(EnergyAsia, January 31 2013, Thursday) — Japan’s trade deficit soared 170% to a record 6.9 trillion yen last year on the back of surging energy imports and lower export earnings. (US$1=90 yen). The world’s third largest economy reported a 3.8% rise in import expenditure and a 2.7% decline in export earnings for 2012.

Energy accounted for 37.7% of Japan’s total import expenditure of over 70.6 trillion yen, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil products showing the highest increases as the country continues to struggle with an energy crisis brought on by the loss of nuclear power after the earthquake-tsunami tragedy of March 2011.

 

Table. Japan’s merchandise trade in billion yen

 

 

 

Japan paid a record 26.7 trillion yen to import crude oil, products, LNG, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and coal to make up for the loss of its nuclear power plants, which used to supply nearly 30% of its electricity.

Its crude oil import bill rose 7.3% to nearly 12.3 trillion yen, while LNG costs surged 25.4% to over six trillion yen and LPG purchases jumped 14.5% to more than one trillion yen. Oil product import expenditure rose 10.5% to nearly 2.5 trillion yen.

Japan paid a record average price of US$114.9 per barrel for its crude oil compared with US$108.65 in 2011.

The outlook for 2013 remains grim as a weaker yen, favoured by Tokyo, could raise import costs further without necessarily stimulating export given the weak state of the US and European economies, and on-going political tensions between Japan and China.