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issue: January 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Globalization Leads to Increases in Japanese Exports, Imports

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By Wasaku Ishida, Japanese correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine, and vice president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)

Globalization of the white goods business has been improving in the electric appliance industry.

According to trade statistics compiled by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, exports of white goods during the first half of 2004 accounted for 143 billion yen (approx. U.S. $1.4 billion), an increase of 12.3 percent compared to the same period in 2003. Imports also recorded an all-time high at about 202 billion yen (approx. $2.0 billion), up 7.7 percent.

Japanese white goods manufacturers have historically produced and sold a majority of their products in Japan. However, since the late 1990s, manufacturers have been increasingly shifting production of popular low-end products to Asia and China. The shift is said to be due to the maturing domestic market, ongoing deflationary economy, and intensified price

Japanese manufacturers have also limited their domestic development and production to products with higher added value, thereby improving profitability of their business as a whole. As a result, imports of white goods have increased sharply since the mid-1990s. Imports in 1993 totaled about 90 billion yen (approx. $878.2 million), compared to 180 billion yen in 1996 (approx. $1.8 billion), and 363.5 billion yen (approx. $3.5 billion) in 2003. Imports are expected to total 400 billion yen (approx. $3.9 billion) in 2004.

Domestic manufacturers have been exporting home appliances, such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and air-conditioners since the 1990s. Exports in 1992 totaled about 480 billion yen (approx. $4.7 billion). Due to the sharp rise in the yen/U.S. dollar rate, and the rising strength of Korean and Chinese manufacturers, exports in 2002 dwindled to 224 billion yen (approx. $2.2 billion).

In 2003, air-conditioners led exports. Responding to the abnormal climatic situation in Japan, which was swept by a cool summer, and in Europe, which experienced heat waves, some Japanese manufacturers exported Euro-spec air-conditioners to Europe. Exports of high-end models with air purifiers and other functions also increased.

Matsushita Electric Company reports that exports to Europe are growing favorably due to the heat waves of 2003. The company says that exports of inverter-type models with a higher added value are also increasing. Toshiba Consumer Marketing predicts that its exports of complete air-conditioner units during the first half of 2004 will show a 90-percent increase over the same time period in 2003. Hitachi H&L says its exports of air-conditioners to Europe during the first half of 2004 increased favorably, and shipments are expanding with the prior year’s demand backed up by the heat waves as a turning point.

Exports of other white goods are also said to be increasing. Matsushita, whose white goods exports as a whole showed a double-digit increase, says exports of microwave ovens and vacuum cleaners are also increasing positively. Specifically, exports of high-end model microwave ovens to the Middle East and Russia are growing.

Japanese manufacturers intend to regain their footing in overseas markets by launching products with higher added value.


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