Japan’s exports have been falling throughout 2019, declining for seven consecutive months. The most recent figures, released Thursday, show a 6.8 percent drop in exports in June (compared to the year before). For a country dependent on external markets for economic growth and well-being, these numbers are harrowing, and it is imperative that politicians and business strategists understand the causes of this decline and what they can do about it.

Sadly, the answer is not much. Japan’s economy — like many others — is being battered by events beyond its control, chief among them the U.S.-China trade war and the simultaneous slowdown in China, the world’s second-largest economy. While there is more at work than the current discord, leading trade nations, Japan among them, must redouble efforts to stabilize and shore up the world trade system.

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