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Press Conference by Minister Seko (excerpted version)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purpose only.

10:56 - 11:06 a.m.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Press Conference Room, METI

Question-and-Answer Session

Japan-US FFR

Q: Trade talks between Japan and the US will begin on August 9, US time. Automobile trade seems be one of the focal issues. Could you tell us what kind of positions the Japanese government will take to present at the talks, based on your recent visit to the US?

A: The first meeting of the FFR between Minister Motegi and Trade Representative Lighthizer will be held on August 9, in Washington DC.
Japan is currently working hard for the early entry into force of the TPP 11 and the Japan-EU EPA. Japan also expects to have a constructive discussion with the US on expansion of free trade and strengthening of the multilateral trade system, in addition to bilateral relations, we would also like to see how Japan and the US should cooperate in the development of the Asia-Pacific region.
Apart from this, I visited California, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan from July 30 to August 4. In particular, regarding the three Midwest states, it was the first time for the Minister of Economy to visit there in the long history of METI.
I exchanged opinions with local people working at Japanese affiliated companies, including manufacturing sites and local parts suppliers. I was also interviewed by several local media.
I believe that I was able to convey strong messages that Japan is making a huge contribution to the US economy through investments by Japanese companies, which are fully integrated into US society.

Plutonium Stockpiles

Q: A while ago, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) revised basic principles regarding the reduction of plutonium stockpiles. It points out several measures for Japan to take in order to reduce the size of plutonium holdings from their current level. Would you tell us what your thoughts are on this and how METI will respond?

A: In promoting the nuclear fuel cycle, as stated in the Strategic Energy Plan, Japan has been upholding the principles of "not possessing plutonium without specific purposes", and will continue to make efforts to reduce plutonium stockpiles.
I understand that “The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium” announced by the AEC on July 31 had also been decided according to this basic concept.
METI has been requesting electric power utilities to cooperatively work on pluthermal. I believe that it is basically electric power utilities themselves who should first consider how to specifically work on it, but I would like to conduct appropriate management and utilization of plutonium by further promotion of pluthermal and the government’s involvement based on the framework of the Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Implementation Act.

Q: In the discussion process of the guidelines, the chairman of the AEC suggested one idea that electric power utilities not yet restarting nuclear reactors might be able to hand over their nuclear fuel stocks to others already restarting their nuclear reactors, where fuel can be burned. Would you tell us what your thoughts are on such an option as a means of plutonium stockpile reduction?

A: I also believe that cooperation among electric power utilities is important.

US Sanctions on Iran

Q: Last week, the Japan-US Consultation on the US sanctions against Iran was held in Washington DC. At the press conference yesterday, a senior official remarked that the US government will negotiate a limited exemption of sanctions against Iranian crude oil importer states on a case-by-case basis. Could you tell us if Japan is ready to negotiate with the US on this exemption?

A: With further careful analysis of how the US sanctions will affect the future, I will continue to tenaciously talk with the US in order to avoid any adverse effect on the activities of Japanese companies.

Q: In relation to that question, US sanctions on Iran regarding automobiles and steel is scheduled to resume on August 7. It may be a slight effect compared with crude oil, but would you tell us if there will be any impact on Japan and how Japan will respond?

A: I understand that the US sanctions on Iran regarding automobile, metal and steel materials will resume from August 7, US time. I would also like to carefully analyze the impact on Japanese companies.

Q: Could you tell us the schedule of the next consultations, and your prospect of when Japan will be able to obtain the exemption?
In addition, Japanese oil distributors say that they want the government to show its policy within the month of August regarding Iranian crude oil imports. While consultations with the US will continue, as you mentioned earlier, would you tell us by when and what kind of policies you will take regarding Japan’s imports of Iranian crude oil?

A: Regarding the US sanctions on Iran, the second round of the Japan-US Consultation was held on August 1 and 2 in Washington DC.
In this consultation, we held discussions on issues concerning the US resuming sanctions against Iran, and the Japanese side presented the fundamental stance that Japanese companies’ activities should not be adversely affected by the US sanctions. We will continue to resolutely consult with the US.
As for the current status and prospects of the negotiations concerning Japan’s Iranian crude oil imports, we also made assertions at this consultation that stable energy supply and Japanese companies’ activities should not be adversely affected by the US sanctions.
As it is an ongoing diplomatic exchange, I would like to refrain from explaining further details and future prospects.

Last updated:2018-08-22