Even if you feel like you can’t help but raise the Amazon Prime annual fee, it’s not enough for Japan’s financial situation. Foreign currency outflow…

Amazon Prime annual membership fee “1000 yen price increase” is a hot topic. However, as far as looking at the SNS posts at the moment, it seems that there are not many opinions that “this is an opportunity to cancel”. It seems that the position of this service will actually work for the Japanese economy. In addition, the image is Amazon delivery scene in New York.

Amazon Japan (hereafter referred to as Amazon) has announced that it will raise the annual membership fee for its paid membership service “Prime” by 1,000 yen to 5,900 yen.

The company offers a wide range of services, and I do not know individually which item in the balance of payments statistics each sales item is recorded.

Nevertheless, as a general theory, for example, the sales of video and music distribution services provided to paying members are the “royal fees for intellectual property rights, etc.” It can be said that it corresponds to the included “copyright usage fee”.

As shown in[Chart 1]below, in recent years,The deficit in royalties for copyrights, etc. is on the rise, which is hindering the expansion of surpluses in royalties for intellectual property rights, etc..

Chart 1

[Chart 1]Transition and breakdown of fees for the use of intellectual property rights, etc. The gray part is the royalties, etc., and the deficit is expanding, as indicated by the red dotted line.

Not only Amazon, but also a portion of the profits made in Japan by foreign-affiliated companies such as American tech giants and Western consulting firms are remitted to their home countries.

The flow of such money goes to “professional and management consulting services,” which is a sub-item of “other business services,” for Internet advertising and consulting revenues, and to “communications, computer, and information services,” for cloud service revenues. Each will be recorded as payment to overseas, and the yen will be sold like the trade deficit.

Of this timeThe increase in annual membership fees by Amazon Japan will also further expand the deficit in the “other services” balance, which has been expanding in recent years, and the deficit in the service balance.right.

Service that can only be accepted at the “asked price”

Since 2022, inflationary storms are raging all over the world, and even in Japan, the prices of familiar foodstuffs and clothing are rising one after another. However, the increase in Prime annual fee is slightly different from them.

That is, in many cases, price increases for platform services like this one have to be accepted at the “asking price.” Regarding the prime annual membership fee, many users may have felt that it can’t be helped (the same applies to the author).

You can get free delivery when using the company’s EC site, you can watch most of the video distribution for free,The services used by prime members are deeply rooted in their lives, and the majority of users do not cancel due to price increases.It is speculated that

Moreover,Wages are on an upward trend worldwide, so various pricing for platform services will only rise in the future, and will not fall.it is conceivable that.

In addition, the annual Prime membership fee in Japan will remain less than one-third of that in the United States ($139, about 20,000 yen) even after the price increase on August 24th. Compared to European countries such as France (69.90 euros, about 11,000 yen) and Germany (89.90 euros, about 14,000 yen), the annual membership fee in Japan is 50 to 60% lower.

The wage increase rate, which is the starting point for setting service prices, differs significantly between Japan and other countries. (to maintain revenue) will be remedied.

Therefore, further price increases are expected in the future. This will affect the balance of other services, the balance of payments for services, and the balance of current accounts as a whole.

The author called this “new age deficit’, paid attention to, and worried about.

The service balance in 2022 was a deficit of about 5.4 trillion yen. Looking back on the past, there were deficits in the 6 trillion yen range, so it cannot be said that this is an unprecedented situation.

But it is certainly a situation to watch or worry about.

As you can see from[Chart 2]below, until about 10 years ago, the large deficit in the travel balance was the main cause of the deficit in the service balance. Around the same time that it returned to profitability, the deficit in the “other services” balance accelerated, and now accounts for the majority of the service balance.

Chart 2

[Chart 2]Service balance (line graph) and its breakdown (bar graph). For 2023, we used the first half figures.

The relaxation of visa issuance requirements during the second Abe administration contributed to the turnaround of the travel balance, but perhaps more than that, the “real effective exchange rate ( REER), which continues to decline and stagnate, has a greater impact.

The REER of the yen is currently at the lowest level in half a century, and foreign tourists (inbound) visiting Japan feel that Japan is a cheap travel destination.

On the other hand, there is no rational reason why the deficit in the balance of other services, driven by the “digital, consulting, and research and development” fields mentioned earlier, is likely to shrink and turn into the black.

As you can see from[Chart 2]above,Japan’s service balance is likely to expand rapidly if inbound demand declines for some reason (in other words, if the travel surplus is lost)..

Even if decisive events such as the global pandemic of the new coronavirus do not occur very often, there is ample risk that the surplus will shrink depending on overseas economic and financial conditions.

In comparison, the demand for consulting and cloud services, which are included in other services, may fluctuate depending on economic trends, such as contract scales, but it is unimaginable that payments will disappear rapidly.

The current prime annual fee hike, which has a strong sense of “it can’t be helped,” will also be positioned in the context of payments that are less likely to fluctuate.

It is undeniable that the service balance deficit will hit a record high (and possibly repeat) within the next few years due to trends such as the dramatic evolution of artificial intelligence (AI).

The service deficit, which continues to expand, overlaps with the existing trade deficit, resulting in the primary income balance (interest on stock dividends and bonds of foreign companies, interest and dividends from overseas subsidiaries of Japanese companies, etc.). Japan’s economy will enter a new stage of development when it is no longer possible to cover the surplus.

The increase in Prime annual membership fee is a harbinger of the developments that await the Japanese economy, as well as various points of controversy that accompany it.

*Contributions are my personal views and are not affiliated with any organization.

Source: BusinessInsider

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