Japan swings to trade deficit in 2021

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan swung to a trade deficit last year as imports were driven higher due to surging commodities prices and the yen’s weakness that sent prices for imported goods rising, the Finance Ministry said Thursday.

The country posted a customs-cleared trade deficit of ¥1,472.2 billion in 2021, against the year-before surplus of ¥388.3 billion, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

In December alone, Japan had a trade deficit for the fifth straight month, at ¥582.4 billion. Both exports and imports hit their highest levels since data began to be recorded in 1979. Exports rose 17.5% from a year before to ¥7,881.4 billion, and imports climbed 41.1% to ¥8,463.8 billion.

In the whole of 2021, exports grew 21.5% from the previous year to ¥83,093.1 billion, the second-highest level following ¥83,931.4 billion marked in 2007. Steel and vehicle exports expanded in particular, aided by a recovery in the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imports rose 24.3% to ¥84,565.2 billion. Crude oil imports surged 49.1% and nonferrous metal imports gained 64.3%. Imports of grains, meat and medicines including COVID-19 vaccines also increased.

Exports to the United States rose 17.6%, led by auto parts shipments. Exports to the European Union grew 21.4%. Chinese-bound exports climbed 19.2% to a record high of ¥17,984.4 billion.