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Japanese exports fall for first time since 2016 amid US-China trade tensions

Japan's exports fell in September for the first time since 2016 as exports to the U.S. and China declined amid uncertainties caused by the U.S.-China trade dispute, provisional data from the country's Ministry of Finance showed.

Exports fell 1.2% year over year to ¥6.727 trillion following a 6.6% rise in August. Imports edged up 7% year over year to ¥6.587 trillion in September following a 15.3% increase in August. This yielded a trade balance with a surplus of ¥139.56 billion, down by 78.7% from ¥653.83 billion a year ago.

Japan's exports to the U.S. fell 0.2% in the year to September, adversely affected by declining shipments of auto parts, construction and mining machinery, and medical products. Imports from the U.S. in September rose 3.1%, buoyed by crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas, which helped trim Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. by 4% year over year to ¥590.26 billion.

The U.S. and Japan agreed to begin trade talks in September, wtih the U.S. aiming for a bilateral agreement to address Japan's $69 billion trade surplus with the U.S.

Japan's exports to China, its top trading partner, slid 1.7% in September owing to a decline in semiconductor production equipment exports. This marks the first time that exports to China have fallen in seven months. Meanwhile, imports from China rose 4.2% to ¥1.633 trillion, yielding a trade deficit of ¥370.21 billion.

Shipments to Asia, which represent more than half of Japan's exports, rose an annual 0.9% to ¥3.739 trillion in August, while imports from the region edged up 2.6% year over year to ¥3.171 trillion.

As of Oct. 17, US$1 was equivalent to ¥112.13.