Japan is the 5th largest importer and exporter in the world. Like many of the other Asian countries that have experienced rapid economic growth in the past few decades, exports have had a historical significance to the Japanese economy. The belief in the need to promote exports is part of Japan's self-image as a "processing nation." Japan imports raw materials and pays for them by processing the raw materials, thus adding value to them before exporting the output. In recent years, Japan has been the top export market for 15 trading nations worldwide.
Today, Japan plays a competitive role in international trade, although it still maintains protectionist policies in numerous industries, particularly in agriculture. Japan is a member of multiple international trade organizations such as APEC, WTO, OECD, the G-8 and the G-20.
Unlike most other countries, Japan is advancing towards Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) rather than Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). According to former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, countries move on to discuss higher-level issues in EPAs, such as "devising framework through which investment can take place in a secure manner, or developing a mechanism to ensure protection of intellectual property rights".
List of Japanese EPAs
- ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Brunei Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Indonesia Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Malaysia Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan Vietnam Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Chile Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-India Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Mexico Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Peru Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Republic of Korea Economic Partnership Agreement
- Japan-Switzerland Economic Partnership Agreement
Japan’s Import and Export Indicators and Statistics at a Glance (2012)
Total value of exports: US$792.9 billion
Primary exports - commodities: motor vehicles (13.6 percent); semiconductors (6.2 percent); iron and steel products (5.5 percent); auto parts (4.6 percent); plastic materials (3.5 percent); power generating machinery (3.5 percent)
Primary exports partners: China (19.7 percent of all exports), US (15.5 percent), South Korea (8 percent), Hong Kong (5.2 percent), Thailand (4.6 percent)
Total value of imports: US$ 856.9 billion
Primary imports - commodities: petroleum (15.5 percent of all imports); liquid natural gas (5.7 percent); clothing (3.9 percent); semiconductors (3.5 percent); coal (3.5 percent); audio and visual apparatus (2.7 percent)
Primary imports partners: China (21.5 percent of total imports), US (8.9 percent), Australia (6.6 percent), Saudi Arabia (5.9 percent), UAE (5 percent), South Korea (4.7 percent)
Read more about Japan's economy, including industry information, featured analysis and trade statistics below.