Japan's trade surplus falls sharply as exports drop

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japan's trade surplus dropped by around 90 percent in April, official data showed Wednesday, with exports affected by a slowdown in China's economy as it wages a trade war with Washington.

Meanwhile, Japan's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States grew 17.7 percent in April from a year earlier, the data showed, days before US President Trump arrives on a state visit.

Japan's overall trade surplus plummeted by 90.3 percent to 60.4 billion yen ($550 million).

The decrease, sharply lower than market expectations, was chiefly due to falls in exports of chip-related products to China, the finance ministry data showed.

But the trade surplus with the United States was up for a second consecutive month, led by exports of automobiles, chip-making equipment and aircraft.

The jump in the surplus with the US -- to 723.2 billion yen ($6.5 billion) -- follows an almost 10 percent rise in March and a 1.6 percent dip in February.

The latest figures come ahead of Trump's visit to Japan this weekend for meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They are expected to focus on issues including trade.

Trump has frequently complained that Japan has an unfair advantage in bilateral trade, and is seeking to negotiate a new trade agreement with Tokyo.

Last week, Trump announced a six-month delay in imposing steep tariffs on auto imports, seeking to pressure Japan and Europe into bargaining concessions on trade.

The temporary reprieve, from what would have been a sizable escalation in Trump's multi-front trade wars, was welcomed by the global market.

However, some trade experts say it could mean Washington is still trying to take Tokyo's cherished auto industry hostage to put pressure on Japan to open up its agricultural market.

Japan's trade deficit with China -- the thirteenth consecutive monthly deficit -- stood at 318.3 billion yen ($2.9 billion).

With the European Union, Japan's trade surplus dropped 96.7 percent to 3.4 billion yen ($30 million).