Japan’s Top 10 Exports

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Japan shipped US$698.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017, up by 8.3% since 2016 but down by -2.4% from 2013 to 2017.

From January to September 2018, Japan’s exported goods were valued at $550.3 billion. This 9-month metric puts Japanese exports on track for an annualized $733.8 billion estimated for all 2018.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Japan’s exported goods and services represent 17.8% of total Japanese economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 58.4% of Japanese exports by value are delivered to other Asian countries while 22.3% are sold to North American importers. Japan ships another 12.9% worth of goods to Europe compared to just 1.1% destined for customers in Africa.

Given Japan’s population of 126.5 million people, its total $698.2 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $5,500 for every resident in the island nation.

As of June 2018, Japan’s exported goods were valued at $369.5 billion up 9.8% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

Japan’s unemployment rate was an estimated 2.8% as of December 2017 down from 3.1% in 2016, according to Trading Economics.

Japan’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Japanese global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Japan.

  1. Vehicles: US$146.2 billion (20.9% of total exports)
  2. Machinery including computers: $138.4 billion (19.8%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $105.6 billion (15.1%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $39.8 billion (5.7%)
  5. Iron, steel: $28 billion (4%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $25.1 billion (3.6%)
  7. Organic chemicals: $17.9 billion (2.6%)
  8. Gems, precious metals: $15.2 billion (2.2%)
  9. Ships, boats: $12.3 billion (1.8%)
  10. Mineral fuels including oil: $11.4 billion (1.6%)

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.

Japan’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (77.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Product categories with the greatest value increases from 2013 to 2017 were: mineral fuels including oil (up 21.3%), iron and steel (up 14.2%) and organic chemicals (up 12.2%).

Only one of these top 10 export category posted a decline, specifically the -5% drop for Japanese international sales of ships and boats.

Advantages

Japan posted an overall $26.9 billion trade surplus for 2017, a -29.1% setback from Japan’s $38-billion in black ink during 2016.

As of June 2018, Japan’s trade surplus stood at $5.9 billion down -38.2% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

The following types of Japanese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus for 2017. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Vehicles: US$123.8 billion (Up by 2.4% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: $73.2 billion (Up by 13.5%)
  3. Iron, steel: $20.6 billion (Up by 9.5%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $14.3 billion (Up by 22.4%)
  5. Ships, boats: $11.5 billion (Down by -4.9%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: $10.1 billion (Up by 6.6%)
  7. Electrical machinery, equipment: $8 billion (Down by -3.4%)
  8. Rubber, rubber articles: $5.6 billion (Down by -3.1%)
  9. Other chemical goods: $4.9 billion (Up by 8.6%)
  10. Copper: $4.7 billion (Up by 9.6%)

Japan has highly positive net exports in the international trade of automobiles thanks to world-leading automotive corporations including Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors. In turn, these cashflows indicate Japan’s strong competitive advantages under the vehicles product category.

Opportunities

Below are exports from Japan that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Japan’s goods trail Japanese importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US-$130 billion (Up by -50.9% since 2016)
  2. Ores, slag, ash: -$20.3 billion (Up by -36.5%)
  3. Pharmaceuticals: -$17.8 billion (Down by 1.2%)
  4. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$13.3 billion (Up by -16.2%)
  5. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$12.6 billion (Down by -18.8%)
  6. Fish: -$10.3 billion (Up by -1.3%)
  7. Wood: -$10 billion (Up by -19.3%)
  8. Meat: -$9.9 billion (Up by 13.9%)
  9. Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: -$6.7 billion (Up by -3.6%)
  10. Aluminum: -$6 billion (Up by 11.6%)

Japan has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for crude oil, an essential driver for growing the Japanese economy.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Japan’s competitive disadvantages in the international fossil fuel market, but also represent key opportunities for Japan to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.

