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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exporting-to-taiwan/doing-business-in-taiwan-taiwan-trade-and-export-guide
1. Taiwan export overview
Taiwan is strategically located at the heart of the Asia Pacific region. Its economy is now the 26th largest in the world according to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook Database. Taiwan has averaged 6% annual growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last 3 decades.
Contact a Department for International Trade (DIT) Taiwan export adviser for a free consultation if you’re interested in exporting to Taiwan.
Taiwan is the 19th largest trading power in the world, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), with an economy founded on high-tech and creative industries. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks Taiwan as the 13th best place in the world to do business to 2017.
Around 300 UK firms have investments in Taiwan, including HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, GSK, Astra Zeneca, Mott MacDonald, ARM, Arup, and BP.
Benefits for UK businesses exporting to Taiwan include:
- major platform for business with China
- liberalisation of banking, insurance and securities sectors
- offshore centre for the renminbi (RMB), China’s official currency
- high levels of consumer disposable income
- sound legal environment with comprehensive protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
Strengths of the Taiwanese market include:
- 19th in the World Bank’s annual ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking
- world’s biggest manufacturer of computer related products and semiconductors
- logistics hub for the Asia Pacific region
- modern infrastructure
- skilled workforce, abundant capital, and excellent innovation capabilities
- more RMB deposits than anywhere else except Hong Kong
Most of the world, including the UK, does not recognise Taiwan as a sovereign entity separate from China. This has led to diplomatic isolation for Taiwan.
Market access issues faced by UK companies include:
- public construction regulations
- the ‘Guanxi’ or ‘connections’ (social or business) element of doing business in Chinese society, which is based on mutual interest or benefit
- sectoral challenges, including for pharmaceuticals and alcoholic beverages
Other challenges include:
- Taiwan is about 14 hours away from the UK by plane with no direct flights
- Taiwan is 8 hours ahead of UK time (GMT)
- business can be impacted by typhoons May to September
- in an earthquake zone
3. Growth potential
3.1 Economic growth
Taiwan’s GDP was USD523.6 billion in 2015 and per capita GDP was USD22,989. It held the fifth largest foreign exchange reserves in the world in 2015.
The government forecasts GDP for 2016 will be 0.75%, which is lower than the predictions of 1.5% and 1.2% made by the IMF and Global Insight respectively.
Taiwan has become one of the world’s leading economies due to its manufacturing and exporting expertise, especially in high-tech goods. Almost half of the top 100 Information Technology (IT) companies in Asia have a presence in Taiwan.
Other major industries include:
- banking and financial services
Taiwan has one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in Asia. It aims to become the first market in the world that is entirely wireless, with broadband access ports located throughout the island.
3.2 Links with China
The continuing liberalisation of links across the Taiwan Strait means that foreign companies are increasingly choosing Taiwan, both as a market in its own right, and as a stepping stone into China.
Taiwan has signed 27 agreements with China including the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). As a result China has cut tariffs on 539 items exported from Taiwan to China and further cuts are planned.
Taiwan and China concluded a services agreement in 2013 which needs to be approved by the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan (parliament). If this controversial agreement is passed it should pave the way for even closer economic ties.
3.3 Bilateral trade agreements
Taiwan signed free trade agreements with New Zealand and Singapore in 2013.
Taiwan is also working on joining the
- Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
4. UK and Taiwan trade
The UK’s goods and services exports to Taiwan grew by 2.3% in 2014 and reached their second-highest level at £1,957 million.
Bilateral trade between the UK and Taiwan reached £5.796 million in 2014, the third highest level on record and a 50% increase over the level in 2008/09.
Major UK exports are:
- Scotch whisky
- iron and steel
- machinery and mechanical appliances
- electrical machinery, equipment and parts
Over 180 Taiwanese companies have a UK presence, including HTC, Acer, Asus, Eva Air, Evergreen, Giant, Enta and D-Link.
5. Opportunities for UK businesses in Taiwan
DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Search for export opportunities.
Access Taiwanese central government procurement opportunities via the E-government procurement system.
5.1 Consumer goods
Taiwan’s GDP is the 19th largest in the world on a purchasing power basis. Taiwanese have more disposable income than counterparts in Korea, Japan, France or the UK. Increasing wealth is resulting in a growth in consumption including demand for foreign imports. 40% of goods consumed are imported.
