China supplanted the United States as Japan's biggest export market in 2009 for the first time since the end of World War II, according to preliminary figures released by the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.
The trade results underline the Japanese economy's sharply growing dependence on China, which has already been Japan's largest import source since 2002 and largest trading partner since 2007.
Japan's exports to the United States tumbled 38.5 percent in 2009 from a year earlier to about $97.2 billion, the lowest level since 1981, while its imports from the United States plunged 31.5 percent to $61.2 billion. As a result, Japan posted a trade surplus of about $36 billion in 2009, down 47.5 percent from 2008.
Automobiles led the drop in Japan's U.S.-bound exports in 2009, falling 46.8 percent. Motors dropped 38.2 percent, and auto parts fell 36.4 percent.
The decline in Japan's imports from the United States in 2009 was led by grains, aircraft and electronic parts, including semiconductors.
Japan's exports to China fell 20.9 percent in 2009 from a year earlier -- a much slower pace compared with U.S.-bound exports -- to about $113.8 billion, while its imports from China dropped 22.9 percent to about $127 billion. As a result, Japan posted a trade deficit of about $13.3 billion with China in 2009, down 36.5 percent from 2008.
Japan's overall trade surplus with the rest of the world expanded for the first time in two years in 2009, growing 36.1 percent to about $31.2 billion.
Overall exports declined 33.1 percent to $602 billion, while imports decreased 34.9 percent to $570.8 billion. The rates of decline in both were the largest on record.
Overall exports rose 12.1 percent in December for the first year-over-year increase in 15 months. Imports fell for the 14th month in a row.
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