*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purpose only.
9:45 - 9:53 a.m.
Tuesday, June 26
Press Conference Room, METI
Visit to the Republic of Sakha, Russia
Minister Seko: Good morning. First, let me start with one topic. From June 22nd to 24th, I visited the Republic of Sakha, Russia. I had a meeting with Mr. Nikolaev Ajsen Sergeevich, Acting Head of the Republic of Sakha, and discussed specifically how to proceed with the Eight-point Cooperation Plan in the Republic of Sakha.
I also visited sites related to the cooperation plan, such as greenhouse cultivation facilities for vegetables and small-size smokeless waste incinerators, where I was able to observe firsthand examples of the plan’s progress.
Based on this visit, I would like to further enhance cooperation in the economic arena focusing on the Far East, where both state leaders place an emphasis on growth.
RCEP Ministerial Meeting
Q: The RCEP ministerial meeting will be held on the 1st of July. In order to achieve an early conclusion, could you tell us what specifically you think will be the main points of discussion with member states and/or what you are going to suggest?
Also, could you tell us your thoughts on the roadmap of the negotiations?
A: The meeting on the 1st of July will be the first RCEP ministerial meeting to be hosted by a non-ASEAN country.
At this meeting, I and Minister Chan Chun Sing of Singapore will serve as co-chairs. We would like to narrow down the issues needed to be decided politically in all fields subject to negotiation, so that we can pave the way for conclusion of the agreement, one in which the balance between market access and rules are properly secured.
The negotiators’ meeting has been currently held since yesterday in order to prepare for the ministerial meeting. I hope that we will be able to achieve meaningful progress in this ministerial meeting.
As protectionism has been emerging, Japan firmly supports ASEAN who seeks conclusion of the negotiation within this year, provided that the contents of the agreement meet a certain level of quality. We will continue to enthusiastically proceed with the negotiations, in striving to achieve early conclusion of an agreement which is comprehensive, well-balanced, and of high-quality.
US Import Restrictive Measures
Q: US motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson announced that it will transfer part of its domestic production overseas. It can be said that it is a bit of an ironic result in the light of purpose of the President Trump’s policy measures. What are your thoughts on Harley’s decision?
A: As it is a US company’s response, I would like to refrain from making any comments.
Q: Is seems that retaliatory measures might have been successful in some way. Any comments on this?
A: Aside from retaliations and so on, I basically believe that all trade measures should be consistent with the WTO agreement, for the world economy is inextricably linked with domestic economies in all senses, which may explain why this result occurred, rather than simply in terms of retaliatory measures.
US-China Trade Relations
Q: The so-called “trade war” between the US and China is intensifying. Could you tell us your analysis of why the US is taking such a hardline attitude?
A: It is difficult to analyze, but I believe that the US motive is that they are very dissatisfied with market-distorting measures.
Market-distorting measures are never acceptable for Japan either. Therefore we will jointly tackle, including with the EU, to form trilateral efforts, with these issues in mind. However, I would like to firmly communicate with the US that the joint actions should be WTO-consistent.
US investment and trade control measures over Chinese companies
Q: As import restrictive measures are escalating in both the US and other countries, the US seems to be considering restrictions on investment, especially targeting China. What are your thoughts on their measures by which frameworks and the scope of sanctions are increasingly widened?
A: I am aware that the US will announce the measures by June 30 to strengthen investment and export control as part of the measures against China, but any concrete announcement has not been done yet. I, or the Japanese government, would like to refrain from making any predictive comments at this time.
US Sanctions against Iran
Q: It is reported that the US government is calling on the Japanese government to suspend imports of crude oil from Iran in relation to the US sanctions against Iran. Could you tell us about Japan’s response and its impact on Japan’s crude oil procurement?
A: US government official recently visited Japan and explained the details of sanctions on Iran and their new strategy toward Iran. Both Japanese and US governments and relevant industry representatives exchanged views on the impact of sanctions.
I would like to refrain from referring to the details due to ongoing negotiations as well as for diplomatic reasons. At any rate, I would like to continue discussions with relevant countries including the US, and undertake a cautious analysis of the impact on Japanese companies in order to insulate our energy supply from adverse effects.
US Commerce and Trade Policies
Q: You have said that “the world economy is inextricably linked with domestic economies”. I think that the current situation, such as Japan’s contribution to American employment by establishing local subsidiaries in the US, or the Harley case as previously mentioned, is quite predictable.
What do you think the US lacks in recognition of the current situation regarding world trade? Does it lack trade statistics or any other issues? Please let us know your thoughts, including your advice for the US.
A: The Trump Administration is deeply dissatisfied, and is operating with a sense of crisis regarding the US huge trade deficit. They are working on various measures to solve it, but world trade relations are inextricably linked together. I believe that any trade measures should be conducted in a WTO-consistent manner, which is the most fundamental basis for such trade policy. We would like to continue to firmly communicate this fact with the Trump Administration.
Q: Last weekend, OPEC decided to increase production in cooperation with non-member countries. What are your thoughts on the impact on the Japanese economy and energy?
A: I understand that the OPEC Conference on June 22nd and the following ministerial meeting together with non-member states on the 23rd resulted in the decision to mitigate the compliance rate, that is, allow a certain increase in production, while maintaining the reducing production policy agreed to in 2016.
According to some views, as the increase in production volume based on this decision was lower than the market forecast, the price of crude oil in the wake of the announcement rose by about $3 in the WTI, and the price was stable thereafter.
At any rate, I will continue to closely monitor the situation of major oil producing countries, including the Middle East situation, as well as the trends in the crude oil markets, in order to assess the impact on the Japanese economy.