A worker rides a bicycle past containers at an industrial port in Tokyo. Photo: REUTERS file

Japan's October exports almost back to pre-pandemic levels


Japan's exports in October bounced back to just below the levels seen before the novel coronavirus pandemic, as global demand for products such as cars has risen in line with a gradual recovery in business activities, government data showed Wednesday.

Exports edged down 0.2 percent from a year earlier to 6.57 trillion yen ($63 billion), with auto shipments to the United States and China showing a significant increase while those of diesel oil and cargo ships remained sluggish, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The declining pace of exports slowed from 4.9 percent in September.

Meanwhile, exports shrank for the 23rd consecutive month since December 2018, tying the longest streak of monthly on-year falls set in July 1987 when the country was facing fierce trade friction with the United States amid Japan's rise as an economic power.

Imports decreased 13.3 percent to 5.69 trillion yen, down for the 18th straight month, mainly on the falling price of crude oil purchased from the United Arab Emirates and other countries. But the decline was smaller than the 17.4 percent drop in the previous month.

The goods trade surplus stood at 872.90 billion yen in the reporting month, securing black ink for the fourth month in a row, and up from the 687.84 billion yen recorded in September.

By product, exports of cars grew 3.0 percent, turning positive from a 0.5 percent decrease in September to post their first rise since July 2019. Those of auto parts also climbed 4.0 percent, following a 7.7 percent fall the previous month.

By country, exports to China expanded 10.2 percent to 1.46 trillion yen, while imports fell 3.7 percent to 1.54 trillion yen. Exports to the United States increased 2.5 percent to 1.30 trillion yen, with imports shrinking 15.6 percent to 600.76 billion yen.

Increased exports to these countries, which are Japan's two largest trading partners, could not make up for sharp drops in shipments to other areas, causing overall exports to decline, a ministry official said. Exports to the Middle East tumbled 30.3 percent and those to South and Central America sagged 26.2 percent.

Japan's exports posted a double-digit fall between March and August due to the pandemic, and concerns are growing that recent virus resurgences in Europe and the United States could deal a fresh blow.

Exports to Asia as a whole rose 4.4 percent to 3.69 trillion yen and imports slipped 6.9 percent to 3.01 trillion yen.

With the European Union, exports were down 2.6 percent at 599.23 billion yen and imports dropped 11.4 percent to 638.85 billion yen.

"The latest outcome shows that Japan's exports are picking up vigorously, reflecting that the global economy is moving toward its normal state faster than expected," said Takeshi Okuwaki, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Okuwaki said the virus resurgence in Europe "won't inflict great damage" on Japan's trade, given that the country's exports to the area account for only about 10 percent of the total.

However, he said large-scale economic restrictions in the United States could have a serious impact.

Exports played a key role in boosting the world's third-largest economy to grow an annualized real 21.4 percent in the July-September period from the previous quarter, the biggest expansion in 40 years, after it shrank 28.8 percent in the April-June term due to the government's state of emergency declaration over the virus in April.

All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.


©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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We gotta join the Belt and Road!

-18 ( +3 / -21 )


His muscular no nonsense approach and strong leadership (including 100 sit ups a day) are already bearing fruit.

Soon the birthrate will be up above 2 and all will be well in the Land of Peace and Tranquility.

-7 ( +9 / -16 )

This is complete spin. It is not possible. Only giving hope.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

Initially, I was surprised to see such a big turnaround for last month. But then again, that was before all the resurgences of Covid. And I’m pretty sure that this was before the new lockdowns that were introduced in European countries as well. So that would obviously explain it. I mean, we’ll just see what next months report are for this month, to get a better picture of this.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Fantastic news! Well done Mr. Suga!

-15 ( +5 / -20 )

It's not a bad news, but insignificant as the Japanese economy is domestically driven, not dependent on international trade.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

"This is complete spin. It is not possible. Only giving hope."

