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New Year Greetings 2018 Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry


I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year in 2018.

Industries around the world are about to change dramatically. Due to the arrival of AI and IoT technology, new products and services and value added are being created and companies’ sources of earnings are shifting from merely the sale of goods or products to the sale of services. Germany, the United States and China have announced policy measures to break ground in this digital area and companies across the globe are in the fierce grips of this competition.

If Japan is to survive, thrive and lead the world in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, realizing the Connected Industries concept under which various industries and companies are connected via data, is critical. This concept will not only increase productivity by creating new industries but also lead to the resolution of the societal challenges facing Japan, including labor shortages, environmental and energy constraints and the aging of society that in Japan is coupled with a low birth rate. Aiming to achieve this vision of future industries, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry(METI)will implement measures to realize the Connected Industries concept with the following five efforts.

Realizing Connected Industries

First, we will promote the sharing and utilization of data held by companies and other organizations. We will concentrate policy resources on activities in five priority areas, including autonomous driving and mobility services. As a cross-sectoral initiative, we will establish a system that supports the utilization of real data in cooperative areas and a tax program, both of which will fundamentally enhance data use and linkage through IoT and other technologies.

Second, we will promote the training of workers in a diverse range of fields. We will conduct an advanced education pilot project using EdTech, which is a new type of education service that takes advantage of such technologies as AI and big data. In addition, we will strengthen the training of workers that can support the Fourth Industrial Revolution by promoting recurrent education targeting working people through various measures including skills training in the fields of IT and data.

Third, we will develop an environment that will underpin Connected Industries. To promote the actual implementation of innovative technologies and new business models, we will establish a regulatory “sandbox” system, in which pilot projects will be conducted with a limited number of participants for a limited period of time. We will also work to strengthen the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan’s capacity to supply risk capital.

Fourth, we will enhance cybersecurity, as the foundation of data linkage environments. Japan’s Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA) will strengthen its initiatives for training workers with cybersecurity skills. We will also enhance the cybersecurity systems of electric power and other critical infrastructure and implement advanced cybersecurity measures for entire supply chains in important industrial sectors.

Fifth, we will promote diverse and flexible working styles. In cooperation with industry, we will improve the working environment by promoting IT-based telework and engagement in side jobs and multiple jobs, and advance other initiatives. Through the Premium Friday initiative, we will build momentum toward working style and lifestyle reforms.

Concerning the recent cases of falsification of product inspection data in the manufacturing industry, verifying safety is our top priority. We are calling for prompt action by the companies involved in these cases. Enhancing product quality assurance systems is directly connected with business competitiveness. If larger supply chains are affected by this problem, it could affect the entirety of Japanese industry. METI hopes that industry will take concrete actions and is ready to support their efforts in this respect.

Achieving a "Productivity Revolution"

To ensure the growth of the Japanese economy, we have characterized the three years until 2020 as a period of intensive investment for a "productivity revolution" and we will implement the following three measures.

We will strengthen support for companies with a positive stance towards capital investment, wage hikes and training of workers. The corporate tax rate for such companies will be lowered to around 25%, and the rate will be reduced further, to 20%, if investments are focused on IoT. Moreover, to support new capital investment by small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs)and micro-businesses, we will establish a new program to reduce the fixed asset tax rate to zero for three years with the approval of local governments. At the same time, we will provide large-scale financial assistance worth around 150 billion yen for innovative manufacturing processes, including the use of robots, and for introducing IT tools.

We will facilitate smooth business succession within SMEs and micro-businesses. We will provide comprehensive, uninterrupted support for the entire process from support for early, systematic preparation for business succession to support for management innovation after succession through enhancement of promotion of mergers and acquisitions(M&As)and other measures. Characterizing the next 10 years or so as a period of intensive implementation of business succession, we will fundamentally enhance support for business succession by revising the inheritance tax grace period and employment requirements. We will also revitalize regional economies by providing intensive support to companies that lead regional economies through the Regional Future Investment Promotion Act.

We will create a world-class innovation ecosystem. By the end of the current fiscal year, Startup JAPAN(tentative name)will be launched to select and provide intensive support for venture companies that are capable of achieving success on the global stage. Concerning the burden of administrative procedures on venture companies, we will create a "once-only" system, which avoids repeated submission of the same information from companies and ensures digitization of necessary documents.

Trade and external economic relations

Last year, Japan demonstrated its significant presence as a standard-bearer of free trade by concluding the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement(EPA)negotiations and wrapping up a broad agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP)11. This year, too, Japan is aiming for an early signing and effectuation of these trade agreements and strives to expand the free and fair economic area through negotiations over a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP).

