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Japan’s Trade Surplus With U.S. Still High

Associated Press

Japan rang up a $3.41-billion trade surplus with the United States in May, second only to the record $3.46 billion of April, as Japanese auto exports continued to soar above year-earlier levels, the Finance Ministry reported Monday.

Japan said its exports to the United States came to $5.69 billion in May, while imports of U.S. products totaled $2.28 billion.

The huge trade imbalance has hurt relations between the United States and Japan and has led to calls in Congress for imposing trade restrictions unless Japan takes steps to substantially open its markets to more U.S. goods.

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Prior to the April record trade surplus with the United States, the previous high was $3.31 billion in September, 1984.

For all of last year, Japan’s surplus in U.S. trade was nearly $37 billion, and U.S. government officials have predicted that the surplus will hit $50 billion this year.

The ministry said auto exports to the United States reached $1.79 billion in May, down from $2.09 billion in April but up 23.3% from May, 1984. The April figure was 20.5% higher than in April, 1984.

For four years, Japan imposed “voluntary restraints” on auto exports to the United States. But those limits expired April 1, the start of Japan’s fiscal year, and the United States did not press for an extension.

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In an effort to reduce trade frictions, Japan decided to keep limits but increased them 25% to 2.3 million cars for fiscal 1985.

Total Surplus

Critics in the United States said the increase was too large, but Japanese auto makers argued that there should not be any limits because the U.S. auto industry had recovered from its slump.

Overall Japanese exports to the United States in May were lower than the monthly record of $5.78 billion in April but were 12% higher than in May, 1984. U.S. exports here were slightly below the $2.32 billion of April and down 5.9% from May, 1984.

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Japan’s total trade surplus with all countries in May was $3.36 billion, up from $3.26 billion in April and up sharply from $1.85 billion in May, 1984. Exports increased 0.8% from a year earlier to $14.41 billion, while imports dropped 11.2% to $11.05 billion.

A major factor in the decline in imports was a 19.4% drop to $2.87 billion in crude oil purchases abroad.

In trade with the Common Market, exports fell 9.7% in May from a year earlier to $1.42 billion and imports dropped 19.6% to $724.8 million, leaving a Japanese surplus of $696.6 million. For all of 1984, Japan’s surplus with the European trade bloc was about $10 billion.

Japan’s exports to China in May rose 118.7% to $1.09 billion, while imports from China climbed 8.5% to $580 million, leaving a Japanese surplus of $506 million.

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