By Mayumi Negishi
TOKYO--Japanese exports declined for the fifth straight month in April as the buildup in trade tensions between its two biggest trading partners--the United States and China--weighed on the country's key engine of growth.
Exports in April fell 2.4% from the same month a year ago, data released by the Ministry of Finance data showed Wednesday. The dip was more than the median 1.8% decline forecast by economists polled by FactSet.
The weak exports, mainly on account of lower shipments of chip-making tools and semiconductor parts to China, along with a surge in crude oil imports, translated to a 90% fall in Japan's trade surplus to 60 billion yen ($543 million).
The trade data showed exports to China, Japan's biggest trading partner, fell more than 6% year-over-year on lower shipments of chip-making tools, amid increased pressure by the U.S. on its allies to restrict use of China-made chips. Exports to Europe also fell by almost 3% on lower appetite for Japanese goods.
While exports to China and Europe fell, exports to the U.S. rose almost 10% on strong demand for Japanese cars, expanding Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. by almost 18%. The data comes ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to Japan this week, where he is expected to push for a trade deal.
Last week, Mr. Trump put off a decision for six months on whether to impose new tariffs on automobile and auto-part imports from Japan and other countries.
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