In 2001, the slowdown in the American economy and the cooling off of international trade in information and electronic products pushed shipments of Taiwan's main export commodities--electrical machinery and mechanical appliances--into the negative growth range, putting a halt to a long period of growth in trade. Export value fell to US$122.9 billion and imports declined to US$107.2 billion in 2001; decreases of 17.2 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively, compared with the previous year. With imports contracting faster than exports, the annual trade surplus rose to US$15.6 billion from US$8.3 billion in 2000.
In 2001, Taiwan was the world's 14th largest exporter and 16th largest importer. It also held the world's third largest foreign exchange reserves. The United States, Japan, Hong Kong, the ASEAN area, and the European Union remained Taiwan's top trading partners. These five countries and areas together accounted for more than 70 percent of the nation's total international trade.