Companies

Japanese Export Companies

Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Japan:

  • Toyota Motor (cars, trucks)
  • Japan Tobacco (tobacco)
  • Denso (automotive parts)
  • Canon (business products, supplies)
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical (pharmaceuticals)
  • Hitachi (electronics)
  • Fanuc (industrial products)
  • Panasonic (electronics)
  • Astellas Pharma (pharmaceuticals)
  • Nippon Steel (iron, steel)
  • Mitsubishi Electric (electrical equipment)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following companies are also examples of leading Japanese exporters for 2014:

  • Honda Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)
  • Nissan Motor (vehicles, automotive parts)
  • Kubota (tractors, excavators, other heavy equipment)


 

Searchable List of Japan’s Most Valuable Export Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, Japan’s top export products are cars followed by automotive parts and accessories then electronic integrated circuits.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Japan during 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankJapanese Export Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$93.4 billion+1.6%
2Automobile parts/accessories$34.5 billion+9.1%
3Integrated circuits/microassemblies$26.7 billion+10.9%
4Machinery for making semi-conductors$22.7 billion+27.5%
5Cruise/cargo ships, barges$11.7 billion-3.6%
6Printing machinery$10 billion+2.1%
7Miscellaneous machinery$9.6 billion+21.7%
8Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators)$9.3 billion+17.1%
9Processed petroleum oils$8.9 billion+17.1%
10Trucks$8.9 billion-0.03%
11Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$8.9 billion-0.005%
12Gold (unwrought)$8.4 billion+14.8%
13Lower-voltage switches, fuses$8.3 billion+11.4%
14Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$7.4 billion+17.7%
15Piston engine parts$6.6 billion+9.9%
16Piston engines$6.1 billion+7.7%
17Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools$5.7 billion+17.3%
18Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$5.5 billion+2%
19Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$5.3 billion+8.7%
20Air or vacuum pumps$5.2 billion+1.8%
21Cyclic hydrocarbons$5.1 billion+13.7%
22Regulate/control instruments$5.1 billion+6.5%
23Electrical capacitators$5 billion+13.5%
24Phone system devices $5 billion+16%
25Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$4.9 billion+4.7%
26Rubber tires (new)$4.8 billion+1.4%
27Flat-rolled other alloy steel products$4.7 billion+9.8%
28Turbo-jets$4.7 billion+1.9%
29Taps, valves, similar appliances$4.6 billion+11.4%
30Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$4.6 billion+11.7%
31Electric storage batteries$4.5 billion+9.5%
32Ball, roller bearings$4.3 billion+10.5%
33Aircraft parts$4.2 billion-12.6%
34Other measuring/testing machines$4.1 billion+20.6%
35Physical/chemical analysis tools$4.1 billion-1.2%
36Electrical converters/power units$3.9 billion+8%
37Engines (diesel)$3.9 billion+19.8%
38Liquid pumps and elevators$3.8 billion-3.6%
39Chemical industry products/residuals$3.7 billion+4.6%
40TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$3.5 billion-3.8%
41Electric ignition/start equipment$3.4 billion+3.2%
42Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$3.4 billion+23.3%
43Electrical machinery$3.4 billion+1.4%
44Metal-working machinery$3.3 billion+22.4%
45Refined copper, unwrought alloys$3.2 billion+4.9%
46Chemicals used in electronics$3.1 billion+17.3%
47Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$3.1 billion+10.8%
48Medication mixes in dosage$3 billion+9.0%
49Iron or steel scrap$2.9 billion+27%
50Photographic chemicals$2.9 billion+5.2%
51Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$2.9 billion+40.5%
52Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$2.9 billion+7.2%
53Motorcycles$2.8 billion+18.3%
54Electric motors, generators$2.8 billion+15.5%
