the average $14,700 for one year earlier in 2020.
Taiwan’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Taiwanese global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Taiwan.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$219.3 billion (49% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $57.6 billion (12.9%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $26.5 billion (5.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $19.9 billion (4.4%)
- Vehicles: $13.6 billion (3%)
- Iron, steel: $12.8 billion (2.9%)
- Organic chemicals: $11.8 billion (2.6%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $10.3 billion (2.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $9.3 billion (2.1%)
- Copper: $5.4 billion (1.2%)
Taiwan’s top 10 exports accounted for 86.3% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 70.1% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were organic chemicals via a 64.3% gain.
Taiwan’s shipments of mineral fuels including oil posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 63.9%, buoyed by greater international sales of Taiwanese refined petroleum oil.
The slowest gainer among Taiwan’s top 10 export categories was optical, technical and medical apparatus via its 18.2% improvement year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Taiwan’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
Products Generating Highest Trade Surpluses for Taiwan
Taiwan generated an overall $65.1 billion trade surplus from all goods bought and sold on international markets during 2021, up 9.4% from the $59.5 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Taiwanese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports. In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$98.7 billion (Up by 21.7% since 2020)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $16.9 billion (Up by 55%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $6.8 billion (Up by 38.8%)
- Toys, games: $3.1 billion (Up by 72.5%)
- Vehicles: $3 billion (Up by 622.7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $3 billion (Up by 7%)
- Base metal tools, cutlery: $2.9 billion (Up by 28.5%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: $2.5 billion (Up by 35.4%)
- Manmade filaments: $2.1 billion (Up by 17.6%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $1.9 billion (Up by 29.6%)
Taiwan has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electrical goods including consumer electronics. In turn, these cashflows indicate Taiwan’s world-renown competitive advantages under the electrical machinery and equipment category.
Products Causing Worst Trade Deficits for Taiwan
Below are exports from Taiwan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Taiwan’s goods trail Taiwanese importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$39.5 billion (Up by 68.5% since 2020)
- Ores, slag, ash: -$4.7 billion (Up by 96.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$4.6 billion (Up by 21.2%)
- Other chemical goods: -$3 billion (Up by 9.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$2.5 billion (Up by 231.3%)
- Oil seeds: -$1.9 billion (Up by 33.2%)
- Cereals: -$1.8 billion (Up by 38.5%)
- Copper: -$1.7 billion (Up by 125.1%)
- Meat: -$1.7 billion (Up by 6%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$1.5 billion (Up by 39.8%)
Taiwan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels-related products particularly crude oil, petroleum gases and coal.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Taiwan’s competitive disadvantages in the international energy market, but also represent key opportunities for Taiwan to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations on alternative energy sources.
Taiwan’s Major Export Companies
Forty-seven corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Taiwanese companies that Forbes included.
- Advanced Semiconductor (semiconductors)
- Asustek Computer (computer hardware)
- Cheng Shin Rubber Industry Co. (automotive parts)
- China Steel (iron, steel)
- Delta Electronics (electronics)
- Formosa Chemicals (specialized chemicals)
- Formosa Petrochemical (oil, gas)
- Formosa Plastics (specialized chemicals)
- Hon Hai Precision (electronics)
- Mediatek (semiconductors)
- Nan Ya Plastics (diversified chemicals)
- Pegatron (electronics)
- Quanta Computer (computer hardware)
- Taiwan Semiconductor (semiconductors)
- Uni-President (food processing)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of Taiwanese export companies.
