The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
The factors that explain Japan’s external performance since the mid-1980s are controversial. While the current account surplus eventually declined following exchange rate changes in 1985-86, a widening since 1990 has led to renewed scepticism about the role of relative price movements in bringing about external adjustment. This paper revisits the post-1985 experience to determine whether it can be explained by traditional factors. The results indicate that, over the period as a whole, the behavior of trade volumes and prices was similar to that predicted by traditional relationships. In particular, relative price movements played an important role in reducing the surplus: in their absence, it would have widened further.