Exports dropped for a ninth straight month in August as trade conflicts compound a global economic slowdown.
The value of shipments abroad fell 8.2 percent in August from a year earlier, according to the Finance Ministry. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had estimated a 10 percent drop. The trade balance was a deficit of ¥136.3 billion.
Slowing demand overseas, especially in China, has weighed on Japan’s exports, one of the economy’s main drivers of growth. The U.S.-China trade war makes the outlook for Japanese shipments uncertain, while Japan and South Korea have their own tensions.
Imports fell 12.0 percent to ¥6.28 trillion, chiefly due to a drop in imports of crude oil and liquefied natural gas.
In trade with the United States, Japan posted a surplus of ¥472 billion, up 3.8 percent. Although exports of vehicles and other products decreased, imports, mainly of aircraft and corn for feed, fell more sharply.
Japan incurred a trade deficit of ¥216.8 billion with mainland China. Exports were down 12.1 percent, while imports slid 8.5 percent, led by mobile phones.
Amid a rapid deterioration in bilateral ties, Japan’s exports to South Korea shrank 9.4 percent. Shipments tumbled 40.8 percent for food, apparently reflecting a boycott of Japanese products in the country.
Imports from South Korea dropped 10.3 percent.
U.S. President Donald Trump said a trade deal with Japan had been reached, but didn’t say whether it would end his threat to slap tariffs on Japanese auto imports. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tokyo wants any deal to lay the issue to rest.
Weak exports make Japan’s economy particularly vulnerable at a time when the nation’s households are bracing for next month’s sales tax hike. Consumer spending has supported growth recently.