Japan trade surplus drops sharply on higher oil imports

Tokyo, Japan | AFP | Monday – Japan’s trade surplus fell sharply in November, the government said Monday, as the rising cost of oil and smartphone imports outweighed strong exports of cars and steel.

The world’s third-largest economy logged a surplus of 113.4 billion yen ($1.0 billion), a 22-percent drop from a 146.5-billion-yen surplus a year earlier, according to finance ministry data.

Exports rose for the 12th consecutive month on sound exports of chip-making equipment, cars and steel.
But imports also grew for a 11th straight month, chiefly due to a rise in imports of smartphone handsets, crude oil and non-ferrous metals.

The ministry said the yen was on average 8.2 percent cheaper against the US dollar in November compared to the same month a year earlier, making Japan’s imports costlier.

Japan’s politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States rose 13.7 percent — the fifth monthly rise in a row — on increased exports of automobiles and construction machines.

The nation’s trade flows with the US, over which the two countries battled for decades into the 1990s, has become less of a hot-button issue under recent presidential administrations, as China’s presence as a trade-surplus nation has been growing.

Last week, the United States, European Union (EU) and Japan jointly rounded on China’s "market-distorting subsidies" at the World Trade Organization conference in Argentina.

With the EU, Japan logged the second consecutive monthly trade deficit while its deficit with China — the ninth consecutive — rose 11.8 percent.

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