55Machinery parts$2.6 billion+30.5%
56Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$2.6 billion+32.4%
57Printed circuits$2.6 billion+12.9%
58Rubber/plastic article making machines$2.6 billion+19.8%
59Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$2.6 billion+16.9%
60TV/radio/radar device parts$2.5 billion-9.3%
61Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$2.5 billion+7.4%
62Synthetic rubber$2.5 billion+12.5%
63Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$2.5 billion+6.9%
64Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$2.4 billion+4%
65Public-transport vehicles$2.4 billion-8.2%
66Lenses, prisms, mirrors$2.3 billion+0.5%
67Interchangeable hand/machine tools$2.3 billion+7.7%
68Iron or steel tubes, pipes$2.2 billion+8%
69Miscellaneous plastic items$2 billion+11.1%
70Precious metal waste, scrap$2 billion+34.3%
71Insulated wire/cable$1.9 billion+7.1%
72Computers, optical readers$1.9 billion+12.2%
73Unrecorded sound media$1.8 billion+0.3%
74Temperature-change machines$1.8 billion+5.1%
75Computer parts, accessories$1.8 billion+11.2%
76Table games, bowling equipment$1.8 billion+105.2%
77Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1.8 billion+25.6%
78Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation)$1.7 billion+26.5%
79X-ray equipment$1.7 billion+8.2%
80Jewelry$1.7 billion-26.1%
81Tractors$1.7 billion-2%
82Metal-removing lathes$1.7 billion+9.9%
83Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$1.6 billion+17.2%
84Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)$1.6 billion+35.2%
85Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$1.6 billion+3.3%
86Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$1.6 billion+17.5%
87Other machine parts, accessories$1.6 billion+12.8%
88Paint/varnish non-aqueous solution$1.6 billion+14.1%
89Acyclic hydrocarbons$1.6 billion+13.4%
90Vulcanized rubber items$1.6 billion+4.6%
91Motorcycle parts/accessories$1.6 billion-3%
92Acrylic polymers$1.5 billion+13%
93Silver (unwrought)$1.4 billion-0.03%
94Moulding boxes/base$1.4 billion-0.9%
95Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$1.4 billion-7.6%
96Lifting/loading machinery$1.3 billion+18.5%
97Miscellaneous engines, motors$1.3 billion+24.9%
98Steam/vapor turbines$1.3 billion+6.1%
99TV receivers/monitors/projectors$1.3 billion-2.4%
100Vinyl chloride polymers$1.3 billion+8.3%
101Air conditioners$1.2 billion+1.2%
102Radar, radio communication items$1.2 billion+0.2%
103Copper foil$1.2 billion+23.6%
104Flat-rolled stainless steel items$1.1 billion+0.8%
105Metal soldering/hot-spray equipment$1.1 billion+4%
106Magnets including electro-magnets$1.1 billion+0.6%
107Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$1.1 billion+5.4%
108Ceramic wares for technical uses$1.1 billion+7.7%
109Lubricant preparations$1.1 billion+7.6%
110Miscellaneous iron or steel items$1.1 billion+13.4%
111Hydrocarbon derivatives$1.1 billion+15.9%
112Copper plates, sheets, strips$1 billion+24.7%
113Miscellaneous machine electrical parts$1 billion+6.5%
114Machine-tool for metal$1 billion-0.1%
115Amino-resins$991.2 million+30%
116Material removal machine-tools$987.5 million+22.6%
117Ethylene polymers$977.9 million-2.7%
118Synthetic yarn woven fabrics$975.6 million+1.7%
119Liquid/gas checking instruments$967.2 million+16.6%
120Miscellaneous heterocyclics$954.3 million+32%
121Electric motor parts$940.9 million-4%
122Photographic plates/film, unexposed$922.7 million+2.7%
123Ball-point/felt-tipped pens, markers$919.1 million+2.7%
124Alloy steel bars, rods$899.2 million+15.1%
125Fork-lift trucks$884.6 million+1.3%
126Derricks, cranes$881.4 million-14%
127Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$864.9 million+3.6%
128Electrical resistors$860.5 million+10.8%
129Platinum (unwrought)$853.5 million+17.3%
130Blood fractions (including antisera)$819.1 million+32.9%
131Copper waste, scrap$801.8 million+47.5%
132Cermet plates, sticks, tips$798.7 million+8.6%
