Japan Trade Surplus Leaps to $95.3 Billion During '88

Times Staff Writer

After a decline in fiscal 1987, the first in five years, Japan's trade surplus resumed expansion in fiscal 1988, rising to $95.3 billion, the Finance Ministry announced Friday.

The surplus, despite an increase of 23.3% in imports, exceeded a government estimate by $2.2 billion. It was the second highest level since fiscal 1986, when it reached $102.1 billion.

Akira Nishigaki, vice minister of finance, predicted that rising oil prices, continued expansion of manufactured imports and a slowdown in the economies of the United States and other major trading partners would ensure a decline in Japan's global trade surplus in fiscal 1989, which began April 1. He attributed last year's surplus to an unexpected decline in the price of imported oil.

Global Exports Rise

The growth of Japan's trade surplus was considered certain to put pressure on U.S. government officials compiling a list of "unfair trading partners," as required by the Omnibus Trade Act of 1988. Recommendations for the list, which is to be completed by the end of May, are being drawn up in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. A preliminary report, issued Friday, charged 34 countries with erecting significant trade barriers and devoted 18 pages to complaints against Japan.

In calendar 1988, Japan's surplus with the United States declined for the first time in nine years, to $55.4 billion, but has turned around in recent months.

Global exports rose by 14.4% to $267.1 billion, while imports amounted to $171.8 billion in fiscal 1988, the Finance Ministry said.

Exports posted double-digit growth for a second straight year, officials said, as a result of Japanese manufacturers transfering production of cheaper products to overseas factories and making more expensive goods at home.

The performance also made it clear that Japanese manufacturers, who receive only about 130 yen for each $1 worth of product they export, compared to 242 yen in September, 1985, have adjusted to a three-year, 86% appreciation in the yen's value.

Tourists Help Reduce Surplus

Semiconductors, electronic parts, personal computers and office equipment accounted for most of the increase in exports. Although the volume of automotive exports declined slightly, exports of more costly vehicles enabled Japan's auto makers to register virtually the same surplus they had in fiscal 1988.

Japan's international tourists helped reduce the surplus in current accounts--the total of trade and such non-trade transactions as insurance, freight and tourism--to $77 billion, the second straight decline.

Overseas travelers numbered a record 8.8 million, an increase of 20%, and spent an estimated $2,300 each, the ministry reported.

Continuing foreign investment helped produce Japan's second largest deficit in long-term payments of $121.3 billion.

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