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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2006
SINGAPORE Only One World Class Foundry By Ken Fouke While not having lost any further casting producers recently, there have been no new additions in Singapore either. However, the one large foundry producing world class quality castings continues to expand. Here are the economic statistics: Total Population 4.4 million GDP - per capita: US$27,900 (2005) Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.5% (2005) Labour force: 2.4 million (2005) Unemployment rate: 3.4% (2005) Exports - partners: Malaysia 15.8%, US 14.3%, Hong Kong 10%, China 7%, Japan 6.7%, Taiwan 4.7%, Thailand 4.3%, South Korea 4.2% (2003 est.) Because of expansions in the major casting producer of Singapore, the industry remains static, although in terms relative to 20 years ago, it is greatly weakened. Because of the ease of getting around, and virtually no language difficulties, Singapore continues to be an easy place to conduct business. TAIWAN Taiwan Market Still Dynamic By Ken Foulke Taiwan now faces many of the same economic issues as other developed economies. With the prospect of continued relocation of labor-intensive industries to countries with cheaper work forces, Taiwan's future development will have to rely on further transformation to a high technology and service- oriented economy. In recent years, Taiwan has successfully diversified its trade markets, cutting its share of exports to the United States from 49% in 1984 to 20% in 2002. Taiwan's dependence on the U.S. market should continue to decrease as its exports to Southeast Asia and China grow and its efforts to develop European markets produce results. Taiwan's accession to the WTO and its desire to become an Asia-Pacific "regional operations center" are spurring further economic liberalization. GDP - per capita: US$27,600 (2005 est.) purchasing power parity -- Inflation Rate 0.3% (2004 est.) Population below poverty line: 0.9% (2005 est.) Labor force: 10.6 million (2005 est.) Unemployment rate: 4.2% (2005 est.) Industries: electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing Exports -- partners China 21.6%, US 16.2%, Hong Kong 15.1%, Japan 7.7% (2005) The metal casting industry in Taiwan continues to be extremely dynamic in comparison to the rest of the countries in the Asia Pacific region (excluding China, India and Korea). Expansion of production in China seems to be the latest trend. As business relationships between these two countries present themselves, Taiwanese foundries are attempting to make fill use of the many advantages held by Chinese based companies. VIETNAM Vietnam Government Assists Foundries By Ken Foulke Urban unemployment in Vietnam has been rising steadily in recent years due to high numbers of migration from the countryside to the cities, and rural unemployment, estimated to be up to 35% during non-harvest periods, is already at critical levels. Layoffs in the state sector and foreign-invested enterprises combined with the lasting effects of a previous military demobilization further exacerbated the unemployment situation. The country aims to become a member of the WTO, perhaps as soon as October 2006. In May 2006, Vietnam negotiated a bilateral trade agreement with the US that marked the completion of the bilateral negotiations with WTO members the country needed to qualify for accession to the organization. Among other steps taken in the process of transitioning to a market economy, Vietnam in July 2006 updated its intellectual property legislation to comply with TRIPS. Vietnam is still a relatively poor country with GDP of US$50 billion (est., 2005). Inflation rate is estimated at 14% per year in 2004. This figure has been scaled down by the Government to 9.5% per annum to avoid the 'double digit' classification. Population 86.2 million Population below Poverty Line 37% GDP (2005) US$50.8 billion. Inflation rate (2004): 9.5%. External debt (2004 est.): 34% of GDP, $15.4 billion. Natural resources: Coal, crude oil, zinc, copper, silver, gold, manganese, iron. Trade (2005): Exports-$19.88 billion The metal casting industry in Vietnam remains well behind the times, and "government worker syndrome" is till a major problem. The government continues to make attempts to improve the industry, making money available to foundries, and attempting to attract help in the form of contract assistance and/or joint venture participation, but, as Vietnam is very difficult to conduct business in at the best of times, this is a daunting task. Foreign suppliers are reluctant to invest time and effort in Vietnam to benefit the local casting industry due to the instability of Vietnam business and frequent project cost overruns. The foundry industry in Vietnam remains fragmented at present, but opportunities will continue to present themselves in the coming years for the adventurous and hearty brokers of casting expertise. ● WHO'S WHO OF METALS -- ANNUAL 2006/7 39