A sharp increase in oil prices boosted exports of goods by the UAE and five other Gulf hydrocarbon producers to Japan by nearly 40 per cent in 2011, sharply widening the Gulf’s surplus, according to official data.
From around $101.9 billion in 2010, the exports by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to the Southeast Asian industrial giant rocketed to nearly $141.1 billion in 2011, showed the figures by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
Japan’s exports to the 31-year-old Gulf economic, defence and political alliance declined to around $19.56 billion from $20.02 billion in the same period.
The higher growth in GCC exports sharply widened the group’s surplus in trade with Japan by nearly 49.5 per cent to $122.5 billion from $81.9 billion.
The report showed Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the world’s top crude supplier, was the biggest Middle East exporter to Japan, with the value of its exports of goods surging to $50.3 billion in 2011 from $35.7 billion in 2010.
The UAE, the second largest Arab economy, came second in exports, which stood at around $42.7 billion compared with $29.2 billion in the same period.
But the UAE topped the list of importers from Japan, with a value of nearly $7.44 billion, overtaking Saudi Arabia’s imports of about $6.48 billion in 2011.
Qatar, which was a negligible trade partner of Japan a decade ago, emerged as the third largest exporter because of a sharp rise in its LNG supplies to that country. Jetro’s report showed Qatar’s exports grew to $30.05 billion in 2011 from around $21.6 billion 2010 and less than $10 billion in 2009.
Kuwait’s exports to Japan, mostly crude oil, also surged to around $13.09 billion from nearly $10.2 billion while exports by Oman increased to about $5.13 billion from $4.49 billion. Bahrain’s exports to Japan, mostly ammonium, rose slightly to nearly $722 million from $658 million in the same period.
The GCC’s exports to Japan last year came close to the record export value of around $144 billion in 2008, when crude prices averaged an all time high of about $95. Average crude prices surpassed that level to exceed $100 a barrel in 2011 but experts believe the lower value of GCC exports to Japan was due to a slight fall in the volume of Tokyo’s crude imports from the six members, which control nearly 40 per cent of the world’s oil deposits.
Massive oil supplies have kept the GCC-Japan trade balance largely in favour of the Gulf countries, with the surplus peaking at nearly $117 billion in 2008.
Japan gets more than 80 per cent of its oil needs from the GCC, Iran, Iraq and other Middle Eastern crude producers. Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone supply it with more than two million bpd, nearly half its total oil imports.
Besides crude, the GCC’s exports to Japan include aluminium, natural gas, LNG and petroleum products. Their imports from that country comprise mainly electronics, vehicles, machinery, and other industrial products.