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US imports push Japan into trade deficit in May

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FILE PHOTO: People walk past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, March 23, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (AFP) – Imports of US aircraft helped push Japan to a trade deficit in May, official data showed yesterday, but experts said it was a temporary effect not linked to ongoing trade tensions.

Japan’s imports rose 14.0 percent in May from a year earlier, according to finance ministry data.

Exports also enjoyed an 8.0 percent rise but the overall effect was a net deficit of 578.3 billion yen ($5 billion).

The deficit was nearly three times the size of the figure last year and came after two consecutive months of surplus.

“The deficit came from a surge in imports from the United States,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute, noting a quadrupling of Japan’s purchases of US aircraft.

He also noted that crude oil prices rose strongly, pushing Japan’s import bills higher.

“It’s a temporary rise and is not linked to trade policies,” he said, ruling out the possibility that Japan was boosting purchases of US products as Washington adopts an increasingly protectionist trade policy.

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