TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan logged a goods trade deficit of 1.20 trillion yen ($11 billion) in 2018, government data showed Wednesday, the first red ink in three years as the cost of energy imports surged.
Imports rose 9.7 percent from a year earlier to 82.69 trillion yen, outpacing a 4.1 percent increase in exports to 81.49 trillion yen.
Exports have been a major component of the Japanese economy's current expansion cycle, which is likely to be the longest since the end of World War II.
But demand has waned in recent months amid heightened trade friction between the United States and China. Nidec Corp., a maker of electric motors, last week warned investors that it expects a fall in profit for the year ending in March due to uncertainty stemming from the trade tensions.
Meanwhile, imports of energy-related items such as liquefied natural gas and kerosene were pushed up by an increase in global oil prices, with crude oil imports surging 24.5 percent to 8.91 trillion yen last year.
By region, Japan ran a deficit of 3.28 trillion yen against China, its largest trading partner. The margin of red ink shrank for the third consecutive year, however, as exports grew to a record high on demand for equipment used to manufacture semiconductors.
Against all of Asia, Japan saw a surplus of 5.54 trillion yen.
Japan had a surplus of 6.45 trillion yen against the United States, a smaller margin than the previous year amid falling automobile exports and a rise in aircraft imports.
With Europe, Japan logged a deficit of 487.5 billion yen with imports of medicine from Ireland contributing.
For December, Japan logged a goods trade deficit of 55.3 billion yen, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry. Exports fell 3.8 percent, their steepest fall since October 2016, to 7.02 trillion yen while imports grew 1.9 percent to 7.08 trillion yen.
The figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.