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New Year Greetings 2017
Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

Introduction

I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year in 2017.
In the face of mounting protectionism, Japan, as one of the most stable trading nations in the world, will safeguard free and open economic systems, and will move forward with Abenomics.

By the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan could be a center for the fourth industrial revolution and a smart society allowing us to solve the problems of an aging population. I will also accelerate efforts to promote the Osaka-Kansai region as a candidate for the 2025 World Expo.

Abenomics for the future

Four years of the Abe cabinet have resulted in a steady virtuous economic cycle. For example, nominal GDP has grown by approximately 44 trillion yen, nearly 1.1 million new jobs have been created and corporate earnings have risen to a record high.

First, I will strive to realize the fourth industrial revolution, incorporating IoT, robotics and AI. I will formulate a roadmap addressing mobility of people and goods, healthcare and manufacturing, and promote regulatory and institutional reforms and the establishment of Japan-based international standards in breakthrough projects. I will also develop global research bases for AI, and establish a new intellectual property system.

Our cyber defenses will be critical. I will strengthen critical infrastructure and human resource development and strengthen credit card security with the revised Installment Sales Act.

Moreover, I will carry out working-style reform for an aging society, as reform of the traditional Japanese-style employment system is urgent. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will lead Japanese industry in spreading working-style reform under the following three key themes: development of the most advanced human resources, capable of leveraging the key technologies of the fourth industrial revolution; flexible working styles, including freelance work, engagement in multiple jobs and side jobs, and telework; and labor shift to fields with high productivity.

This year will mark the fourth consecutive year of wage hikes in Japan and I will encourage subcontractors to raise wages. Late last year, enforcement was strengthened to prevent prime contractors from burdening subcontractors with disproportionate costs. As I have requested industry to formulate voluntary action plans, I expect that this initiative will continue in each business sector this year.

I will strongly support small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and mid-ranking company efforts to improve productivity, promoting investment for the future while making full use of budgetary funds and tax programs. In addition, I will reform the credit enhancement system to ensure appropriate risk sharing between governmental credit guarantee associations and private financial institutions. Furthermore, I will support business succession and IT systems.

Trade policies

Protectionism is spreading. Japan will spearhead the development of high-level trade and investment rules suited to the real economic situation of the 21st century, such as those under the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and will strive to secure an early agreement in principle on the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement (EPA) and to realize a high quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

I will call on the new U.S. administration that will be inaugurated this month to ensure that Japan and the United States share universal values and build on our relationship of trust. The Japan-U.S. Alliance is an alliance of hope in which the two countries cooperate and contribute to the resolution of problems faced by the international community. Japan will work with the United States under the incoming administration to promote cooperation in a variety of fields and tackle various challenges facing the world. In my role as Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia, I have also devoted myself wholeheartedly to strengthening economic cooperation with Russia. When President Putin visited Japan last month, an agreement was reached on many items included in the eight-point cooperation plan. I will strive to ensure that Japan and Russia will develop their win-win economic relationship based on the strong trust between the Japanese and Russian leaders. Regarding important bilateral relationships, including those with resource-producing countries and emerging economies, I will also aim to develop multifaceted economic relationships in such fields as energy, infrastructure, SMEs, health and medical care.

Post-disaster reconstruction

Last year, Japan suffered many natural disasters, including the earthquakes in Kumamoto in April and typhoons in the summer. I will continue to devote efforts to support the reconstruction of the affected SMEs.

It will soon be six years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the reconstruction of Fukushima is still my top priority. Lifting the evacuation order in seven municipalities, including Minamisoma City has been decided and reconstruction bases in “difficult-to-return zones” will be established. I will accelerate the improvement of infrastructure and the living environment and simultaneously endeavor to develop a new-energy-infrastructure based plan for the future of Fukushima.

Energy policy

I will steadily implement energy policy, which underpins the Japanese economy, while taking the lessons of Fukushima to heart.

Japan will restart nuclear power stations for which safety has been confirmed, while seeking local communities’ understanding.

The government will play a major role in implementing the measures related to the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and contaminated water management based on the Mid- and Long-Term Roadmaps. On the other hand, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) must carry out nonlinear management reform. I will examine TEPCO’s new business plan in order to ensure it fulfills its responsibilities to Fukushima and Japan.

Following the liberalization of retail sales of electricity last year, liberalization of gas sales will start in April 2017. I will ensure access to base load power sources for new market entrants, and will urge the industry to endeavor to solve issues related to safety, disaster management, decommissioning of damaged reactors and promotion of environmental suitability.

Japan will continue to promote the nuclear fuel cycle in the future. I will start formulating a strategic roadmap for fast reactor development policy.

Based on the Innovative Energy Strategy, I will pursue maximum energy efficiency and conservation and expand the introduction of renewable energy for which I will enforce the revised Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Act and respond to electricity grid problems. At the same time, I will strengthen energy conservation through the promotion of investment, for example through the Top Runner Program.

I will also make efforts to secure stable supplies of fossil fuels. Using the revised JOGMEC Act, I will cooperate with upstream development and exploration companies and further enhance energy security by improving the LNG market and the flexibility of trading.

Conclusion

All of us at METI will do our utmost to fulfill our duties so that Japan can reap the benefits of  our policies and finally overcome deflation. METI will play its part in enabling Japan to glide above the turbulent waves of protectionism shaking the world, and to reach new heights in the 21st century and beyond.

I appreciate your continued understanding and support.

January 1, 2017
Hiroshige Seko
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
Copyright Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. All Rights Reserved.

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