133Paper/paperboard waste, scrap$798.5 million+8.7%
134Stone articles$787.8 million-4.0%
135Cellulose fiber paper$784.4 million-1%
136Unsaturated acyclic mono acids$781.1 million+45.5%
137Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$780.9 million-0.7%
138Silicones$772.9 million+11.8%
139Print/write/draw inks$740.9 million+5.2%
140Acyclic alcohols$740.4 million+28%
141Pneumatic hand tool$734.4 million+3.8%
142Insulating fitting$732.8 million+10.3%
143Petroleum resins$719.9 million+3.5%
144Knitting/stitching machines$718.5 million+25.7%
145Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$714.3 million+1.4%
146Styrene polymers$704 million+13%
147Textile fiber work machines$701.3 million+49.9%
148 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $697.9 million+2.8%
149Other organic cleaning preparations$694 million+11.1%
150Coated/laminated non-wovens$686.8 million+4.7%
151Propylene/olefin polymers$678.6 million+2.7%
152Pigments, enamels, glazes$676.4 million+14.2%
153Organo-sulphur compounds$661.8 million-12.7%
154Coiled other alloy steel bars, rods$660.1 million+9.6%
155Synthetic filament yarn$658.1 million+2%
156Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$651.5 million+15.9%
157Machine tools$650.8 million-2.6%
158Electric generating sets, converters$648.2 million-11.1%
159Oxometal/peroxometal acid salts$637 million+108.1%
160Electric water heaters, hair dryers$615.2 million+11.4%
161Connector/insulating parts$607.6 million+0.1%
162Other nitrogen compounds$604 million+27.2%
163Prepared glues, adhesives$599.9 million-5.2%
164Iron and steel tubes, pipes$598.9 million+9.3%
165Speed/distance meters$598.2 million+1.6%
166Gaskets, similar metal joints$587.4 million+2.7%
167Aluminum foil (thin)$571.2 million+3.9%
168Polyamides$570.6 million+2.9%
169Other diagnostic/lab reagents$566.5 million+0.5%
170Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$563.4 million+8.9%
171Filament/discharge lamps$562.9 million+3%
172Millstones, grindstones, grinding wheels$557.5 million+13.2%
173Vulcanized rubber tubes, pipes$554.8 million+10.1%
174Watch components, assembled$554.1 million+1.4%
175Iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods$552.9 million+4.7%
176Hydrogen, rare gases$552.8 million+13.3%
177Plastics waste, scrap$532.8 million-2.9%
178Titanium$528.5 million+14.7%
179Whole fish (frozen)$527.8 million+22.5%
180Electron/proton microscopes$523.8 million+47.7%
181Other food preparations$523 million+7.6%
182Drawn/blown glass in sheets$520.3 million-10%
183Refrigerators, freezers$517.2 million-5.6%
184Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$517 million+5.4%
185Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$504.3 million+20.4%
186Bent, edgeworked glass$497.4 million+2.1%
187Phenols/phenol-alcohols$496.8 million+19.9%
188Precious metal compounds$490.6 million+28.2%
189Other coloring matter, luminophores$473.5 million+5.9%
190Moluscs$471 million-17.6%
191Sewing machines, related furniture$471 million-3.9%
192Industrial electric furnaces, ovens$468.6 million+4.7%
193Synthetic organic coloring$468.1 million+5%
194Coated paper$468 million+9.4%
195Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$464.8 million+17.3%
196Railway/streetcar coaches, vans, trucks$454.7 million+1.6%
197Textile fabrics with plastics$442.7 million+7.9%
198Chassis fitted with engine$438.9 million-15.5%
199Flat-rolled stainless steel items (thin)$438.1 million+4.9%
200Iron or steel chains$437.4 million-1.3%

These 200 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$586.9 billion or 84.1% by value for all products exported from Japan during 2017.

See also Japan’s Top 10 Imports, Japan’s Top Trading Partners, Top Japanese Trade Balances and Japan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 30, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Japan. Accessed on July 30, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on July 30, 2018