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Trends in Japanese textile and clothing imports, May-June 2006
published in Issue 123, May-June 2006
Japan has been transformed in recent decades from a major exporter of textiles and clothing to a major importer. It is now the world’s fourth largest import market after the EU, the USA, and Hong Kong, and is the third largest consumer of imports.
In 2005 Japanese textile and clothing imports rose in value by 3.4% to US$27.5 bn as the economy continued to recover. After a 2.3% rise in 2004, real GDP grew by 2.6% in 2005 while private consumption growth picked up further to 2.1%. China dominated Japanese textile and clothing imports with 74.8% of the total by value, although its share in clothing (82.4%) was almost double that in textiles (49.3%). Italy was the number two supplier with 4.6% of imports by value. But its volume share was only 0.5%, reflecting the high value of Italian supplies. By contrast, the USA’s volume share, at 4.3%, was almost double its 2.4% value share. US supplies to Japan consist mainly of textiles, which tend to be of lower unit value than clothing.
China’s high share of imports reflects years of Japanese overseas investment in China as Japanese production became uncompetitive. It also reflects China’s proximity to Japan, which facilitates quick response. But the key factor is the absence of quotas, and many see Japan as a model of the future pattern of imports into the US and EU markets following the elimination of quotas at the end of 2004.