China woes, crisis hit Japan economy

China woes, crisis hit Japan economy

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
China woes, crisis hit Japan economy

People fish near a shipping container area at Yokohama Bay, south of Tokyo. Japan’s exports fell by 10.3 percent in the year to September, figures show. REUTERS Photo

Japan posted its worst September trade figures in more than 30 years, official data showed yesterday, as the global slowdown and a territorial spat with China weighed on the world’s third-largest economy.

The country has been struggling to turn around its fortunes following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, while also suffering from Europe’s debt crisis, slowing Chinese demand and the strong yen.

Weaker shipments to the US market also dug into the latest results, which showed a monthly trade deficit of 558.6 billion yen ($7.0 billion), reversing a year-earlier surplus of 288.8 billion yen as exports fell 10.3 percent on year.

It was the first deficit for September since 1979, when comparable data became available, as demand for everything from chemicals and cars to medical products and computer parts fell away.

Energy costs rise

The new figures also showed that Japan notched up a trade deficit of 3.22 trillion yen in the first half of the fiscal year to March 2013, the biggest half-year shortfall in over three decades.

September imports rose 4.1 percent due to higher energy imports following nuclear plant shutdowns after last year’s Fukushima atomic crisis. Nuclear power once supplied about one-third of Japan’s energy needs.

Shipments to China, which is Japan’s biggest trading partner, tumbled 14.1 percent as demand dropped for Japan-branded products including industrial machinery and cars, while a broader economic slowdown in China factored into the weak figures.

Tokyo and Beijing have been embroiled in an increasingly bitter territorial dispute over an East China Sea archipelago, called the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, which Japan nationalised in mid-September.

The spat has led to thousands of flights being cancelled between the nations, while Japan’s top three automakers said their sales in China plunged last month.

Two-way trade between the Asian giants topped $340 billion last year. “The deteriorating relationships with China could prove to be a major blow to the Japanese economy,” Ryutaro Kono, chief economist at BNP Paribas, told Dow Jones Newswires.