Tokyo - Japan booked a record trade deficit of 11.47 trillion yen (112 billion dollars) in 2013, up 65.3 per cent from the previous year due to the falling yen and rising fossil-fuel imports, the government said Monday.
The value of exports grew 9.5 per cent to 69.79 trillion yen while the value of imports jumped 15 per cent to 81.26 trillion yen, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report.
Petroleum imports climbed 16 per cent from the previous year to 14 trillion yen, and those of liquefied natural gas rose 17.5 per cent to 7 trillion yen, the ministry said.
Japan has imported more fossil fuel for power generation since the shutdown of nuclear reactors across the country following its worst atomic disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In 2011, the country posted its first trade deficit in 31 years, of 2.56 trillion yen.
The yen has lost its value by about 22 per cent in 2013 amid the Bank of Japan's aggressive monetary-easing measures.
The central bank vowed to pull the world's third-largest economy out of 15 years of deflation.
A fall in the currency increases the yen price of foreign goods, notably fossil fuels, which are for the most part priced in dollars.
As import costs are expected to rise amid the yen's decline and a prolonged nuclear power shutdown, Japan's trade deficit is likely to continue for an extended period, Koya Miyamae, senior economist of SMBC Nikko Securities Inc, was quoted by the Kyodo News agency as saying.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will make efforts to reduce fossil-fuel costs, such as promoting use of renewable energy and increasing imports of cheaper shale gas.
“Energy imports have been rising significantly since the nuclear accident, causing per capita costs of around 30,000 yen in Japan. It is important for us to ease such a burden as much as possible, Suga said.
In December, Japan logged a trade deficit of 1.3 trillion yen for the 18th consecutive month of trade loss.
The value of imports jumped 24.7 per cent from a year earlier, to 7.41 trillion yen, rising for the 14th straight month, while the value of exports grew 15.3 per cent to 6.11 trillion yen, the ministry said.
Imports from China, Japan's biggest trading partner, grew 29.2 per cent from a year earlier to 1.6 trillion yen while exports to the country jumped 34.4 per cent to 1.22 trillion yen.
Japan's trade deficit with the world's second-largest economy rose 14.9 per cent to 383.5 billion yen in August, for the 22nd consecutive month of loss.
Shipments to the United States climbed 13 per cent to 1.13 trillion yen for the 12th straight month of increase with exports of vehicles rising 5.3 per cent. - Sapa-dpa