Japan suffered a trade deficit of $32 billion with the rest of the world in 2011— the first annual deficit in 31 years —primarily because of the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
In 2011, Japan’s overall exports fell for the first time in two years, declining 2.7 percent to $840.5 billion, while its overall imports rose for the second consecutive year, surging 12 percent to $872.4 billion. Japan is now the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China, and is heavily dependent on exports for growth.
The decline in Japan’s overall exports in 2011 was largely because automakers and other export-reliant companies’ supply chains were disrupted by the twin natural disasters that hit the country March 11.
A slowdown in the global economy amid the deep European debt crisis and a sharp rise in the value of the yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive abroad, also contributed to the decline in Japan’s overall exports.
The overall export decline in 2011 was led by autos, electronic parts, including semiconductors, and ships, which tumbled 10.6 percent, 14.2 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively, in terms of value.
The rise in Japan’s overall imports in 2011 was primarily because a sharp increase in the country’s import of oil and natural gas as the resource-poor country shifted away from nuclear energy generation. The overall import growth in 2011 was fueled by crude oil, LNG and petroleum products, which soared 21.3 percent, 37.5 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively, in terms of value.
Japan’s exports to the United States fell for the first time in two years in 2011, decreasing 3.4 percent to $128.4 billion, while its imports from the U.S. rose for two years in a row, edging up 0.2 percent $75.9 billion.
As a result, Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. narrowed for the first time in two years, contracting 8.2 percent to $52.5 billion. The U.S. is now Japan’s second-largest trading partner after China.
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