News / Economy

Japan Earthquake Disrupts Imports, Exports with US

Nissan Juke, sports utility vehicles queue to be loaded onto a freighter at its Oppama factory in Yokosuka, some 40-kilometre south of Tokyo, April 22, 2011
Nissan Juke, sports utility vehicles queue to be loaded onto a freighter at its Oppama factory in Yokosuka, some 40-kilometre south of Tokyo, April 22, 2011


Japan is the United States' fourth-largest trading partner, and trade had increased the first two months of this year -- before the earthquake and tsunami. Now the two busiest container ports in the United States are seeing the effects of the disaster on Japanese imports.  It takes time for electronics and auto parts to travel to a port in Japan, and then up to two weeks to cross the ocean.  Some exports of produce from the United States to Japan have also been disrupted.  

Every day, ships from Asia arrive at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  Located next to each other, these two ports on the West Coast are the busiest container ports in the United States.  And Japan is the second-biggest trading partner of the two ports combined.

"Japan really helped build international trade 20 or 30 years ago and really is responsible for some of the growth here in the Port of Los Angeles," Phillip Sanfield said.

Sanfield is spokesman for Los Angeles Port. He says Japan makes up 15 percent of the overall trade at the Port of Los Angeles.  The largest imports from Japan are auto parts and cars.  Nissans come through the Port of Los Angeles.  

Long Beach is one of the entry ports for Toyotas.  Art Wong is port of Long Beach spokesman. "I’ve heard that Toyota is beginning to slow down their shipment of cars here or even maybe even to stop having as many ships come here,” he said.  “So their plants have been shut down pretty much since the quake they’ve started up production again but certainly not at the same level."

The same seems to be true for auto parts. "All of the auto dealers here that rely on parts are telling us there has been a slowdown," Sanfield said.

It is not just incoming cargo from Japan that is slowing down. Some outgoing shipments from the United States have also been disrupted.

"It’s caused a lot of obvious disruption on both sides of the water here and when it comes to agriculture and refrigerated agriculture in particular here it’s been a real troublesome time," Joe LoBue stated.

LoBue developed the Japanese export market for LoBue Citrus more than 30 years ago. He says normally, 40 percent of his exports of oranges are sorted, packed and shipped to Japan.  Since the earthquake, he’s seen a 10 to 15 percent drop.

"Those sales are gone and it’s a quarter of a million dollars worth of exportable sales that we won’t see," he said.

LoBue says the loss comes from a string of problems that started with cancellations in the first week after the earthquake.  

Then there was the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

"Some of the boats at the very beginning started diverting to other ports in Japan, some of the boats avoided Japan all together," LoBue stated.

Once the oranges got to Japan there were problems with transportation and having enough electricity to refrigerate them.  LoBue says the Japanese are also not buying as many oranges from California because of the cost. "Imported goods are still a luxury and how much they will continue having problems they don’t know, but we’re hoping by the fall that things are better," he said.

That hope is shared by officials at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Port officials say exports from the U.S. may increase in the form of lumber and equipment to help Japan rebuild after the earthquake.

"So it’s not clear that overall we’ll actually have less trade with them this year and maybe this slowdown will pick up and accelerate and we may have as much or more trade later in this year," Wong said.

Port officials say it will be weeks if not months before they will know exactly how the earthquake in Japan has affected imports and exports, and it may be much longer than that before trade with Japan is back to the same level as it was before.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.