Japan returns to trade deficit on weaker exports to China, despite 10 per cent fall in imports

TOKYO – Japan’s trade balance slipped back into a deficit in November but was nearly 60 per cent lower than a year earlier as a drop in imports outpaced a 3 per cent decline in its exports.

Tepid demand overseas, especially in China, has been a persistent challenge as Japan, the world’s No. 3 economy, struggles to keep its recovery on track.

Exports totalled 5.98 trillion yen ($48 billion) and imports 6.36 trillion yen ($52 billion), leaving a deficit of 379.7 billion yen ($3.1 billion). In October, Japan recorded a surplus of 111.5 billion yen.

The data reported Thursday showed Japan’s exports to Asia dropped 8.7 per cent from the year before, with an 8 per cent fall in exports to China. Exports to the U.S. rose 2 per cent.

Overall, imports fell 10 per cent thanks largely to a drop in costs for imports of crude oil and gas.

Japan’s exports of machinery, one of its mainstays, fell in November, while shipments of vehicles rose.