"Japan is one of the United States' most important economic partners. Outside of North America, it is the United States' second-largest export market and second-largest source of imports. Japanese firms are the United States' second-largest source of foreign direct investment, and Japanese investors are the second-largest foreign holders of U.S. treasuries, helping to finance the U.S. deficit and reduce upward pressure on U.S. interest rates. Bilateral trade friction has decreased in recent years, partly because U.S. concern about the trade deficit with Japan has been replaced by concern about a much larger deficit with China. One exception was U.S. criticism over Japan's decision in 2003 to ban imports of U.S. beef, which have since resumed, but on a limited basis. However, the economic problems in Japan and the United States associated with the credit crisis and the related economic recession, together with the impact of the March 11 disasters, will likely dominate the bilateral economic agenda for the foreseeable future. Japan has been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn. Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) declined 1.2% in 2008 and 5.3% in 2009 but grew 4.0% in 2010. It is expected to increase only 1.0% in 2011 as a result of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. The value of the yen has appreciated and has hit 15-year highs against the U.S. dollar, which could adversely affect Japanese exports to the United States and other countries, contributing to the downturn in Japanese economic growth."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33436