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2013年1月28日 (月)

巨額貿易赤字 輸出力の強化と原発再稼動を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 28, 2013)
Restart nuclear power plants, boost exports to recoup trading ground
巨額貿易赤字 輸出力の強化と原発再稼動を(1月27日付・読売社説)

The foundation of Japan as a trading country is eroding. Both government and private sectors must work together to recoup lost ground.

The 2012 trading balance--exports minus imports--ran up a record deficit of 6.9 trillion yen, far exceeding 2.6 trillion yen in 1980 that immediately followed the second oil crisis.

Last year's trade deficit is 2.7 times more than the 2011 figure, the first trade deficit in 31 years, which was attributable to the negative effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake. This is a very serious situation.

The trade deficit was caused by a decline in exports due to the European financial crisis and deceleration of the Chinese economy, combined with a sharp increase in imports.

After the disaster occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the operations of nuclear reactors were suspended around the country. Since then, only two have been reactivated.

As an alternative electricity source, power companies have been operating thermal power stations at full blast. Consequently, imports of liquefied natural gas, the fuel needed for these power stations, have increased abnormally to a massive 6 trillion yen a year.

Meanwhile, Japan's current account balance, which includes dividends and interest from overseas investment, remains in surplus. However, there are concerns that this balance will eventually fall into the red if the trade deficit continues.


Hollowing out of industry

To rebuild its status as a trading nation, Japan first has to strengthen the competitiveness of its manufacturing industry to increase exports.

Japanese electrical appliance manufacturers have fallen behind their South Korean rivals in the markets of flat-screen televisions, mobile phones and others. Japan also has a 3 trillion yen a year excess in imports for medicine and medical equipment, markets that are growing quickly.

Japanese manufacturers must develop attractive products of high value and find ways to capitalize on growing markets in the emerging economies of Asia and other regions.

Behind the huge trade deficit is the rapid hollowing-out of the domestic manufacturing industry, as Japanese firms are moving their production overseas to avoid the high costs of operating in this country.

The government should help Japanese companies by such means as lowering corporate tax and giving tax credits for investment so they will be able to take full advantage of manufacturing in Japan. The Industrial Competitiveness Council created recently by the government should devise measures to promote "made-in-Japan" products.


Make decision on TPP

The government also should not wait any longer to decide on participating in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact to help Japanese firms compete better in overseas markets.

What would be most important to reduce imports would be to reactivate idle nuclear reactors quickly after their safety has been confirmed. The longer Japan depends on thermal power generation, LNG imports will continue to increase and the nation's wealth will flow to countries rich in natural resources.

The rising cost of LNG also will eventually result in an increase in electricity charges.

The excessively strong yen has been corrected and the weaker yen is becoming the norm on foreign exchange markets. This helps exporters, but excessive depreciation of the yen will further increase the prices of imports of LNG and other foreign products. Close attention should be paid to this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2013)
(2013年1月27日01時34分  読売新聞)


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