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Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards


Foreign Trade in Figures

Foreign trade is an essential element of the Japanese economy, but the country is not fully open and imposes extensive non-tariff barriers, especially in the agricultural sector. Japan is the world's 4th largest importer and exporter of goods (2016), and trade accounted for about 36% of Japan's GDP in 2015 (World Bank). The country is currently negotiating a number of free trade agreements, including with the EU. Japan led the effort to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement in January 2017.  The revised treaty, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has been completed and is being ratified by member countries.

The country traditionally has a large trade surplus, reaching USD 21.6 billion in 2016 and USD 27 billion in 2017, thanks to a significant decrease in the country's imports. 

In 2017, the country's main trade partners were the United States (19.3% of total exports), China (19%), South Korea (7.6%), Taiwan (5.8%) and Hong Kong (5.1%). Its largest suppliers are China (25.8% of total imports), the U.S. (11.4%), Australia (5%), and South Korea (4.1%). Japan mainly exports vehicles (20.9% of total exports), machinery and computers (19.8%), and electrical machinery and equipment (15.1%), and imports mineral fuels and oli (21.1% of the total imports), electrical machinery and equipment (14.5%, machinery and computers (9.7%) and optical, technical and medical apparatus (3.8%).

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 885,843833,166812,185648,494606,927
Exports of Goods (million USD) 798,568715,097690,217624,939644,933
Imports of Services (million USD) 182,829169,040190,185173,689184,710
Exports of Services (million USD) 133,838132,650158,626157,863173,821
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP)
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.515.917.517.616.1
Trade Balance (million USD) -53,484-89,648-99,825-7,33551,218
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -101,198-125,128-128,605-23,27640,328
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 30.634.137.635.631.2

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) - 2017; World Bank - 2017


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 19.3%
China 19.0%
South Korea 7.6%
Hong Kong 5.1%
Thailand 4.2%
Singapore 3.2%
Germany 2.7%
Australia 2.3%
Vietnam 2.2%
United Kingdom 2.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 24.5%
United States 11.0%
Australia 5.8%
South Korea 4.2%
Saudi Arabia 4.1%
Germany 3.5%
Thailand 3.4%
United Arab Emirates 3.1%
Indonesia 3.0%
Malaysia 2.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Products

698.1 bn USD of products exported in 2017
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 13.4%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 4.9%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.8%
Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof 3.2%
Cruise ships, excursion boats, ferry-boats, cargo ships, barges and similar vessels for the transport of persons or goods 1.7%
Apparatus and equipment for photographic or cinematographic laboratories, incl. apparatus for the projection or drawing of circuit patterns on sensitised semi-conductor materials, not elsewhere specified in chapter 90; negatoscopes; projection screens 1.5%
Self-propelled bulldozers, angledozers, graders, levellers, scrapers, mechanical shovels, excavators, shovel loaders, tamping machines and road rollers 1.3%
Printing machinery used for printing by means of the printing type, blocks, plates, cylinders and other printing components of heading 8442 and ink-jet printing machines (excl. hectograph or stencil duplicating machines, addressing machines and other office printing machines of heading 8469 to 8472); machines for uses ancillary to printing, for the feeding, carriage or further processing of sheets or webs of paper; parts thereof 1.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 1.3%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.3%
671.5 bn USD of products imported in 2017
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 9.5%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 6.0%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 3.7%
Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal 3.4%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 2.9%
Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 2.6%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 1.9%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 1.7%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 1.4%

Source: Comtrade, 2017


Main Services

339.5 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Other business services
Royalties and license fees
Construction services
Financial services
Government services
Computer and information services
Insurance services
Communications services
Cultural and recreational services
360.1 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Other business services
Royalties and license fees
Construction services
Computer and information services
Financial services
Insurance services
Communications services
Government services
Cultural and recreational services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Japanese Yen (JPY)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Low. The Japanese yen is a major currency, often used as a reserve currency.
Monetary Indicators 20132014201520162017
Japanese Yen (JPY) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 97.60105.94121.04108.79112.17

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
Main International Economic Cooperation
Japan is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and entered into an agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2008.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
 The following documents should be presented at the Japanese customs:
- Air Waybill or Bill of Lading;
- Commercial Invoice for import shipments with a value exceeding 10,000 yen and for any commodity being imported;
- Certificate of Origin- Import Approval;
- Quarantine Forms.
Free Zones
For Further Information
Japanese Customs Office
Japanese Ministry of foreign affairs
Japanese Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry
Non Tariff Barriers
Non-tariff barriers are common in Japan. Factors such as exclusively Japanese standards, the importance of personal relations in doing business and a regulatory policy with a preference for national products may inhibit entrance of foreign products into the Japanese market. Quotas exist for certain marine products, organic chemical products, explosives, pharmaceutical and medical products, animals and plants (in respect of the Washington Convention). An import license is necessary for all products subject to quotas, products deemed dangerous and perishable goods. See the list of goods prohibited from importation into Japan.
Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Processed foodstuffs: pork, apples, alcoholic drinks, agricultural products.

Data processing equipment, cars, steel, telecommunications, leather, etc.

The WTO gives details of these disagreements on the page of information concerning the country.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Japan’s commercial policy, as seen by the WTO
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the United States
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

Learn more about How to Export to Japan on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.



National Standards Organisations
The Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC)
The Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS)
Integration in the International Standards Network
The JISC is a member of:
- The International Standard Organisation (ISO)
- The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
- The APEC/SCSC, Sub Committee of Standards and Conformance of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
- The ASEM/TFAP/SCA, Trade Facilitation Action Plan/Standards and Conformity Assessment of the Asia-European Meeting
- The Pacific Area Standards Congress
Obligation to Use Standards
The standards proposed by the JAS are exclusively voluntary. They concern 600 different industrial products and more than 8500 standards.
 There are two ongoing trends in Japan regarding standards. One is a move toward standards reform and the other towards harmonizing Japanese standards with prevailing international standards. While reform is underway, there are numerous laws containing Japan-specific mandatory standards. Therefore it is sometimes difficult to master all the requirements.
Click here, for a summary of the standards which apply:
- to consumer goods;
- to industrial products;
- to agricultural and fishery products;
- to agricultural products controlled by the Food Sanitation Law .
Classification of Standards
JIS + 1 letter showing the technical area + 4-digit number showing the rank in the JIS division.
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Product requirements in Japan fall into two categories: technical regulations (or mandatory standards) and non-mandatory voluntary standards. Respect of voluntary standardization is highly regarded in Japan; it can increase sales potential on the market and the acceptance of the product by consumers. Approval is generally required before a product can be sold in the market or even displayed at a trade show.
Online Consultation of Standards
The publication of standards is entrusted to the JSA (Japanese Standards Association) which is the publishing house of the JISC. The website of the JSA gives access to JISC standards.
Certification Organisations
List of Designated Certification Bodies by the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC)
Japan Accreditation Board (JAB)
National Institute of Technology and Evaluation
Associations of Standards Users
Member of JISC (Japanese Industrial Standards Committee)


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Last Updates: May 2018