The food and drinks sector is the fifth largest industry in Taiwan and one of the market’s fastest growing sectors. Local supermarkets, hypermarkets, and convenience stores are increasing ranges of imported foods to meet demand. Potential areas of opportunity for food and drink are linked to entertainment and convenience product ranges that can also follow the healthy trend in food services.
The market for youth fashion is strongly influenced by Japanese and Korean styles and trends. Due to the increasing demand for quality products, there are opportunities in:
- contemporary menswear and ladies-wear
- premium accessories
Contact the Senior Commercial Officer firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on opportunities in the consumer goods sector.
The Taiwanese authorities have announced a number of large scale public infrastructure projects which will generate opportunities over the next 8 years.
The main projects are:
- rapid transit networks in main cities
- mainline railway upgrades
- Kaohsiung free port and eco-park
- Asia Pacific Maritime and Air Logistics Centre in Taichung
- Taoyuan International Air City
- urban regeneration and rural revitalisation projects across Taiwan
- an island wide sewage system
Contact the Head of Infrastructure email@example.com for more information on opportunities in construction.
5.3 Creative industries
Taiwanese authorities have announced several cultural and creative industries (CCI) regeneration projects. The ‘Grand Palace Museum Expansion Project’ has an estimated budget of £644 million by 2024.
The main opportunities are in:
- architectural design and experience economy consultancy services
- creative talent training services
Contact Head of Communication/Marketing/Creative Industries firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
5.4 Electronics, semiconductor and display
Taiwan is the global leader in the production of computers and IT equipment. It is also a main location for mobile handset production.
Taiwan has a worldwide share of over 90% of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and original design manufacturer (ODM) market. It also dominates the semiconductor chip supply chain.
There are opportunities in:
- cloud computing
- Internet of Things (advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services)
- green IT
- software applications on mobile devices
- open data/sources
Contact Head of Technology and Trade Development email@example.com for more information on opportunities in the electronics sector.
As one of the most densely populated islands in the world, Taiwan’s usable land area is very limited. Taiwanese authorities spend around £14 million a year on tackling soil and groundwater contamination. This is set to double over the next few years with additional investment by the private sector.
Taiwan is actively seeking partners in the international community with expertise in this field. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) focuses on 5 main areas:
- promoting sustainability
- reducing carbon emissions
- eliminating pollution
- promoting healthy, sustainable lifestyles
Contact the Senior Commercial Officer firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on environmental opportunities.
5.6 Financial services
Taiwan’s financial services industry accounts for 7.1% of GDP. It has become much more international and liberalised over the last 2 decades.
With the implementation of the ECFA, Taiwanese banks, insurers, futures traders and securities firms are now able to operate in China.
The cross-strait RMB clearance agreement signed in August 2012 enables Taiwanese banks to provide all operations in RMB and promote Taiwan as an important offshore RMB financial centre. With more than 318 billion RMB deposits in total, Taiwan is now the third largest offshore RMB centre internationally.
This will lead to further opportunities for companies with capability in:
- wealth management
- corporate and trade finance
- investment advice
Contact Head of Technology and Trade Development email@example.com for more information on opportunities in the financial services sector.
5.7 Low carbon economy
Low carbon is listed as one of the 5 policy pillars for Taiwan. Taiwan has committed to cut carbon emissions to the levels recorded in 2000 by 2025. The programme will take a 2 pronged approach which includes:
- developing renewable energy sources, including the installation of 3 gigawatts (GW) offshore wind capacity
- the development of marine and tidal energy capability
Taiwan will boost its wind power capacity from 530 megawatts to 4.2 GW by 2030 under a renewable energy plan by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. This program is expected to generate £11 billion in business for Taiwanese equipment manufacturers and component suppliers.
There is also a programme for marine and ocean current energy which at present is setting up guidelines and a major pilot programme.
- green energy
- energy conservation installations
There are also opportunities for industry support. This includes support for:
- solar photovoltaics (PV)
- light emitting diode (LED) PV lighting
- wind power
- hydrogen and fuel cell
- energy communication and information
- electric vehicles
Contact the Senior Commercial Officer firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on opportunities in the low carbon sector.
The Taiwanese authorities have announced 12 priority public construction projects, with a total budget of £66.5 billion over the next 8 years.
