Business Environment in Taiwan

Overview by

Economic Indicators

After almost five decades of sound economic management, Taiwan has managed to go from an underdeveloped agricultural island, to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods.

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy in which the authorities' control of investment and foreign trade is gradually diminishing. Highly vulnerable to global economic shocks and fluctuations of the demand, the island was severely affected by the international financial crisis, with its economy contracting by -1.9% in 2009. The recovery was very dynamic in 2010, driven by an increase in exports, which are the engine of Taiwanese growth, as well as by a vast stimulus plan. Estimated at 9.3% in 2010, growth should nevertheless slow down in 2011.

Given that the Taiwanese economy has begun to grow again, the government’s priority is no longer to manage the crisis. A reform of the fiscal system has been announced, together with measures to combat inflation. The country signed a trade agreement with China, in order to avoid becoming marginalized by the ASEAN countries. In the long-term, Taiwan will have to deal with problems of population aging, low birth rate and diplomatic isolation.

The unemployment rate, which reached almost 6% in 2009, dropped to 5.3% in 2010 and should continue to decline in 2011.

Main Indicators 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
GDP (billions USD) 377.45 430.58 503.94e 545.46e 590.78
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -1.9 10.8 5.4e 5.2e 5.1e
GDP per Capita (USD) 16,326 18,458e 21,410e 22,967e 24,653e
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -0.8 1.0 1.1e 1.1e 1.2e
Inflation Rate (%) -0.9 1.0 2.0 2.0 2.0
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labor Force) 5.9 5.2e 4.6 4.5 4.3
Current Account (in % of GDP) 11.2e 8.5 7.7e 7.7e -

Source: IMF - World Economic Outlook Database

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

The agricultural sector contributes very marginally to the GNP and employs 5% of the workforce. Taiwan's main crops are rice, sugarcane, fruits and vegetables. Taiwan has limited natural resources and croplands are cultivated intensely.

The secondary sector accounts for a significant part of the GNP. Even though traditional industries such as iron and steel, chemical products and mechanics still account for almost half the industrial production, new industries are more dynamic. Taiwan is one of the world's biggest suppliers of semi-conductors, computers and mobile telephones. It is also the world's biggest supplier of computer monitors.

Services contribute about 70% to the GDP and employ slightly under 60% of the workforce.
The country, which has to deal with the continuous relocation of labor-intensive industries to countries where labor is cheaper (especially China), will have to rely on new conversions, in order to move from a high-technology based economy to a services oriented economy.

For more detailed background on Industries in Taiwan, click here.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Mostly free
World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Distribution of Economic freedom in the world
Source: 2011 Index of Economic freedom, Heritage Foundation


Country Risk

See the Country Risk Analysis Provided By Ducroire.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Foreign trade has been Taiwan's growth driver, representing almost 130% of the GDP (2007-2009 average). Taiwan's economy remains very export-oriented, so much so that it depends on an open world trade regime and remains vulnerable to downturns of the world economy. The electronics sector is Taiwan's most important industrial export sector and also the one that receives most of the American investment. Taiwan, as an independent economy, became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu ("Chinese Taipei") in January 2002. Taiwan main exports partners are China, Hong Kong, United States and Japan. For more information, refer to the COMTRADE website. The island shows a surplus trade balance and this trend should continue in the coming years.


Political Outline

Executive Power
First country of Asia to have elected its president by the universal direct suffrage. President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term). Election last held 22 March 2008 (next to be held in March 2012). Premier is appointed by the President; Vice premiers are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Premier.
Legislative Power
Unicameral Legislative Yuan: 113 seats, 73 district members elected by popular vote, 34 at-large members elected on basis of proportion of island wide votes received by participating political parties, 6 elected by popular vote among aboriginal populations; to serve four-year terms
Parties must receive 5% of vote to qualify for at-large seats.
Last elections held in January 2008 (next to be held in January 2012).
Main Political Parties
Democratic Progressive Party or DPP (TSAI Ing-wen); Kuomintang or KMT (Nationalist Party: WU Po-hsiung); Non-Partisan Solidarity Union or NPSU (CHANG Po-ya); People First Party or PFP (James SOONG)
Current Political Leaders
Head of government: Premier (President of the Executive Yuan) LIO Chao-hsuan (since 20 May 2008); Vice Premier (Vice President of Executive Yuan) Paul CHIU (CHANG-hsiung) (since 20 May 2008).
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2012
Legislative Yuan (parliamentary):  2012

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

World Rank:
18 places down compared to 2008

Source: Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2009, Reporters Without Borders


Indicator of Political Freedom

Political Freedom:
Civil Liberties:

Map of freedom 2010
Source: Freedom House


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