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Release of the White Paper on International Economy and Trade 2020

July 7, 2020

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) released the 2020 version of its annual White Paper on International Economy and Trade, which was presented to the Cabinet on July 7, 2020.

Highlights of the White Paper

The spread of COVID-19 has caused the worst economic environment since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The White Paper shows the states and the structures of the world, which were revealed by the novel coronavirus crisis.

This economic crisis essentially requires reducing face-to-face communication to avoid the spread of the virus. Therefore, interactions among people and exchanges of goods have been restricted domestically and internationally, leading to the disruption of supply chains and the stagnation of trade and investments. One global structure causing this disruption is the geographical concentration of production bases.

Another structure is the concentration of people. The spread of this infection has been notable in urban areas, where interactions among people are frequent. Businesses requiring face-to-face interactions are especially concentrated in urban areas.

Amid the pandemic crisis, divisive forces against international cooperation have been observed as some countries are taking emergency measures such as export restrictions on medical products. In the meantime, digital technologies, which do not require face-to-face interactions, have been further developed.

The current global social and economic structures have been formulated in the process of globalization. The White Paper looks at the past, present and future of globalization based on the concept of “unbundling.” The novel coronavirus crisis occurred in the process of changes in globalization toward the future and has been prompting international society to accelerate digitalization. Japan also needs to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Based on such analysis, the White Paper presents recommendations for Japan and the world to make supply chains more resilient, accelerate digitalization, evolve human interactions, maintain unifying forces for international cooperation, and establish a new rule-based international trade system. Through such efforts, the world can create a resilient social and economic system.


*The summary of the White Paper was revised on August 12, 2020, in order to incorporate more accurate language from Japanese to English translation.

Division in Charge

Policy Planning and Research Office, Trade Policy Bureau

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