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Official Name: Taiwan
Formal Name: Republic of China (ROC)

Internet Domain: .tw
International Dialing Code: +886
Time Zone: UTC+8

Table of Contents

Location and Size Credit and Collections
Government Risk Assessment
Legal System Business Climate
People Business Protocol
Economy Articles About Taiwan
Economic Indicators Sources of Further Information
Comparative Economic Indicators

Location and Size

Taiwan is an island located in Eastern Asia with an area of 36,189 sq. km. (13,973 sq. mi.). Approximately two-thirds of Eastern Taiwan is mountainous with 100 peaks over 3,000 meters high (over 9,000 feet). A number of smaller islands off the coast of China’s Fujian Province also are included within Taiwan.

Government

For decades, Taiwan was an authoritarian, one-party state ruled by the Nationalist Party, which under President Chiang Kai-shek controlled much of China before the Communists' rise to power in 1949.

In the early 1990s, however, Taiwan made the transition to democracy and the Nationalist Party’s monopoly on power ended completely in 2000, with the election of President Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. Today, Taiwan is a multiparty democracy.

Branches include:

  • Executive – Chief of State President MA Ying-jeou; Head of Government Premier LIU Chao-syiuan; cabinet of ministers appointed by the president on recommendation of the premier.
  • Legislative – unicameral body with 113 seats.
  • Judicial – justices appointed by the president with consent of the legislature.

Legal System

Taiwan’s legal system is based on a civil law system. Taiwan has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction. (What does this mean?)

Taiwan's court system is generally viewed as independent and free from overt interference by the other official branches.

People

  • Population: 22,974,349 (July 2009 est.)
  • Population growth rate: 0.227% (2009 est.)
  • Languages: Mandarin Chinese (official), Taiwanese (Min), Hakka dialects
  • Literacy: 96.1% (2003)
  • Ethnic Make-up: Taiwanese (including Hakka) 84%, mainland Chinese 14%, indigenous 2%
  • Religions: mixture of Buddhist and Taoist 93%, Christian 4.5%, other 2.5%


Economy

Through decades of hard work and sound economic management, Taiwan transformed itself from an underdeveloped, agricultural island to an economic power that is a leading producer of high-technology goods. Foreign trade has been the engine of Taiwan's rapid growth and its economy remains export-oriented, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in the world economy.

Taiwan faces many of the same economic issues as other developed economies. Labor-intensive industries have relocated to other countries with low-cost labor. Therefore, future development will rely on continued transformation to a high technology and service-oriented economy. Taiwan's economy has become increasingly linked with China, and the current Ma administration is expected to further develop these links and liberalize economic relations between the two countries.

According to The Economist, Taiwan's fiscal position will weaken significantly in 2009-10.

Currency: Taiwan Dollar (TWD)

Leading Markets (2007): China 32.6%, US 12.9%, Hong Kong 8.6%, Japan 6.4%, Singapore 5%

Leading Exports-commodities: electronics, flat panels, machinery, metals, textiles, plastics, chemicals, auto parts

Leading Suppliers (2007): Japan 22.7%, US 13.3%, China 11.2%, South Korea 6.6%, Saudi Arabia 4.8%, Singapore 4.6%

Leading Imports-commodities: electronics, machinery, petroleum, precision instruments, organic chemicals, metals

Top Industries: electronics, petroleum refining, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products, pharmaceuticals

Top Agricultural Products: rice, corn, vegetables, fruit, tea, pigs, poultry, beef, milk, fish

Economic Indicators

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008(e) 2009(f)
Economic growth (%) 6.2 4.1 4.9 5.7 0.1 -7.5
Inflation (%) 1.6 2.3 0.6 1.8 4.2 2.5
Exports (USD billions) 182.4 198.5 223.8 246.5 273.4 245.2
Imports (USD billions) 165.9 179.0 199.6 216.1 254.9 220.9
Foreign debt (% of GDP) 24.5 25.5 24.6 25.7 24.0 21.3
Foreign currency reserves (in months of imports) 14.2 13.7 12.8 11.9 10.5 13.1
Exchange rates (TDW per USD) 2009=5-18-09 33.5 32.2 32.6 35.1 32.1 33.0
Exchange rates (TDW per EUR) 2009=5-18-09 41.6 40.1 40.9 45.1 46.3 44.5

