Taipei / AFP
The New Year has brought Taiwan no respite from its economic woes as exports fell in January for the 12th successive month, the longest continuous decline for almost seven years.
The island slid into recession in the last quarter of 2015, posting its slowest annual growth since 2009, as China’s economic slowdown and weaker international demand took their toll on the export-driven economy.
January saw exports drop by 13 percent, to $22.2 billion from $25.5 billion a year earlier.
It follows a miserable 2015, which saw Taiwan’s exports fall by a tenth compared to the previous year.
“Demand from international markets was weak, orders from semiconductor industry clients were conservative, and oil and steel prices kept hovering at low levels,” the finance ministry said in a statement on the latest figures.
Exports from Taiwan to China and Hong Kong — the island’s leading overseas market — plunged 19.3 percent in January from the previous year to $8.6 billion. Sales to Southeast Asia and the United States fell 8.7 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively.
Among the hardest-hit areas were electronic parts, metals and plastics, the finance ministry said.
“Looking ahead, the global economic outlook is opaque — competition is getting stiffer, raw industrial and agricultural material prices are on the decline. Also weighing down Taiwan’s export outlook is mainland China’s supply glut and the push to develop its own supply chains,” the ministry added.
A ministry spokeswoman said prospects would largely depend upon whether oil prices recover, easing the strain on the global economy and boosting prices.
The worst previous run for exports was a 14-month long decline from September 2008 to October 2009 during the global financial crisis.
Taiwan in August slashed its growth forecast for 2015 to a lower-than-expected 1.56 percent.
As well as the weaker global economy and China slowdown, Taiwan has also suffered from greater competition in the tech market.
Traditionally a technology hub, the island has benefited from Apple’s new iPhone6 launched in 2014.
A number of leading Taiwanese firms such as Foxconn and TSMC are among Apple’s suppliers.
But China has been pushing to develop its own tech industry with the development of domestic smartphone brands and homegrown hardware including chips, putting pressure on Taiwan’s industries.