- Acer Inc. (computers, smartphones, other electronics)
- Faithful Taiwan (wooden furniture, plastic bags, miscellaneous plastic articles)
- Hosoda Taiwan (automobile steering mechanisms)
- Swire Coca Cola Taiwan (soft drinks, green tea, sparkling wines)
- Taiwan Specco (furniture parts, mountings, seat parts)
Searchable List of Taiwan’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Taiwan during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Taiwan's Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|2||Computer parts, accessories||$17,657,083,000||+45.7%|
|3||Computers, optical readers||$12,013,884,000||+13.3%|
|4||Unrecorded sound media||$10,683,064,000||+15.1%|
|5||Phone devices including smartphones||$10,203,496,000||+14.7%|
|6||Processed petroleum oils||$9,707,991,000||+67.6%|
|7||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$8,622,236,000||+24.2%|
|8||TV/radio/radar device parts||$7,221,817,000||+29%|
|10||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$6,356,216,000||+32.5%|
|12||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$5,333,746,000||+33.7%|
|14||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$4,847,399,000||+37.1%|
|18||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$3,130,488,000||+34.4%|
|20||Electrical converters/power units||$2,679,492,000||+31.4%|
|21||Flat-rolled stainless steel items||$2,566,959,000||+97.5%|
|22||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$2,499,697,000||+114.4%|
|24||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$2,305,318,000||+34.7%|
|25||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$2,304,904,000||+18%|
|26||Lenses, prisms, mirrors||$2,260,481,000||-3.2%|
|27||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$2,229,389,000||+41.7%|
|28||Miscellaneous plastic items||$2,129,154,000||+16%|
|30||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,969,278,000||+14.3%|
|32||Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters||$1,865,196,000||+26.5%|
|33||Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers||$1,806,299,000||+20.9%|
|34||Vinyl chloride polymers||$1,803,720,000||+59.2%|
|37||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,686,912,000||+29.1%|
|39||Synthetic yarn woven fabrics||$1,537,324,000||+22.9%|
|41||Chemicals used in electronics||$1,475,320,000||+25.5%|
|43||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,455,815,000||+27.2%|
|46||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$1,356,336,000||+19.9%|
|47||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,351,939,000||+21%|
|48||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,342,206,000||+26.2%|
|50||Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles||$1,340,391,000||+19.1%|
|51||Copper ores, concentrates||$1,314,632,000||+76%|
|52||Other than warp-knit fabrics||$1,313,390,000||+25.1%|
|53||Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,267,411,000||+71.4%|
|54||Special hand tools||$1,262,126,000||+32.5%|
|55||Other machine parts, accessories||$1,250,893,000||+41.4%|
|57||Base metal mountings, fittings||$1,185,156,000||+32.3%|
|58||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,060,485,000||+10.9%|
|60||Pneumatic hand tool||$1,025,476,000||+33.4%|
|61||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$1,023,796,000||+13.3%|
|62||Chemical industry products/residuals||$1,022,366,000||+31.3%|
|63||Whole fish (frozen)||$996,573,000||-0.8%|
|65||Self-adhesive plastic in rolls||$983,119,000||+17.3%|
|66||Synthetic filament yarn||$947,576,000||+28.6%|
|69||Saturated acyclic mono acids||$938,325,000||+108.8%|
|71||Wide knit or crochet fabrics||$918,020,000||+54.6%|
|73||Assembling machine tools||$902,805,000||+26.6%|
|74||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$896,192,000||+65.2%|
|75||Rubber tires (new)||$891,426,000||-9.5%|
|76||Electric motors, generators||$876,621,000||+36.6%|
|77||Other food preparations||$840,392,000||+21.6%|
|78||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$813,073,000||+52.2%|
|79||Hand-operated spanners, wrenches||$809,045,000||+30.5%|
|81||Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms||$801,717,000||+43%|
|82||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$785,670,000||+107.3%|
|83||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$777,178,000||+16%|
|84||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$775,065,000||+36.8%|
|85||Electric storage batteries||$750,222,000||+23.1%|
|86||Coated textile fabrics||$727,449,000||+23.1%|
|88||Radar, radio communication items||$703,125,000||+31.4%|
|89||Miscellaneous aluminum items||$700,621,000||+27.5%|
|91||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$694,002,000||+14.8%|
|93||Bent, edgeworked glass||$677,563,000||+3.5%|
|94||Liquid pumps and elevators||$656,602,000||+24.5%|
|95||Copper waste, scrap||$639,946,000||+56.4%|
|97||Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)||$630,541,000||+14%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$382.4 billion or 85.4% by value for all products exported from Taiwan during 2021.
Fastest-growing among Taiwan’s 100 most valuable exported products were nickel (up 959% from 2020) and silver (up 312.3%).
In macroeconomic terms, Taiwan’s total exported goods represent 30.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product at April 2022 ($1.462 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 30.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP compares to 24% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Taiwan’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe. Also, please note that these metrics include re-exporting activity.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Taiwan’s average unemployment rate was 3.95% for 2021, up from an average 3.85% in 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund.
Taiwan’s capital city is Taipei.
See also Taiwan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Taiwan’s Top 10 Imports, Taiwan’s Top Trading Partners and China’s Top 10 Imports
International Monetary Fund, Taiwan Exchange Rate against USD. Accessed on November 13, 2022
CEIC, The World Factbook Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on November 13, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on November 13, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Taiwan. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on November 13, 2022
Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on November 13, 2022