(e) estimate (f) forecast

Comparative Economic Indicators - 2008

Taiwan China Philippines Japan Singapore S. Korea
Population* (millions) 23.0 1,338.6 98.1 127.1 4.7 48.5
Population growth* (%) 0.2 0.7 2.0 -0.2 1.0 0.3
Literacy (%) 96.1
(2003)
95.1
(2000 census)
92.6
(2000 census)
99.0
(2002)
96.6
(2000 census)
97.9
(2002)
GDP** (USD billion) 738.8 7,800.0 320.6 4,348.0 240 1,278.0
GDP per capita** (USD) 31,900.0 6,000.0 3,300.0 34,200.0 52,000.0 26,000.0
Economic growth (%) 0.1 9.0 4.4 -1.0 1.1 2.5
Inflation (%) 4.2 6.0 9.3 1.8 4.3 4.7
Unemployment rate (%) 4.1 4.0 (higher in rural areas) 7.4 4.2 2.3 3.2
Exports (USD billions) 273.4 1,492.0 51.0 776.8 349.5 458.4
Imports (USD billions) 254.9 1,157.0 63.4 696.2 307.6 459.9
Foreign debt (% of GDP) 24.0 9.9 36.2 ?? 13.8 47.9
Currency Dollar
TWD
Yuan Renminbi
CNY
Peso
PHP
Yen
JPY
Dollar
SGD
Won
KRW
Exchange rates per USD on 5/18/09 33.0 6.8 47.9 95.2 1.5 1,257.7
Exchange rates per EUR on 5/18/09 44.5 9.2 64.6 128.5 2.0 1,697.8

* 2009 estimates
** PPP – Purchasing Power Parity

Credit and Collections

ABC-Amega’s collection experience in Taiwan

According to Dennis Lojeck, Asst. VP International Collections at ABC-Amega: A foreign creditor collecting from debtors in Taiwan can face some challenges. There is an interesting aspect of Taiwanese business law,however,that may allow creditors to protect their interests in goods sold until they are paid for. This is particularly important in the current environment where creditors increasingly find themselves unable to collect from debtors whose firms are in various stages of reorganization. By taking appropriate steps prior to shipping to Taiwan,you can prevent possible headaches and losses.

Articles 282 to 314 of the Taiwan Company Act govern reorganization proceedings in Taiwan. Under these Articles, sellers can retain titles to goods as long as purchase agreements comply with Article 5 of the Chattel Secured Transactions Act. This Article states that in order for sellers to maintain security interest, they must state in a written purchase agreement that they will retain title to the goods in question until they receive payment as specified. They must also register with relevant authorities to protect the title clause from bona fide buyers. Of course,reassuming possession of your goods is not what you have in mind when you ship them, but it is certainly a better alternative to writing off the entire balance.

Dispute Resolution

Taiwan is not a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes or the New York Convention of 1958 on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. Normally, Taiwan resolves disputes according to domestic laws and regulations.

Taiwan has comprehensive commercial laws, as well as laws for specific industries. Taiwan's Bankruptcy Law guarantees that all creditors have the right to share the assets of a bankrupt debtor on a proportional basis. Secured interests in property, both chattel and real, are recognized and enforced through a registration system. The judgments of foreign courts with jurisdictional authority are enforced in Taiwan by local courts on a reciprocal basis.

Risk Assessment

Coface Country Risk Rating: A2 -- Rating watch listed with negative implications since March 2009. The political and economic situation is good. A basically stable and efficient business environment nonetheless leaves room for improvement. Corporate default probability is low on average.

Ducroire Delcredere Political Risk Rating: 1 – lowest risk
Ducroire Delcredere Commercial Risk Rating: A – lowest risk

Business Climate

Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing government involvement in investment and foreign trade. In keeping with this trend, some large, state-owned banks and industrial firms have been privatized. On the negative side, the island has not kept up with infrastructure development in comparison with other developed Asian economies.

Economic Freedom: According to the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, prepared by The Heritage Foundation, Taiwan’s economic freedom score is 69.5, making its economy the 35th freest in the 2009 Index. Taiwan is ranked 7th out of 41 economies in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is higher than the world average.

Tariffs: Tariffs are very low, and the government continues to improve the trade regime.

Intellectual Property Rights: The legislature enacted a bill to set up special courts for intellectual property rights (IPR) cases in March 2007 with review of these cases to begin in July 2008. Taiwan has made progress on protecting intellectual property rights, passing several laws and improving enforcement efforts. However, criminals continue to sell pirated optical media, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and counterfeit luxury goods.

Transparency of Regulatory System: Taiwan's transparent and sound regulatory framework facilitates an efficient investment climate. Investment laws and bureaucracy are generally transparent and efficient.

Foreign Investment and Ownership: Taiwan officially welcomes foreign direct investment. Taiwan’s science-based industrial parks, export processing zones, and free trade zones offer streamlined procedures. Foreign and domestic investments are equal under the law, and private investment is welcome in most sectors. Foreign ownership is limited in certain sectors. Investment is screened, but approval time is usually short. Most foreign ownership limits have been removed.

Conversion and Transfer Policies: There are relatively few restrictions on converting or transferring direct investment funds. The remittance of capital invested in Taiwan must be reported to the government. Declared earnings, capital gains, dividends, royalties, management fees, and other returns on investments can be repatriated at any time. Large foreign exchange transactions may be required to be conducted over time to prevent market disruptions.

