American vessel, the Westwood Columbia, carrying cargo within view of Japan's famous Mt. Fuji. Image source: Westwood Shipping Lines

World Trade Week: Bilateral Trade Important to the Economies of US and Japan


In an official proclamation on May 15, 2011, President Barack Obama declared May 15-21 to be World Trade Week. The President emphasized the importance of international trade to the United States economy:

“As we recover from a historic economic recession, enterprising commercial leaders continue to look beyond our borders to supply the world with innovative and technologically advanced products and services. Millions of jobs in the United States are tied to exports, and our world continues to grow more interdependent.”

Together representing about 16% of total world trade, Japan and the United States continue stand as prominent trading partners. According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Japan is America’s 4th largest trading partner after Canada, Mexico, and China. In 2010, US exports of goods to Japan were valued at $62 Billion USD, nearly 5% of the total.

The United States is significant to Japan’s export economy as well. In 2010 the US was Japan’s 2nd largest trading partner in both imports and exports after China. Utilizing statistics from the Ministry of Finance, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) reported that $118 billion USD in goods, accounting for 15% of the total, was exported to the US in 2010.

While trade between the two countries took a significant hit from the worldwide contraction in trade in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis, particularly in terms of Japanese exports to the US, 2010 saw positive growth in bi-lateral trade flows for both partners. For the US exports to Japan were up 18% from 2009, while the Japan’s exports to the US increased 26% from the previous year. While significant, this uptick was not quite enough to bring the trade figures back to pre-crisis levels.

Recognizing the importance of these trade ties, in November 2010,US and Japanese governments launched the U.S.-Japan Economic Harmonization Initiative (EHI) to enhance the economic growth of both nations by “promoting cooperation to harmonize approaches that facilitate trade, address business climate and individual issues, and advance coordination on regional issues of common interest.” The governments will meet over a period of several months in 2011 and will issue a report of their public report on their efforts later this year.

Please check back in the coming weeks as new articles are released on the composition of US-Japan bilateral trade, and its impact at the local level.