• Kyodo

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Exports in the first half posted the largest year-on-year drop in 10½ years as the coronavirus pandemic weighed heavily on overseas demand for cars and other industrial goods, government data showed Monday.

Exports from January to June fell 15.4 percent from a year earlier to ¥32.36 trillion ($300 billion), the steepest dive on a half-year basis since the 22.8 percent plunge in the second half of 2009 during the global financial crisis, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry.

By item, autos slid 30.9 percent, the biggest fall since 34.4 percent in the second half of 2009, and auto parts sank 29.0 percent.

The world’s third-largest economy logged a goods trade deficit of ¥2.24 trillion for the half, the biggest since ¥5.19 trillion in the latter half of 2014. That marks Japan’s fourth consecutive half in the red.

Imports fell 11.6 percent from the previous year to ¥34.60 trillion, the sharpest drop since 14.4 percent in the second half of 2016.

Both exports and imports were down for the third six-month term in a row.

By country, the goods trade surplus with the United States plummeted 49.3 percent to ¥1.75 trillion, the sharpest since 67.0 percent in the first half of 2009.

Japan’s surplus against the United States was the smallest for a half since ¥1.62 trillion in the first half of 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11 that year.

Exports to the world’s biggest economy dropped 27.2 percent from a year ago to ¥5.70 trillion, with a 42.9 percent tumble in car exports contributing most to the overall decrease. Imports fell 9.7 percent to ¥3.95 trillion as demand for airplane engines and crude oil shrank due to travel restrictions imposed amid the pandemic.

As for China, where the coronavirus epidemic was first detected late last year, exports slipped 3.6 percent from a year earlier to ¥6.78 trillion, weighed down by declines in such items as chemical products and auto parts.

In June alone, Japan recorded a trade deficit of ¥268.82 billion, with exports sinking 26.2 percent from a year earlier to ¥4.86 trillion and imports down 14.4 percent to ¥5.13 trillion.

All figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.

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