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flag Japan Japan: Trade profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

Foreign trade is an essential element of the Japanese economy, but the country is not fully open and imposes extensive non-tariff barriers, especially in the agricultural sector. Japan is the world's 4th largest exporter and fifth-largest importer of goods, and foreign trade accounts for 31% of the country's GDP (World Bank). Japan mainly exports motor vehicles (12.6%) being the second exporter of cars worldwide, electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies (4.5%), auto parts and accessories (4.2%), and ships and boats (1.7%). The country's main imports include petroleum oils (6.8%), petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons (5.4%), transmission apparatus for radio-telephony (3.9%), automatic data processing machines (3.1%), and electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies (3%).

Japan’s main partners are China (22%), the United States (18.5%), South Korea (7%), Hong Kong (5%), and Thailand (4%). The country mainly imports from China (25.8%), the U.S. (11.3%), Australia (5.6%), South Korea (4.2%) and Thailand (3.7%). Japan is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner in Asia after China, and together they both account for about a quarter of the world's GDP. The two parties signed an Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force in 2019. Moreover, Japan signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), arguably the largest free trade agreement in history (its signatories include China, Australia, South Korea, etc., cumulating about 30% of global GDP). The RCEP agreement entered into force on 1 January 2022.

The country traditionally has a large trade surplus; however, in recent years the balance turned null. That was mainly due to plummeting shipments to China and regional markets, as the global pandemic-induced crisis took its toll on the trade-reliant economy. According to WTO, Japan's exports of goods reached USD 641.3 billion (-9% year-on-year) in 2020, while imports amounted to USD 635.4 billion (-11.8% y-o-y). Concerning the service sector, exports decreased 22.9% to USD 156.3 billion, whereas imports lost 10.5% (USD 201.7 billion). According to figures from the Ministry of Finance, in the first six months of 2021 Japanese exports reached USD 346.2 billion, with imports totalling USD 337.7 billion.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 606,927671,434748,488720,957635,460
Exports of Goods (million USD) 644,933698,367738,143705,564641,319
Imports of Services (million USD) 184,710190,822201,377204,384182,711
Exports of Services (million USD) 173,821181,599189,404202,891156,351

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 31.334.436.634.8n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 51,16343,83610,5871,36128,806
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 40,44437,6361,405-8,615-6,200
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1.23.33.8-0.4n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.66.63.8-1.4n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 15.316.818.317.4n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 16.117.618.317.4n/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 13.27.72.72.21.9
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 9.59.12.72.32.1

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
China 22.0%
United States 18.5%
South Korea 7.0%
Hong Kong SAR, China 5.0%
Thailand 4.0%
See More Countries 43.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 25.8%
United States 11.3%
Australia 5.6%
South Korea 4.2%
Thailand 3.7%
See More Countries 49.4%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

641.3 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 12.6%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 4.5%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 4.2%
Cruise ships, excursion boats, ferry-boats, cargo...Cruise ships, excursion boats, ferry-boats, cargo ships, barges and similar vessels for the transport of persons or goods 1.7%
Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor...Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, incl. photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made-up into panels (excl. photovotaic generators); light emitting diodes; mounted piezo-electric crystals; parts thereof 1.4%
See More Products 75.6%
635.4 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 6.8%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 5.4%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 3.9%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 3.1%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.0%
See More Products 77.8%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Search import and export data.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Japanese Yen (JPY)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Low. The Japanese yen is a major currency, often used as a reserve currency.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Japanese Yen (JPY) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 146.89144.36147.32136.25136.89

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency converter.

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
International Economic Cooperation
Japan is a member of the following international economic organisations: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (dialogue partner of ASEAN Plus Three), G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IMF, OECD, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Japan click here. International organisation membership of Japan is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
Japan is a member of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed on 15 November 2020. The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Japan can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention
No

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
 The following documents should be presented at the Japanese customs:
- Air Waybill or Bill of Lading;
- Commercial Invoice for import shipments with a value exceeding 10,000 yen and for any commodity being imported;
- Certificate of Origin- Import Approval;
- Quarantine Forms.

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free Zones
None
For Further Information
Japanese Customs Office
Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japanese Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry
Non Tariff Barriers
Non-tariff barriers are common in Japan. Factors such as exclusively Japanese standards, the importance of personal relations in doing business and a regulatory policy with a preference for national products may inhibit entrance of foreign products into the Japanese market. Quotas exist for certain marine products, organic chemical products, explosives, pharmaceutical and medical products, animals and plants (in respect of the Washington Convention). An import license is necessary for all products subject to quotas, products deemed dangerous and perishable goods. See the list of goods prohibited from importation into Japan.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Processed foodstuffs: pork, apples, alcoholic drinks, agricultural products.

Data processing equipment, cars, steel, telecommunications, leather, etc.

The WTO gives details of these disagreements on the page of information concerning the country.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Japan’s commercial policy, as seen by the WTO
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

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Learn more about How to Export to Japan on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
The Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC)
The Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS)
Integration in the International Standards Network
The JISC is a member of:
- The International Standard Organisation (ISO)
- The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
- The APEC/SCSC, Sub Committee of Standards and Conformance of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
- The ASEM/TFAP/SCA, Trade Facilitation Action Plan/Standards and Conformity Assessment of the Asia-European Meeting
- The Pacific Area Standards Congress
Obligation to Use Standards
The standards proposed by the JAS are exclusively voluntary. They concern 600 different industrial products and more than 8500 standards.
 There are two ongoing trends in Japan regarding standards. One is a move toward standards reform and the other towards harmonizing Japanese standards with prevailing international standards. While reform is underway, there are numerous laws containing Japan-specific mandatory standards. Therefore it is sometimes difficult to master all the requirements.
Classification of Standards
JIS + 1 letter showing the technical area + 4-digit number showing the rank in the JIS division.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Product requirements in Japan fall into two categories: technical regulations (or mandatory standards) and non-mandatory voluntary standards. Respect of voluntary standardization is highly regarded in Japan; it can increase sales potential on the market and the acceptance of the product by consumers. Approval is generally required before a product can be sold in the market or even displayed at a trade show.
Online Consultation of Standards
The publication of standards is entrusted to the JSA (Japanese Standards Association) which is the publishing house of the JISC. The website of the JSA gives access to JISC standards.
Certification Organisations
List of Designated Certification Bodies by the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC)
Japan Accreditation Board (JAB)
National Institute of Technology and Evaluation
Associations of Standards Users
Member of JISC (Japanese Industrial Standards Committee)

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Latest Update: May 2022