Heat waves are warping trucks and shipping containers as work continues on a dock along Tokyo Bay ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 19, 2021 in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel)

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Japan’s exports in the first half of 2021 increased 23.2% from the previous year, marking the strongest year-over-year growth in 11 years, reflecting the economic recovery global after the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed on Wednesday.

The increase was the largest on a semi-annual basis since the 37.9% jump recorded in the first half of 2010, when the global economy was recovering from the global financial crisis, according to a preliminary report from the finance ministry.

Exports during the January-June period reached 39.860 billion yen ($ 363 billion), surpassing the pre-pandemic level of 38.2 trillion yen recorded in the first half of 2019, when shipments from Japan increased. been affected by the trade disputes between Washington and Beijing.

The result is in part a reflection of a 15.4% drop recorded in the first half of 2020, when the pandemic disrupted economic activities around the world and dampened global demand for items made in Japan such as cars.

With a strong economic recovery, especially in China and the United States, Japanese exports for the six months to June were boosted by a 32.8% jump in car shipments as well as an increase of 38, 8% of auto parts exports.

Imports also increased 12.2% from a year earlier to reach 38.87 trillion yen, the largest gain since rising 15.9% in the second half of 2017, reflecting a rebound in prices of the crude oil and a recovery in domestic consumption.

Both exports and imports experienced their first expansions since the second half of 2018.

As a result, the world’s third-largest economy recorded a merchandise trade surplus of 984.99 billion yen in the six-month period, the second consecutive black ink semester.

In June alone, Japan’s exports increased 48.6 percent from the previous year to 7.22 trillion yen, and imports rose 32.7 percent to 6.84 trillion yen. The balance showed a surplus of 383.18 billion yen, following the deficit of 189.36 billion yen the previous month.

“Both exports and imports fell sharply a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in these high growth rates for the half-yearly and monthly figures,” a ministry official told reporters.

By country, first-half exports to China increased 27.0% to 8.60 trillion yen, reaching the highest level on record since comparable data became available in January-June 1979, boosted through rapid shipments of items such as semiconductor production equipment and plastics.

Imports from the world’s second-largest economy increased 14.5% to 9.72 trillion yen, driven by strong demand for cellphones and laptops, with Japan facing a trade deficit of 1.11 trillion yen. yen.

In trade with the United States, exports increased 23.9% to 7.06 trillion yen, as shipments of autos and parts jumped 38.3% and 42.8%, respectively. Imports rose 7.6%, resulting in a surplus for Japan of 2.81 trillion yen.

“Restrictions on business activities were gradually relaxed as vaccine roll-out was encouraged, especially in large economies, which helped boost Japan’s exports” in the first six months of this year, said said Masato Koike, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

Looking ahead, Koike said strong demand for chipmaking machines amid sustained digital investment across the world would likely support Japanese exports, but the pace of the recovery is expected to slow as their value has already risen. exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

As for Japan’s merchandise trade balance, Koike predicted that the surplus is very likely to narrow or the balance could turn red, in line with an expected increase in imports.

“Imports have a wide margin for improvement, as the country’s vaccination rate, which lags behind other developed countries, will increase and boost domestic consumption,” he said.

All figures have been compiled on a customs clearance basis.