Drop in China-bound Japanese exports adds to fears of global downturn


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TOKYO — Japan’s export growth slowed

sharply in December as China-bound shipments fell for the first

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time in seven months, stoking fears of further slowdown in the

global economy and external demand for Japanese shipments.

Exports rose 11.5% year-on-year in December after a 20% gain

in November, marking the slowest growth since the start of 2022,

dragged down by a fall off in sales to China of cars, auto parts

and chip-making machinery, Ministry of Finance data (MOF) showed

on Thursday.

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The weak data dashes policymakers’ hopes for an export-led

recovery from the pandemic, putting more pressure on the

government to persuade Japanese firms to accelerate wage hikes

to help boost domestic demand.

Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, fell 6.2%

year-on-year in value and were down by 24% in terms of volume in


“The unexpected stalling of the Chinese economy came on

top of slowdown in Europe and America. In the worst case, it may

deal a blow to Japanese exports, which could in turn hit Japan’s

factory output and capital expenditure,” said Atsushi Takeda,

chief economist at ITOCHU Research Institute.

“Japan would then have no choice but turn to domestic demand

to pick up the slack. In that sense, spring wage talks between

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labor and management holds the key to see whether private

consumption will hold up to drive virtuous economic growth.”

Economic activity has been hampered in China by a wave of

COVID-19 infections after the government began dismantling its

“zero-COVID” controls in December.

Although the latest wave of infections is expected to have

faded by spring in China, it will take time for the world’s

second largest economy to return to pre-pandemic levels and

risks of further COVID waves remain, Takeda said.

The trade data also highlighted the challenge of a

resource-deficient country that relies heavily on imports of

commodity and energy.

Imports grew 20.6% in value terms, led by oil, coal and

liquefied natural gas, driving cost-push inflation that will

raise the cost of living and price of doing business,

potentially harming demand in the economy.

The rises in exports and imports were largely in line with

forecasts by economists in a Reuters poll.

As a result, December’s trade deficit came to 1.45 trillion

yen ($11.29 billion), extending the run of deficits to 17


For the whole of 2022, Japan logged a trade deficit of 19.97

trillion yen, the second straight annual shortfall and the

biggest since 1979.

($1 = 128.4300 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes & Simon



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