Japan’s exports, imports zoom amid world pandemic recovery

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s exports in June jumped 48.6 per cent from the year before, marking the fourth straight month of growth, the Finance Ministry said yesterday.

Imports for the month grew 32.7 per cent, totalling JPY6.83 trillion (USD62 billion). Exports for the month totalled JPY7.2 trillion (USD66 billion), according to government data.

The increases were exaggerated by a plunge in trade last year due to the pandemic. But they highlight the recovery in the world’s third largest economy as a global rebound in business activity and travel boosts demand.

Exports to the United States (US) surged 86 per cent in June from a year earlier, led by shipments of cars and computer parts. Exports to China rose 28 per cent, with strong growth in vehicles, semiconductor making equipment and computer parts, the data showed.

Japan logged a trade surplus of JPY985 billion (USD9 billion) in the first half of the year, the second straight surplus in a row.

Vehicles at a port in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

The economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, shrinking at a revised annual rate of 3.9 per cent in January-March, as COVID-related restrictions crimped domestic demand. Data due to be disclosed next month are likely to show the contraction continued into the second quarter.

Worries are growing about coronavirus infections surging, as tens of thousands of athletes, team officials and other dignitaries enter the country for the Tokyo Olympics, opening this week.

About 15,000 Japanese have died so far and just over a fifth of the population is fully vaccinated. Dozens of people affiliated with the Games have already tested positive for the virus.

Japan has never had a lockdown, but parts of the nation, including Tokyo, have been under a government “state of emergency” much of the year, with restaurants and bars closing early to minimise crowds gathering.

The government expects the economy to come roaring back as the vaccine rollout becomes more widespread by the end of this year.