Corruption: Corruption is perceived as present, but is currently being combated by laws, regulations, and penalties. Attempting to bribe, or accepting a bribe from, Taiwan officials constitutes a criminal offense, punishable under the Corruption Punishment Statute and the Criminal Code.

Political Violence: There have been no reports of politically motivated damage to foreign investment. Both local and foreign companies have, however, been subject to protests and demonstrations relating to labor disputes and environmental issues.

For more detailed information on these topics, visit the 2008 Investment Climate Statement – Taiwan, of the U.S. Department of State.

Business Protocol

Face and Guanxi: The concepts of face and guanxi are perhaps the two most important aspects of successful interpersonal relationships in Taiwan. Face is extremely important and essentially reflects a person's reputation, dignity, and prestige. Face can be lost, saved or given to another person. Companies, as well as individuals, have face and this often provides the rationale behind business and personal interactions.

Face can be given to people by complimenting them, showing them respect, or doing anything that increases their self-esteem. You can cause someone to lose face by causing embarrassment, and/or tarnishing their image and reputation.

In the event that you cause someone to lose face, or someone is embarrassed by circumstances, the best recourse is to appropriate the blame yourself.

Most Taiwanese business is conducted among friends, friends of friends, and relations. Such connections, or guanxi (pronounced gwan-she) are developed with people at your own level or of a higher status in both business and social situations. Guanxi opens doors, smoothes out problems, and leads to even more connections.

Greetings: Greetings are formal and the oldest person in a group is always greeted first. Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners, but are not as firm as in many other countries. When you are first meeting a person, address the person by their academic, professional, or honorific title and their surname. If those you are meeting want to move to a first name basis, they will advise you which name to use.

Business Cards: Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions. Present your business card using both hands and so the typeface faces the recipient. It is a good idea to have one side of your business card translated into Chinese using the traditional script not the simplified script as used in China. It’s important to examine any business card you are given carefully and to treat the business card with respect as the way you handle someone’s card is indicative of the value you place on the relationship. Never write on someone's card in their presence.

Names and Titles: The Chinese traditionally have 3 names. The surname, or family name is first and is followed by one or two personal names. Chinese women do not change their names when they marry other Chinese, and the children’s surname will generally be that of the father. Some Chinese adopt western names in business.

Gifts: Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they traditionally indicate that you want to sever the relationship. Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals as they are associated with funerals and death. Do not give white flowers or chrysanthemums as they signify death.

Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper. Red, pink and yellow are considered to be auspicious. Elaborate gift wrapping is imperative when preparing a gift.

Do not give an odd number of gifts, or four gifts, as these are considered unlucky numbers. Eight is the luckiest number. Giving eight of something brings luck to the recipient.

Avoid giving anything made in Taiwan.

Present gifts using both hands. Gifts are not opened when received. Gifts are generally reciprocated so do not give a lavish gift unless it is to reciprocate an expensive gift that you have received.

Meetings and Negotiations: Meeting schedules are not highly structured in Taiwan. There may be an agenda, but it serves as a guideline for the discussion and may act as a springboard to other related business ideas, or even to non-business discussions. Time is not considered more important than completing a meeting satisfactorily, therefore meetings will continue until the discussion is completed and may extend well past a scheduled end time.

Taiwanese tend to be indirect in their communication and are as concerned with the effect of their words on others as they are with the content of their communication. They take great care to avoid communicating anything directly that would hurt or offend a colleague as it would cause a loss of face.

Articles of Interest about Taiwan

A watched frog never boils, The Economist print edition

Acrimony between China and Taiwan gives way to business deals, Economist.com

Sources for further information on doing business in Taiwan

American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan

American Institute in Taiwan: Due to US-China relations, the United States cannot "officially" recognize Taiwan (as China still claims Taiwan as part of the PRC). Therefore, the U.S. maintains unofficial relations with the people in Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a private nonprofit corporation, which performs citizen and consular services similar to those at diplomatic posts.

Doing Business in Taiwan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (TAIWAN)

Invest in Taiwan, Department of Investment Services

Taiwan, U.S. Commercial Service

Taiwanese-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Los Angeles

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This information is provided by ABC-Amega Inc. Providing international receivable management and debt collection services for exporters to more than 200 countries including Taiwan. For further information, contact info@abc-amega.com.

This report represents a compilation of information from a wide variety of reputable sources.

Economic Indicators: Variety of sources including the CIA World Factbook, Coface Country Rating, Economist Country Briefings, Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA) Country Profiles.

Risk Assessment information: Provided with permission by Coface Country Rating. Also Belgian credit insurance company Ducroire Delcredere

Information on credit terms and the probability of prompt payment are provided, with permission, from Overseas Press and Consultants (OP&C) as published in IOMA's Report in "Managing Credit, Receivables & Collections.".

Historical Exchange Rates: OANDA.com The Currency Site.