Japan has earmarked US$2.2 billion of its record economic stimulus package to help its manufacturers shift production out of China as the coronavirus disrupts supply chains between the major trading partners.
The extra budget, compiled to try to offset the devastating effects of the pandemic, includes 220 billion yen (US$2 billion) for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries, according to details of the plan posted online.
The move coincides with what should have been a celebration of friendlier ties between the two countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping was supposed to be on a state visit to Japan early this month. But what would have been the first visit of its sort in a decade was postponed a month ago amid the spread of the virus and no new date has been set.
China is Japan’s biggest trading partner under normal circumstances, but imports from China slumped by almost half in February as the disease closed factories, in turn starving Japanese manufacturers of necessary components.
That has renewed talk of Japanese firms reducing their reliance on China as a manufacturing base. The government’s panel on future investment last month discussed the need for manufacturing of high-added value products to be shifted back to Japan, and for production of other goods to be diversified across Southeast Asia.
“There will be something of a shift,” said Shinichi Seki, an economist at the Japan Research Institute, adding that some Japanese companies manufacturing goods in China for export were already considering moving out. “Having this in the budget will definitely provide an impetus.” Companies, such as car makers, that are manufacturing for the Chinese domestic market, will likely stay put, he said.
Japan exports a far larger share of parts and partially finished goods to China than other major industrial nations, according to data compiled for the panel. A February survey by Tokyo Shoko Research found 37 per cent of the more than 2,600 companies that responded were diversifying procurement to places other than China amid the coronavirus crisis.
In the US, a rabid media machine would be calling him a racist.