Aug 20, 2009 05:59 JST

Source: JETRO

Japan-China Trade Slips in the First Half of 2009

TOKYO, Aug 20, 2009 - (ACN Newswire) - According to a report released today by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Japan's total trade with China (exports and imports combined) fell 21.4% year-on-year to US$102.8 billion in the first half of 2009. This was the first decline (in semi-annual terms) since the second half of 2001. Japan's exports to China dropped by 25.3% to US$46.5 billion, while Japan's imports from China shrank 17.8 % to US$56.2 billion.

Overview of Japan-China trade in the first half of 2009

Japan's trade with China posted negative growth (year-on-year) for eight consecutive months, from November 2008 to June 2009. The decline was attributed to China's economic slowdown and a drop in external demand.

In the first quarter of 2009, imports and exports were down across the board due to weakened economies in Japan and China, as well as a build-up of inventories in China as external demand fell off.

The second quarter, however, saw an increase in exports of some machinery-related products, fueled by increased infrastructure investment in China due to the government's 4-trillion-yuan (approximately 56 trillion yen) economic stimulus package. A recovery was also seen in exports of parts and materials used in production of finished goods for sale in China, reflecting growing demand in the country for home appliances in part due to the government's consumption promotion measures such as the "Home Appliances to the Countryside" subsidy program. In addition, imports of some home appliances and food products showed signs of recovery in the quarter.

The drop in Japan's trade with China (with falls in both imports and exports) was smaller than that for the nation's overall trade. As a result, the share of Japan-China trade rose to 20.4% of Japan's total trade, the highest level ever (on a semi-annual basis). Japan's exports to China also set a record (also on a semi-annual basis), making the country Japan's largest export destination and eclipsing the US for the first time.

Japan's exports to China in the first half of 2009

Exports of textile machinery and steel, among other items, were down considerably, owing to sluggish growth in China's industrial production caused by a fall in demand from Japan, the US and Europe.

Exports of mineral fuels, such as light oil and kerosene (which rose dramatically in 2008), were also down due to a slowing of domestic demand in China for petroleum products. Export growth for organic compounds, such as vinyl chloride and toluene, as well as passenger cars, fell at a slower rate in the first half of 2009. Semiconductors posted an improved one-digit negative growth in June, owing to increased demand for home appliances spurred by the government's stimulus measures.

Exports of pumps were robust, reflecting increased investment in infrastructure development and a recovery in demand for new building and housing construction in China. Other gains were seen in agricultural machinery, due to increased demand created by the Chinese government's subsidy program, and in telecommunication equipment and related products, as China works to upgrade its Internet infrastructure.

Japan's imports from China in the first half of 2009

In the first quarter of 2009, Japan's real GDP shrunk by 3.1% from the previous quarter. Amid this decline, a significant drop in imports of personal computers and other consumer goods was noted.

A fall in Japan's industrial production contributed to a decline in imports of coal (raw materials for steel production), silicon (raw material for silicon wafers used in production of semiconductors), and low-priced universal parts (used in finished goods production in Japan).

Imports of foods were also down, but showed signs of recovery (after a sharp decline in 2008), as Japanese consumers and food outlets sought out low-cost food items due to the severe economic situation. This fact also led to an increase (from a year earlier) of imports of (low-cost) clothing items from China.

In addition, imports of LCD TVs and some home appliances rose on the back of the Japanese government's introduction of an "eco-points" system, a promotion measure aimed at encouraging consumers to buy environmentally-friendly versions of such products.

Outlook for 2009

Looking at the whole of 2009, Japan-China trade will likely record its first decline in 11 years (since 1998), pushed by the downward trend that began in November 2008. This fall, however, will not be as severe as seen in the first half of 2009, with the global economy forecast to rebound in the second half of the year.


1) Since a rapid recovery in consumption in Japan, the US, Europe and other developed economies is unlikely, China's exports of finished products is expected to continue its downward trend, leading to a continued decline in Japan's exports of high-value added parts and materials to China.

2) A temporary increase in exports of pumps and other machinery is expected, due to increased infrastructure spending in line with the Chinese government's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package (its effect on total exports, however, is expected to be limited).

3) In the second half of 2009, China's consumer market is expected to expand, along with a recovery in domestic production. This will have a positive effect on Japan's exports of parts and materials, although to a limited extent, as the majority of goods for domestic consumption are low value-added items.


1) Under the current state of the Japanese economy, which is not expected to achieve a quick recovery in 2009, Japanese domestic demand will likely remain stagnant. Therefore, Japanese imports from China, which consist mainly of consumer goods, are expected to fall again this year.

2) Due to weak growth in personal incomes, Japanese consumers will turn more towards inexpensive clothing and food items from China - but this will have limited impact on a value basis.

3) Japanese imports of low-priced parts and materials from China (used in finished goods production in Japan) are likely to decrease again in 2009, as an early recovery in both internal and external demand is thought unlikely.

* Figures are US dollar conversions of yen-denominated statistics for imports (provisional) and exports (fixed) released by Japan's Ministry of Finance in July 2009. On a yen-basis, Japan's total trade with China fell 28.7% to 9.8 trillion yen in the first half of 2009, with exports falling 32.1 % to 4.4 trillion yen, and imports falling 25.7% to 5.3 trillion yen.

China and North Asia Division
Phone: +81-3-3582-5181
Source: JETRO

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