TOKYO — Japan's trade surplus shot up 79% last year to a record $82.7 billion and its surplus with the United States also soared to an unprecedented level, the government announced today.
The surging surplus is likely to intensify pressure on Japan to stimulate import demand.
Already, the United States is weighing action intended to curb imports and help shrink the U.S. trade deficit, which government officials say reached an estimated $170 billion in 1986.
The Japanese Finance Ministry said the trade surplus grew to $8.7 billion in December from $7.3 billion in November and $6.6 billion in December, 1985.
The surplus for all of last year compared with one of $46.1 billion in 1985.
Exports to U.S. Climb
Japan's trade surplus with the United States climbed to a record $51.5 billion last year. Exports to the U.S. market went up 23.3% from 1985, while imports from the United States grew 12.4%.
The widening in Japan's world trade surplus resulted from higher dollar-denominated export prices, the trade report said. Calculated in yen terms, exports dropped 15.9% owing to the rapid appreciation of the Japanese yen against the dollar.
"This was the first time in the postwar period that Japan experienced such a sharp decline in exports," the report said.
Ministry officials said the price of oil, Japan's major import commodity, tumbled during the year and helped push the value of imports down.
Efforts to Aid U.S.
Since September, 1985, major industrial countries have been trying to help the United States trim its huge trade deficit through efforts to lower the dollar against other major currencies, but the efforts have not paid off yet.
The yen has soared more than 50% in the last 16 months after finance and central bank heads of five major industrialized nations agreed to cooperate to bring down the value of the inflated U.S. currency.
By weakening the dollar, the "Group of Five" reasoned that U.S. goods would become cheaper overseas, and Japanese goods would become more costly in international markets, alleviating the United States' trade deficit and easing global trade frictions. The group includes Japan, the United States, Britain, France and West Germany.