US topples China as Taiwan’s largest export market due to chips, AI demand

Published April 12, 2024
Semiconductor chips are seen on a circuit board of a computer in this illustration picture taken February 25, 2022. — Reuters
Semiconductor chips are seen on a circuit board of a computer in this illustration picture taken February 25, 2022. — Reuters

The United States has topped long-time leader China as Taiwan’s main export market for four consecutive months due to a surge in demand for microchip products and AI technology, Taipei’s finance ministry said on Friday.

Self-ruled Taiwan is a microchip-manufacturing powerhouse, churning out the world’s most advanced silicon wafers necessary to power everything from e-vehicles and satellites to fighter jets and increasingly to power AI technology.

For two decades, its top export market has been China — which claims Taiwan as part of its territory — but December data from Taiwan’s finance ministry shows the United States topping the list for the first time since August 2003.

In December, Taiwan exported $8.49 billion in products to the United States, compared with $8.28bn to mainland China.

The trend continued through March, when US exports increased by 65 per cent to $9.11bn, a 6pc jump, while mainland China received $7.99bn.

Those figures exclude Hong Kong, which holds its own status as a customs territory. When combined with mainland tallies, China remains the top destination for Taiwanese goods.

Taiwan’s finance ministry official in the trade division attributed the recent US tilt to the global “reorganisation of electronics and ICT (information and communication technology) supply chains, and the popularity of the AI industry”.

Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, she has been working to strengthen economic ties with the United States, seeing Washington as a crucial partner as neighbouring China grows increasingly aggressive.

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