Japan logged a goods trade deficit of ¥888.8 billion ($8.2 billion) in the first half of 2019, weighed down by sluggish exports to other Asian countries amid intensifying trade tensions between the United States and China, government data showed Thursday.
The trade deficit followed a ¥1.8 trillion deficit in the second half of last year, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry.
During the January to June period, exports fell 4.7 percent from a year earlier to ¥38.24 trillion and imports decreased 1.1 percent to ¥39.13 trillion. Both exports and imports were down for the first time in five six-month periods.
By region, Japan’s China-bound exports, such as semiconductor manufacturing equipment and auto parts, dropped 8.2 percent from a year earlier. Imports from China, including computers and televisions, inched up 0.1 percent, leaving Japan with a deficit of ¥2.05 trillion.
For the whole of Asia, including China, Japan’s surplus tumbled 41.9 percent to ¥1.73 trillion amid declines in exports of semiconductor manufacturing machinery to South Korea.
Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, pointed out that exports to the entire Asia region, including South Korea, remained lackluster, affected by a slowdown in the Chinese economy.
“It is hard to foresee (Japan’s) exports picking up in the near future despite expectations for improvement in the second half of the year,” said Shinke, adding that it is likely to take some more time before Beijing’s stimulus steps produce an effect.
The world’s third-largest economy recorded a surplus of ¥3.46 trillion with the United States, helped by robust demand for Japanese cars despite President Donald Trump’s drive to cut his country’s massive deficits with its trading partners.
In the first six months of 2019, Japan saw a ¥239.1 billion deficit with the European Union amid falls in exports of ships and motorcycles.
In June alone, Japan recorded a trade surplus of ¥589.5 billion, with exports shrinking 6.7 percent and imports declining 5.2 percent from a year earlier.
The figures were measured on a customs-cleared basis.