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2014-01-17    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

Higher energy imports played a role in Japan's record current-account deficit in November. But the data is a sign of a more fundamental change: that Japan's three decades as one of the world's biggest exporters may be over.


Since the 1980s until 2010 Japan exported more than it imported, supplying the world with electronics, machinery and other goods.


That changed in 2011, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Japan's nuclear power plants shut down, pushing up imports of other fuel and tipping the trade balance into deficit.


Those reactors remain closed and Japan's huge fuel imports, compounded by the weak yen, are widening the trade deficit.


But even stripping out fuel, Japan would be running a meager trade surplus at best. A major factor is that Japanese companies have moved production offshore, to cheaper centers in China and elsewhere.


Those goods show up in the export statistics from, say, China, not Japan. Japan's ambitious monetary easing, meant to weaken the yen and lure companies back onshore, so far has failed to entice firms back.


'Only a small number of companies brought back factories to Japan as the yen weakened,' said Junko Nishioka, an economist with RBS Securities in Tokyo.

苏格兰皇家银行证券(RBS Securities)驻东京的经济学家Junko Nishioka说,随着日圆走软,只有少数公司把海外工厂迁回了日本国内。

Japanese exporters also are having a hard time competing with other nations, especially in the smartphone market. Japanese consumers are now increasingly buying imported goods such as electronics that were once the mainstay of the nation's exports.


'There's a loss of competitiveness of Japanese manufacturing,' said Izumi Devalier, an economist at HSBC in Hong Kong.

汇丰(HSBC)驻香港的经济学家Izumi Devalier说,日本制造的产品正在失去竞争力。

That's showing up in weak export numbers. Exports in yen terms are expected to rise 9.8% in the current fiscal year, but that gain is largely due to a weaker currency making earnings look larger in yen-terms, according to the Japan Foreign Trade Council. Imports, meanwhile, will rise 14.1%, driven by higher fuel needs, the council estimates.

这在日本疲软的出口数据上得到显现。日本贸易会(Japan Foreign Trade Council)认为,截至3月底的当前财政年度以日圆计价的日本出口额预计将增长9.8%,但这主要是由于日圆走软使出口所得外汇能兑换成更多日圆。与此同时,日本贸易会预计,受燃料需求增加推动,进口将增长14.1%。

The value of liquefied natural gas imports will likely rise 13.9% in the current fiscal year through end March, but imported devices like smartphones will rise 25.7%, cars 14.6% and clothing 24.8%, according to JFTC forecasts.


The current account, which measures trade and net income flows, should turn back to positive territory in the second quarter this year, many economists say. But that's largely due to sizeable earnings from overseas investments, which will help mask a continued trade deficit.


'In the 2000s, Japan earned income from the twin trade and income surpluses, but we're in a new structure, where a surplus in the income account makes up for a trade deficit,' said Sojitz Research Institute chief economist Tatsuhiko Yoshizaki.

Sojitz Research Institute首席经济学家Tatsuhiko Yoshizaki表示,本世纪头十年,日本同时取得贸易顺差和海外投资收益,而目前的新情况是需要用海外投资收益来填补贸易逆差。

Turning the nuclear reactors back on -- which is still the subject of heated political debate -- could help narrow the trade deficit by reducing fuel imports. But even here, the effect is likely to be limited.


Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist at Credit Suisse in Tokyo, said that would help reduce the gap, but it would 'not be enough to change the course' of Japan's trade patterns.

瑞士信贷(Credit Suisse)驻东京的首席经济学家Hiromichi Shirakawa表示,核电站重新启动将帮助缩小缺口,但不足以改变日本的贸易格局。

For Japan, these issues have various impacts. The government wants more business to come back onshore, raising wages and consumption and ending years of deflation. If this doesn't happen, Japan's economy might sink back into the doldrums.


In economic terms, a large current-account deficit means a gap between savings and investment. That could mean Japan has to rely more on foreign investors to fund the gap in the future, a risky strategy for a country with one of the world's largest stocks of public debt.


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