Japan's trade deficit expands in January as China-bound exports fall

Japan's trade deficit for January grew from a year earlier with exports to China tumbling in their worst decline in three years, government data showed Wednesday.
Japan logged a trade deficit for the month of 1.41 trillion yen ($12.8 billion), 49.2 percent larger than a year before, the finance ministry said.
Exports were down for the second month in a row, with exports to China tumbling 17.4 percent, the sharpest fall since January 2016, as shipments of plastic and electronic devices dropped sharply.
The data comes amid a global economic slowdown and growing trade tensions. Japan exports a range of goods including electronic parts and industrial equipment to China, which has been locked in a trade standoff with Washington.
Tokyo's latest trade data "reflects a slowdown in the Chinese economy," said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.
Japan often logs a deficit in January because China's lunar New Year holiday period results in a dent in demand.
But last month, "exports of products such as microchip-making devices that are not related to China's New Year celebration fell, showing Chinese companies' spending on equipment and plants is falling," Minami told AFP.
China's slowdown will also pressure Europe as well as other neighboring Asian countries, he argued.
"As the global economy slows, it will weigh on Japanese exports further," he said.
Japan's politically sensitive surplus with the United States marked its first rise in seven months, increasing 5.1 percent thanks largely to higher exports of cars.
With the European Union, Japan logged a deficit of 96 billion yen, down 4.9 percent from a year earlier. Both sides hope to see trade soar in the future after a massive trade deal went into effect this month covering economies that represent a third of the world's GDP.

© 2019 AFP
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