*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purpose only.
10:47 - 10:59 a.m.
Friday, July 27, 2018
Press Conference Room, METI
Visit to the US
Minister Seko: Good morning. I have some topics to start with.
I am going to travel to the US from the evening of Monday, July 30 to the evening of Saturday, August 4, to visit California, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
In California, I would like to exchange frank views with opinion leaders actively working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley on the areas where Japan and the US should cooperate toward the realization of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In addition, I will visit automobile manufacturing bases in the Midwest and would like to share dialogue with those concerned regarding the importance of investment by Japanese companies, through the exchange of views with local stakeholders, including Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, and by holding the JETRO investment seminar.
US-EU Summit Meeting
Q: The US-EU summit meeting was held and it was agreed to start negotiations with the aim of eliminating tariffs. I think that this is also related to Japan, so would you tell us what your thoughts are on this?
In addition, the “FFR” (“free, fair and reciprocal trade deals”) meeting with the US is coming up soon. Would you tell us how the agreement between the US and EU will affect the meeting?
A: I am aware that in a joint statement issued after the US-EU Summit on July 25, the US and the EU announced that they will work to eliminate tariffs, non-tariff barriers and subsidies for industrial goods except for automobiles.
As this is an exchange between the US and the EU, I would like to refrain from making comments. But speaking in general terms, Japan positively evaluates their engagement in free trade.
At any rate, the Japanese Government will continue to closely monitor these developments.
Regarding the FFR meeting, I am aware that the details are currently being coordinated between Japan and the US, but on the other hand I am wondering if the schedule will soon be decided, for I heard the comments of the US Trade Representative Lighthizer in the Congress yesterday.
At any rate, I would like to expect constructive dialogue to benefit both Japan and the US, in order to realize economic development in the free and open Indo-Pacific Region based on fair rules.
Q: Regarding the trade talks between the US and the EU as you mentioned, some believe that the EU has made concessions to a certain extent. Would you tell us what your thoughts are on this?
A: As the EU and the US are about to start detailed negotiations, I would like to refrain from making comments at this time.
US Import Restrictive Measures on Automobiles
Q: First, the US Secretary of Commerce Ross announced that they would present an investigation report sometime in August regarding import restrictive measures on automobiles based on national security reasons.
In addition, some of speculated that the FRR will also focus on automobile trade, and in the next 30 days, perhaps within or by the end of August, Mr. Lighthizer showed his intention to hold the FFR meeting, as you have mentioned. Would you tell us how the Japanese government will respond to the holding of FFR in August, when the US message over the automobile issue is to be released?
A: First, as this is purely a matter of US decision-making, I would like to refrain from making any comments on the timing of release of the investigation results. I do believe however that the results should appropriately reflect what the Japanese government has maintained all along, as we had already clearly presented our position to the US.
As for the FFR, dates and details are not decided yet, so I do not think I can comment on the relationship between the investigation results and the FFR.
Expanding acceptance of foreign workers
Q: I recall that this Tuesday there was a meeting of relevant cabinet ministers regarding the new status of residence for foreigners. There seem to be a considerable demand for lifting the ban on unskilled labor due to shortage of labor in the manufacturing industry, especially in casting, die-casting and metal processing. I also asked you about this issue two weeks ago, but would you again tell us what your thoughts are on setting up a new status of residence for foreigners in the manufacturing industry?
A: I believe that it is important to first listen carefully to industry requests by each field.
Utilizing foreign labor is one means of addressing labor demand, and improving productivity is another. We should make every effort to improve productivity by utilizing IT, IoT, and robots. We should also consider how to include foreign workers in the areas where such technology applications are inappropriate or difficult, or where there is still much shortage of labor even with technology applications. I would like to work toward addressing labor shortages based on such an approach.
Q: I'm sorry to ask you again, but that means we should raise the bar a bit more, and be more careful?
A: I believe that Japan should make utmost efforts to improve productivity and utilize IT, and would not phrase this as whether we should be cautious or not. And, Japan should utilize foreign workers when it is appropriate. This does not imply that we are cautious or passive.
At any rate, I would like to listen carefully to the needs of industry.