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Taiwan exports off to a slow start in 2012

Published June 11, 2012

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN) Monday June 11 2012 6:03 PM MT—First-quarter exports of complete bicycles from Taiwan to the global market fell 9.5 percent in what could be an indication of the effect of Europe’s economic slowdown on the island’s manufacturers.

The number of units exported from Taiwan from January through March was 1,142,683, compared with 1,263,384 for the same time period last year. The value of those exports, however, rose 3.7 percent to $462.8 million, up from $446.3 million. Average selling price also ticked up, rising from $353 to $405. Exports of folding bikes fell 41 percent to 20,771 units and dropped in value 34.5 percent to $4.3 million, according to statistics tracked by Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade.

Nearly 60 percent of Taiwan’s bikes are shipped to Europe, and exports to the EU fell 14 percent in quantity, from 850,161 bikes in the first quarter of 2011 to 729,961 in the same time period this year. That is the lowest first-quarter number since 2004, when the EU had two fewer member states. Despite the decline, the value of exports to Europe rose to $230.6 million from $222.3 million. Exports to two of Europe’s biggest bike markets, Germany and the United Kingdom, were down 12.6 and 34 percent, respectively. The Netherlands held steady at 145,848 units, nearly on par with last year. Spain—a country that could be expected to see the largest slide due to its dire economic state—actually took in 25 percent more bikes for a first-quarter total of 42,088 units. The slip in exports to Europe could also be the result of the growing number of Eastern European assembly factories; exports of Taiwanese-made frames and forks to the European Union rose nearly 14 percent in units and 25 percent in value during the first quarter.

Shipments of complete bikes to North America, Taiwan’s second-largest export market, fell 15.5 percent, from 187,993 units to 158,737 units. The value of exports to North America also dropped, falling 12.4 percent to $98.6 million, down from $112.6 million during the first quarter last year.

The weakening in Taiwan’s traditionally strong export markets was offset by promising growth in Asia. That region represents about 9 percent of the island’s total exports, and is quickly rising in importance as recreational cycling picks up popularity. Shipments to Asia jumped 36.7 percent during the first quarter, growing from 93,283 units to 127,554. The value of the bikes shipped to Asia nearly doubled, rising from $39.9 million during the first three months of 2011 to $60.6 million this year.

China alone imported 19,042 bikes from Taiwan from January through March, an 823 percent skyrocket from the year before. Value of shipments to China rose 716 percent to $10.4 million from $1.7 million. The drastic quarter-over-quarter spike in exports to China is due at least in part to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, a cross-strait trade pact that eliminated duties on bikes shipped from Taiwan to China as of Jan. 1.

Nicole Formosa

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