The first priority up to 2030 is to build a fast and efficient island wide transportation network including:
- new metro lines
- extension of high speed rail stations
- provide major upgrades for traditional mainline railways in Taiwan
Taipei City will lead on projects in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taichung City for new metro lines and extension lines for 6 metro projects. There are also plans for:
- light rail projects for Taoyuan and Kaohsiung cities
- 3 new stations for high speed rail
- major maintenance signalling upgrades for traditional railways
Key opportunities for UK companies are in:
- consulting engineering
- station design
- rolling stock parts
Contact the Senior Commercial Officer email@example.com for more information on transport opportunities.
6. Start-up considerations
It is possible to set up a company office, branch office, representative office, job-site office or joint venture in Taiwan.
Mergers and acquisitions are also an option, although you must be aware of fair trade and antitrust issues.
Foreign investors need to obtain approval from the Taiwanese Ministry of Economic Affairs Investment Commission (MOEAC), a division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, to set up a company in Taiwan. Once approval has been obtained, it is possible for foreign investors, with the exception of certain restricted industries, to establish:
- an unlimited company
- an unlimited company with limited liability shareholders
- a limited company
- a company limited by shares
6.1 Agents and distributors
Direct sales into the Taiwanese market can be difficult. It is more effective to approach the market through local business partners (agents and distributors). They will have the ability to distribute and provide locally based technical and language support.
Licensing and franchising are also increasingly popular options.
7. Legal considerations
There are a number of organisations involved in the regulation of companies in Taiwan. These include the:
- Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) which issues business laws and regulations
- Bureau of Foreign Trade
- Taiwan Intellectual Property Office
- Financial Supervisory Commission
- Ministry of Finance which administers taxation and customs
- Fair Trade Commission
- Ministry of Health and Welfare which licenses and inspects food and pharmaceutical products
- Environmental Protection Administration
- Ministry of Labour
Contact the DIT team in Taiwan to help find tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements.
7.1 Standards and technical regulations
The Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT) is responsible for regulations covering import and export activities, and supervision of controlled items.
The Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (BSMI) is responsible for standardisation, metrology and inspection systems in line with international practices.
Agricultural, industrial and mining commodities must comply with inspection requirements. Inspection is conducted according to 4 schemes including:
- batch by batch inspection
- registration of product certification
- monitoring inspection
- declaration of conformity
BSMI also inspects imported agricultural, fishery and food products. 1,853 agricultural and fishery products are subject to inspection. The Department of Health and Welfare provides details of the relevant regulation.
7.2 Intellectual property (IP)
Taiwan joined the WTO in 2002. The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office is responsible for the administration of patent, trademark and copyright laws. Taiwan’s patent and trademark systems have been revised and are now more in line with international standards.
The British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan and the Taipei Representative Office in the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on intellectual property in September 2013. Under the MOU, Taiwan and the UK will exchange views on international IP issues, including internet piracy, patent law harmonisation and changes in IPR legislation.
8. Tax and customs considerations
8.1 Corporate income tax (CIT)
Corporate income tax is 17% on total annual taxable income over NT$120,000.
8.2 Business tax
Business tax is imposed on the sale of goods and services within Taiwan, as well as on the importation of goods. Taiwan has 2 business tax systems:
- Value Added Tax (VAT)
- non-value added tax, also known as the Gross Business Receipts Tax (GBRT)
The VAT system applies to most non-financial businesses at a standard rate of 5%.
The GBRT system applies to financial institutions, small businesses and certain restaurants. It is calculated on the basis of their gross business proceeds, at rates ranging from 0.1% to 25%.
8.3 Individual income tax
Certain items of income received from Taiwanese entities are subject to withholding tax. This is from 5% to 20% and is different for resident and non-resident individuals.
The Taiwan Customs Administration regulates all goods imported into Taiwan. Customs duty is levied on all imported goods. The rate falls into 2 categories which are:
- a general tariff rate
- a special rate applied to goods imported from territories that offer reciprocal treatment to Taiwan
You can find more about import tariffs in the Market Access Database.
It is essential to provide the correct documentation when exporting to Taiwan.
9. Entry requirements
British nationals do not need a visa to visit Taiwan for up to 90 days provided you have:
- a passport with at least 6 months’ validity
- a confirmed onward or return ticket
- no criminal record
A 90 day extension can be granted to a person who enters Taiwan this way.
You must obtain a visa before departure if your passport has less than 6 months’ validity.
Contact the Taipei Representative Office for more information on visas.
9.1 Travel advice
If you are travelling to Taiwan for business, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice beforehand.
Contact the DIT Team in Taiwan for more information and advice on your opportunities for doing business in Taiwan.