At the WTO Ministerial Conference in December last year, Japan took the initiative to hold a ministerial meeting of interested countries on e-commerce, and a joint statement concerning e-commerce was announced by a total of 70 countries, including the United States and the EU. Japan will lead discussions at the WTO using the new format of meetings of interested countries.

Moreover, on the occasion of the WTO Ministerial Conference, a Japan-US-EU Trilateral Meeting of Trade Ministers was held for the first time and the three partners issued a joint statement to the effect that they will collaborate in addressing market-distorting measures taken by third countries. Japan, the United States and the EU will also cooperate in encouraging other countries to make efforts to correct market-distorting measures.

In its relationship with the United States, Japan will continue efforts to promote Japan-U.S. cooperation in enforcement of trade laws against illicit trade practices employed by third countries as well as cooperation in such fields as energy and infrastructure, as was confirmed at the Japan-U.S. summit meeting held in November last year.

Japan will steadily promote economic cooperation with Russia. Under the eight point cooperation plan, 100 private-sector projects have been launched, and concrete actions are being taken concerning approximately 40% of the projects. We will continue to strengthen the cooperative relationship with Russia in the economic field.

At the Japan-China summit meeting in November, it was agreed that promoting Japanese and Chinese business in third countries is beneficial to the development of all the concerned countries and not just Japan and China. In light of the results of the Japan-China Energy Conservation and Environment Forum in December last year, we will support business cooperation between Japanese and Chinese private-sector companies.

With around 10 months to go before the vote to determine the host country for World Expo 2025, candidate countries have launched their campaigns in earnest. Although Japan is facing strong rival countries, we will do our utmost to have the Osaka-Kansai region selected as the location for the event through nationwide cooperation.

Energy policy

It will soon be seven years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Following the earthquake and the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan has formulated the Basic Energy Plan, which set goals for 2030, and has been implementing measures under the plan. In the meantime, the environment surrounding energy policy has been changing drastically as a consequence of innovation, including the fall in crude oil prices due to the shale revolution and a drop in renewable energy prices due to the development of relevant technology.

In Japan as well, innovation is occurring in the energy field. We have witnessed the launch of a series of new initiatives targeting the thorough pursuit of energy conservation, including initiatives promoted jointly by multiple companies and initiatives to promote energy management using IoT, such as developing zero-energy houses and buildings. We will continue to support those initiatives, and at the same time, in order to expand the introduction of renewable energy, we will support research and development activities intended to reduce costs, improve maintenance efficiency and overcome grid constraints and improve institutional systems.

Concerning nuclear power generation, we will restart the nuclear power stations that are recognized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as meeting the new regulatory standards, which are the most rigorous in the world, while aiming to ensure the understanding of local communities. In addition to firmly maintaining the basic policy of promoting the nuclear fuel cycle, we will consistently implement necessary measures following the announcement of the Scientific Map of Geographical Characteristics in July last year as the first step on the long road toward realizing final disposal of high-level radioactive waste.

In accordance with the Paris Agreement, we aim for the long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 under international cooperation while simultaneously achieving economic growth. Making such drastic emissions reductions will be difficult merely through existing measures. Collecting relevant information from around the world, we will examine the latest trends related to energy and the environment and consider how to become a world leader in innovation and in contributions to international efforts.

Reconstruction of Fukushima

Reconstruction of Fukushima is the top priority for METI. With the exception of the "difficult-to-return" zones, the evacuation orders have been lifted almost completely. To facilitate the return of the residents to their homes and the rebuilding of their lives, we will continue to promote the Fukushima Innovation Coast Scheme and support the reconstruction of businesses and livelihoods through the Public-Private Fukushima Soso Reconstruction Joint Team. At the same time, we will make efforts to create new industries, including an experimental pilot project for production and storage of renewable energy-derived hydrogen.

Concerning measures related to the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and contaminated water management, we revised the Mid-and Long-Term Roadmaps in September last year. Our top priority remains that of ensuring safety and emphasizing risk reduction, and at the same time, we will safely and steadily implement necessary measures while further enhancing communication with local communities and the wider society.


2018 is the "Year of the Dog" in the Oriental Zodiac. The Kanji character for "dog" zodiac symbol is deeply connected with the character "shigeru", which means "a rich, abundant and luxurious harvest" and implies hope for the future. As we enter the year of the dog, all of us at METI will do our utmost to ensure the further growth of the Japanese economy in order to infuse the Japanese people's lives with hope. I pray that Japan will be able to ride the turbulent waves in the global economy and make big leaps forward.

I appreciate your continued understanding and support.

January 1, 2018
Hiroshige Seko
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

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