A Taiwanese container ship unloads at the Port of Los Angeles, which has experienced greater traffic between Taiwan and Los Angeles County in recent years. Image: Corey Seeman, Flickr.

Los Angeles Fosters Robust Taiwan Trade Ties

China Taiwan

Taiwan is cultivating stronger ties with Los Angeles as trade figures between the two continue to see strong growth, according to a report released in June by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Taiwanese exports to the Los Angeles Customs District (LACD), which encompasses the massive Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, rose 9% in 2014 to $9.5 billion, the highest level since before the Great Recession. LACD exports to Taiwan increased 6.4% last year to $7.6 billion, thus comprising a $17 billion two-way trade relationship.

Although this partnership is just one-tenth the size of Los Angeles’ trade with the Chinese mainland, worth $176.1 billion in 2014, as much as one-third of imports to the LACD from China are produced by Taiwanese firms, which produce goods on the mainland due to lower costs and fewer trade barriers. Such firms include major electronics manufacturing companies for which the island nation is famous, like Acer, Asus, Foxconn, and HTC.

Electronic goods from companies like these comprise a large share of the LACD’s imports from Taiwan, while electrical equipment, aircraft, and metals top the list of goods that Los Angeles exports to Taiwan. Electronics serve as a critical sector for the California-Taiwan trade relationship, a fact that has been highlighted by the recent opening of the Taiwan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. With the launching of the Center in June, a select few Taiwanese entrepreneurs will now have more opportunities to collaborate with American startup accelerators and venture capital firms.

On top of the economic links that have been growing in recent years, Taiwan’s connections with Los Angeles, and California in general, are blossoming beyond the business sector. The state is well known for its abundant Taiwanese cuisine, particularly in Southern California, which hosts around 200 such restaurants. California has the largest population of Taiwanese in the United States, with over 100,000 reported in the last census, and LA County is home to the largest Taiwanese population of any county in the nation.

Patrick Madaj is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an undergraduate student at the University of Oklahoma.