The latest Japanese government figures have shown a narrowing of the country's annual trade deficit in 2015.
Its annual trade deficit was 2.8 trillion yen (£16.47 billion), which was almost 80 per cent smaller than last year, with energy import costs falling and a weaker yen helping to drive a modest increase in exports.
The trade balance was in deficit for nine months in 2015 but swung back to a surplus of 140.2 billion yen in December.
Despite this, the country's international trading conditions remain challenging, with the ongoing economic slowdown in China and the prevailing weaknesses in the global economy limiting the growth of exports.
These trends are putting pressure on the Bank of Japan to expand its already-record stimulus programme.
Atsushi Takeda, an economist at Itochu Corp, said: "Exports haven't grown much, but the trade deficit has narrowed because commodity prices are slumping more than expected. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing."