Africa’s trading relationship with Japan – ‘the forgotten partner’?
While the recent focus on Africa’s merchandise trade has been the spectacular rise of trade with the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China and the commensurate decline of the US and EU, almost unnoticed has been the trade with Japan which has quietly continued at a modest but steady level. This paper documents and discusses this Japanese trade flow profile over the years 2001 to 2014 inclusive.
The paper begins with the African perspective – an overview of Africa’s aggregate global imports and exports, before focusing on the Japanese perspective – an analysis of Japan’s exports to Africa and imports from Africa, as well as Japan’s trade with Africa by country (top six export destinations and top six import sources). It is clear that Japan has been a consistent and reliable trading partner for Africa in recent years.
From an historical perspective it is well to keep in mind that Japan has remained an important global trader over the part thirty or so years despite the perception that its status has diminished. The WTO’s World Trade Report 2013 states that in 2011 the four top-ranked global exporters were China, US, Germany and Japan in that order, while during 1980 they were the US, Germany, Japan and France with China a distant 30th. The US was the top importer for both 2011 and 1980, while the global import rankings were very similar in that Japan held the same fourth rank here for the two periods as for exports while China, second place in 2011, was a lowly 22nd in 1980.
In the shadow of China’s dramatic rise as a world trading power and the tendency to treat the EU as a single entity, it is easy to see how Japan may have become ‘the forgotten partner’. In the same vein, although this paper does not discuss global services trade, Japan was number two in 1980 and still number five in 2011, according to the WTO.
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