The trade deficit surged nearly 70 percent to a record ¥13.75 trillion ($134 billion) last fiscal year as exports failed to keep pace with rising energy costs.
The Finance Ministry reported Monday that Japan’s exports in the year ended March 31 rose 10.8 percent over the previous year to ¥70.8 trillion ($690.5 billion), while imports climbed 17.3 percent to ¥84.6 trillion ($825 billion).
Preliminary data pegged the deficit at ¥1.45 trillion ($14.1 billion) in March, the 21st straight month of shortfall. The annual growth rate in exports sank to 1.8 percent in March from a peak of 18.6 percent in October, while the rate for imports has stayed mostly in the double digits.Resource-scarce Japan’s costs for energy imports have soared since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011 led to the closure of all of nuclear reactors for safety checks. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping some of those plants will restart to help reduce the burden on the economy.
Japan’s deficit with Middle Eastern countries that provide most of its oil and gas rose 18 percent in fiscal 2013, to ¥13.7 trillion ($133.6 billion), accounting for the biggest share of its overall deficit.
The weakening of the yen last year helped push costs for all imports higher, while exports have not risen as quickly as expected.
Exports to the United States jumped 16 percent, to ¥13.2 trillion ($128.7 billion), however, against a 17 percent increase in imports to ¥7.1 trillion ($69.2 billion), leaving a surplus of ¥6.1 trillion ($59.5 billion).
Japan’s deficit with China jumped nearly 40 percent, to ¥5.6 trillion ($54.6 billion), though double-digit increases in exports to other Asian countries kept the overall trade balance with the rest of Asia in a surplus.
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