Japan’s exports, imports sank in May amid pandemic fallout

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s exports sank 28 per cent in May, while imports dropped 26 per cent as the coronavirus pandemic slammed global trade.

The provisional Ministry of Finance data, released yesterday, showed May was the second straight month Japan recorded a trade deficit.

Japan has historically been criticised for racking up a huge trade surplus, not buying enough from the countries flooded with its products. Data show April last year is the last month in which both imports and exports weren’t negative, showing how exports and imports have been falling for more than a year.

Japan’s growth relies on trade and tourism, as well as domestic small and medium consumer-oriented businesses, all of which have been hurt by the travel, stay-home and social-distancing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The falls by nation were pronounced. Exports to the United States (US) plunged by more than 50 per cent and those to Australia declined 59 per cent. Imports from the US fell nearly 28 per cent while those from Australia were down 29 per cent.

Trade with China was recovering to last year levels, with exports and imports both down about 12 per cent.

Japan has already slid into recession, defined as two straight quarters of contraction. The world’s third-largest economy had already slowed in the final quarter of last year before the virus reached a pandemic scale. The current quarter, through the end of June, is expected to show another contraction.

Cars to be exported at Kawasaki port, near Tokyo. PHOTO: AP