That dollar amount reflects a 17.9% gain since 2020 and an 8.3% increase from 2017 to 2021.
Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a major economic and political power in Asia. Mainland China was the number one purchaser of Japanese export products during 2021.
Applying a continental lens, 60.9% of Japan exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.5% were sold to importers in North America. Japan shipped another 12.5% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Oceania (2.6%) led by Australia, Latin America (2.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Africa (1.3%).
Japan’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Japan’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Japanese shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Japanese exports.
- China: US$163.6 billion (21.6% of total Japanese exports)
- United States: $135.7 billion (18%)
- Taiwan: $54.4 billion (7.2%)
- South Korea: $52.5 billion (6.9%)
- Hong Kong: $35.4 billion (4.7%)
- Thailand: $33 billion (4.4%)
- Germany: $20.7 billion (2.7%)
- Singapore: $20 billion (2.6%)
- Vietnam: $19.1 billion (2.5%)
- Malaysia: $15.6 billion (2.1%)
- Australia: $15.2 billion (2%)
- Indonesia: $13.3 billion (1.8%)
- India: $12.9 billion (1.7%)
- Netherlands: $12.6 billion (1.7%)
- Philippines: $11.1 billion (1.5%)
More than four-fifths (81.4% by value) of Japanese exports in 2021 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
The fastest-growing top importers to increase purchases from Japan were Indonesia (up 44.7% from 2020 to 2021), India (up 41.2%), Thailand (up 41.2%), Philippines (up 25.8%), Australia (up 25.5%), Malaysia (up 23.9%), Taiwan (up 22.6%) and Germany (up 17.9%).
Japan incurred an overall -$12.9 billion trade deficit for 2021, reversing a $6.3 billion profit in 2020.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
In 2021, Japan incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- Australia: -US$36.4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2021)
- Saudi Arabia: -$22.9 billion
- China: -$21.7 billion
- United Arab Emirates: -$20.0 billion
- Qatar: -$10.7 billion
- South Africa: -$7.7 billion
- Italy: -$6.6 billion
- Indonesia: -$6.2 billion
- Russia: -$6.1 billion
- Ireland: -$5.8 billion
Among Japan’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Japanese deficits with South Africa (up 88.2%), United Arab Emirates (up 84.2%) and Saudi Arabia (up 61.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2020 to 2021.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
In 2021, Japan incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United States: US$53 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2021)
- Hong Kong: $34.3 billion
- Taiwan: $20.9 billion
- South Korea: $20.5 billion
- Singapore: $11.2 billion
- Netherlands: $9.3 billion
- India: $6.7 billion
- Thailand: $6.7 billion
- Mexico: $5.1 billion
- Panama: $4 billion
Among Japan’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Japanese surpluses with Thailand (up 283.8%), Mexico (up 71.9%) and India (up 53.7%) grew at the fastest pace from 2020 to 2021.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Japan’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Japan to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Japanese Trading Partners
According to the Japan Import Export Directory, the following are examples of entrepreneurial companies that ship products from Japan to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis is the product category that the Japanese business specializes in.
- Aiza Corporation Japan (consumer electronics)
- Akasaka Diesels Limited (marine engines, generators)
- Aktio Corp. (construction equipment)
- Fuji Latex Co., Ltd. (shock absorbers)
- Japan Algae Co., Ltd. (dietary supplements)
- Kiramek, Inc. (vehicle security products)
- Kyodo Co., Inc. (steel)
- Ochadokoro Sanwa (Japanese Green tea)
- TMO International Limited (gold, gemstones)
- Whn Co., Ltd. (new/used cars)
See also Japan’s Top 10 Imports, Japan’s Top 10 Exports, Top Japanese Trade Balances and Japan’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World FactbookCountry Profiles. Accessed on March 15, 2022
IMPORTERS.com The Online Market for G20 Importers, Japan Import Export Directory. Accessed on March 15, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on March 15, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on March 15, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 15, 2022
Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on March 15, 2022