Japan exports fall amid slow pandemic recovery

TOKYO — Japan’s exports fell at a slower pace in September in a sign that trade damage from the coronavirus pandemic is easing, according to Finance Ministry data released Monday.

The report showed Japan’s exports in September declined 4.9 per cent, better than the nearly 15 per cent drop in August. The nation’s imports fell 17.2 per cent overall, compared with 20.8 per cent in August.

Exports to China jumped 14 per cent while shipments to the US inched up 0.7 per cent, in another possible sign of a gradual rebound. By sector, computer exports to the world surged nearly 45 per cent.

Japan’s export-reliant economy has sunk into recession, with three straight quarters of contraction through June, as the outbreak slammed business activity and stifled trade.

But a recovery in China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year, and recoveries in some other Asian countries are helping Japan regain momentum.

Junichi Makino, analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, noted that auto exports were recovering as global economies rebounded, especially in Europe. He said exports overall had recovered nearly to what it had been before the pandemic.

The ministry data showed transportation equipment in general, including vehicles, motorcycles and planes, was still declining, down 7 per cent compared to a year ago.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office a month ago, left Sunday for Vietnam and Indonesia, where virus cases are relatively low, to drum up business and trade.

His predecessor, Shinzo Abe, had tried to sustain economic growth with his “Abenomics” package of programs based on zero interest rates and curtailing deflation.

Suga, also from the governing Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to continue those policies.