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Trade Gap Persists in Japan as Weak Yen Squeezes Purchasing Power

Published: November 16, 2022
Shipping containers are seen at a port in Tokyo, Japan on March 22, 2017. (Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo)

TOKYO — Japan’s imports surged by more than half in October from a year earlier, dwarfing exports and delivering another trade deficit, which has weighed heavily on the yen and added upward pressure to costs of living and doing business.

The trade gap reflects the pain felt by households struggling to make ends meet amid price hikes of everything from food to fuel, while squeezing profits at import-reliant companies facing difficulty of passing on costs to their clients.

Japan’s exports grew 25.3 percent year-on-year in October, led by shipments of cars, chips and electronics parts, up for the 20th consecutive months following a 28.9 percent gain in September, the trade data showed.

Imports jumped 53.5 percent in their 21st month of gains, driven by crude oil, coal and liquefied natural gas and resulting in a 2.16 trillion yen (USD $15.50 billion) trade deficit — a record for the month of October.

The world’s third-largest economy has depended on exports of processed goods such as cars and electronics for growth over the past few decades. Now Japanese policymakers are concerned more about the impact of surging imports on its resource-poor economy given the sharp yen declines.

By destination, Thursday’s trade data showed U.S.-bound exports rose 36.5 percent year-on-year in October, driven by cars and motors.

Exports to China, Japan’s No. 1 trading partner, advanced 7.7 percent in October, led by cars and audio equipment. The slowdown likely raised concerns about the impact of zero-COVID measures on Japanese shipments and the broader global economy.

Government data showed on Tuesday, Nov. 15 that Japan’s economy shrank in July-September for the first time in a year as imports outpaced exports, knocking off substantial portion of GDP.

By Reuters. (Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)