If exports had continued falling, you would not be saying its complete spin.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

Great countries always come back. Japan is truly a great country. GNP came roaring back, the Nikkei is at record high, the Yen is strong and Nissan is coming back strong. Enough said.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

It is more likely due to the formalization of pre-existing FTAs and trade deals between Asian bloc, RCEP. All countries in Asian bloc already have trade agreements with each other, and RCEP is simply a formalization of such process. A political facade of a victory for Beijing to tell its people.

In case of Japan's continual maintainance of high exporting power, China and Vietnam have been mostly keeping most of the Japanese exporters alive, except the high-end ones that are tied to Americans. Most hi-tech products that China or Vietnam bought from Japan can be found elsewhere in Europe or America at better equality - Or China just produces themselves, and Vietnam buys from China. No, the Keidanren keeps begging LDP cronies to stay good tie with China and Vietnam (especially with China), or Japan INC will collapse. Because of Japanese insistence on keeping extremely good ties with both Communists, so their Communist leaders buy the Japanese products out of pity as well as at a discount from Japan itself.

China can pretty much produce all machineries on its own, and go to the West to buy high-end machineries. Beijing needs to steer Japan away from the USA, so they help Japan through making Japanese companies more reliant on Chinese customers.

This is complete spin. It is not possible. Only giving hope.

It is more of an economic facade with political backing. The US is always a traditional importer of Japanese products, so Japan doesn't have much problem if it always spend that trade surpluses on US treasuries, bonds and assets. However, Japan's role as a world exporter to the US is gradually being displaced by the ASEAN and China. So Japan Inc seeks to mend ties with China and ASEAN (Vietnam is rising to be the topdog in the league, thanks to the help from China and the USA). Japan needs that ASIAN MARKET (China) to stay relevant in the long term.

China and Vietnam need to keep Asian bloc independent from Western intrusion, so they help Japan through buying the Japanese products at a discount price. The profits and revenues don't matter as much as keeping the facade of a healthy Japanese economy aka social stability in Japan. China and Vietnam subsidized their purchases of Japanese products to keep Japanese people employed and Japan being more reliant on them.

RCEP now formalizes the Communist soft victory over the Western aligned nations in Asian bloc. The US will stage a comeback easily but Japan or South Korea won't be treating the West in the same way as it was in the 20th century.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Fantastic news!

The recovery will hopefully be quicker than previously predicted!

Let’s hope this upward trend remains unchanged and that vaccines are available soon in large numbers.

Until then lets keep the social distance and keep masks on, wearing these properly over the nose.

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

Fantastic news! Well done Mr. Suga!

Lol...thanks to Suga?..he had done jack all...this is due to pick up in demand in overseas economies ..zero to do with MIA Suga.

4 ( +12 / -8 )


Its nothing to do with being a 'truly great country'.

Japan isn't by the way.

14 ( +17 / -3 )

I am sure the benefits from this will be trickling down to the pandemic and economically stricken Japanese public and not to a multinational group of stakeholders any time now right..?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The question is can any of the data released by the bureaucrats and not an independent 3rd party be trusted ? It is left to each and everyone to pass judgement, All I know is as a small exporter relying on Japan post I am unable to fulfill orders due to Japan post continuous ban on air shipment to over a hundred countries, The rosy data in the article is a stark contrast to what small exporters like us are facing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

China can pretty much produce all machineries on its own,"

Ignorance does not kill but makes you sweat a lot.

"Global Machinery Industry Factsheet 2020: Top 10 Largest Machinery Manufacturers in the World"


"Global Machinery Industry Factsheet 2020: Top 10 Largest Machinery Manufacturers in the World"


"Most hi-tech products that China or Vietnam bought from Japan can be found elsewhere in Europe or America at better equality"

I am sure they can especially in relation to the better equality thingy.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

"Global Machinery Industry Factsheet 2020: Top 10 Largest Machinery Manufacturers in the World"

It does not tell anything relevant. If you even want to post a list, find me the complete statistics on every produced machineries in the world, including both developing and developed countries. List of number of machineries corresponding to each exact company name with an origin at every nation of import.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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