US Ousts China as Japan’s Top Export Market

The US has overtaken China to once more become the top destination for Japan’s exports for the first time since 2009. Figures for the 12 months to March 2013 show that over the period Japan’s exports to China fell by 9% to ¥11.3 trillion, while exports to the US rose 10% to ¥11.4 trillion.

The figures reflect not only a slowdown in China’s economic growth but the bad feeling between Asia’s two biggest economies generated by an ongoing territorial dispute over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu by the Chinese while Japan refers to them as Senkakus.

The boost to trade with the US helped Japan to record its narrowest trade deficit in March this year for nine months. It also suggests that efforts by Japan’s new prime minister,
Shinzo Abe
, to revive the country’s economy will become more reliant on the outlook in the US than in China, which, since the 2008 financial crisis, has assisted the export-dependent Japanese economy.

Early in 2009 China overtook the US as Japan’s top destination for exports early in 2009, after Beijing instigated an aggressive fiscal stimulus in response to the crisis. Monthly shipments to the US have subsequently exceeded those to China, but mainly in the months of January and February when trade patterns are distorted by New Year holidays in China. Japanese manufacturers’ relationships with Chinese customers were also affected by supply disruptions following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The natural catastrophe two years ago severely affected Japan’s trade figures and an overall deficit of ¥8.2 trillion for the year ended March 2013 was a record.

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