Supply chain
ICs play bigger role in Taiwan exports
Tony Huang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

ICs accounted for a record-high 35.5% of Taiwan's total exports in 2020, indicating Taiwan-based chipmakers are increasingly critical to the country's economy, according to Digitimes Research.

Taiwan is where industry leaders such as TSMC and MediaTek are headquartered. Its ICs are playing an increasingly important role in Taiwan's total exports, compared with about 20% that semiconductors contribute to South Korea's total exports, Digitimes Research have found.

ICs accounted for only 18.1% of Taiwan's total exports in 2011, duing which TSMC just moved 28nm process to mass production while MediaTek was not yet a global top-20 chip supplier.

Taiwan-based IC suppliers have greatly enhanced their global competitiveness, but it remains to be seen whether their global presence can be maintained or even grown.

South Korea's semiconductor exports came much above Taiwan's during 2017 and 2018, when the global top-2 memory chipmakers - Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix - enjoyed the most gains from the memory market boom. Nevertheless, with the memory market sliding from its peak, Taiwan's IC outputs surpassed South Korea's in 2019 and 2020.

Taiwan's IC exports came to US$100.3 billion and US$122.5 billion, respectively, in 2019 and 2020, while South Korea's total semiconductor exports reached US$95.2 billion and US$100.3 billion. Taiwan-based IC design houses and foundries' sales growth contributed to the country's overall IC output value over the past two years.

Taiwan's IC exports surged 28.3% on year to US$33.81 billion in the first quarter of 2021, while South Korea's semiconductor exports grew 14.6% from a year earlier to US$26.59 billion. Taiwan's IC design and foundry sectors remained critical to the country's total IC exports, according to Digitimes Research.

Semiconductor exports from Taiwan and South Korea, 2017-2020 (US$b)

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Source: Compiled by Digitimes Research, Apil 2021

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