*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purpose only.
10:00 - 10:15 a.m.
Tuesday, July 3
Press Conference Room, METI
Opening RemarksMinister Seko: Good morning. First, let me start with two topics:
Strategic Energy Plan
The first topic is the new “Strategic Energy Plan”.
Last August, we started discussions with experts including ones from around the world and presented a draft plan at the relevant subcommittee on the 16th May. Based on the following coordination with relevant ministries and public comments, the Cabinet decision on this plan has been made today.
The contents of the plan are as follows.
First, we will further strengthen our efforts to ensure the realization of the energy mix toward 2030. Specifically, based on the “3Es + S” principle, in order to make renewable energy one of the main energy supply sources for the nation, we will make efforts to reduce costs, overcome power system interconnection constraints, and ensure adjustability to coordinate electricity supply to the demand. As for nuclear energy, under the policy to minimize Japan’s dependence, we will steadily proceed with necessary measures including the restart of nuclear power plants with the highest priority on safety, treatment of spent fuel, etc. As for fossil fuel, we will promote independent development of resources and effective use of high-efficiency thermal power plants, and strengthen responses to disaster risks.
In addition, based on the global momentum for decarbonization including the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, we will make efforts to tackle various challenges to energy system transformation and decarbonization toward 2050, in pursuit of all possible options and mobilizing collective efforts of the public and private sectors.
We will continue to enthusiastically work on energy policies based on this new Strategic Energy Plan.
Renovation of the INCJ
Second, the Act of Partial Revision of the Industrial Competitiveness Enhancement Act, which passed in May during the ordinary Diet session, will adopt a new framework of governance for the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) in order to strengthen its investment capabilities.
The enforcement of the Act is scheduled for this autumn, but we have advanced the announcement of members who will serve as the core of the new management team, aiming for an early-as-possible commencement of the new scheme.
In particular, we have decided to designate: Mr. Masahiro Sakane, Councilor of Komatsu Ltd., as Chairman of the Board; Mr. Masaaki Tanaka, currently Senior Global Advisor of PwC International, as President; Mr. Yasunori Kaneko, Managing Director at Skyline Ventures Partners, L.P., as Executive Vice President; and Mr. Hideaki Tsukuda, the Tokyo Office Partner of Egon Zehnder, as Executive Director.
Officially, they will take office after consideration and the decision at the extraordinary shareholders meeting. Under the new governance framework, they will aim to make more flexible investments both domestically and internationally, in order to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities in maximizing returns for the Japanese people while achieving the policy to promote open innovation.
I am confident that the four people I have just mentioned will contribute to creating the next generation industry by employing global standards in accordance with the expertise of financial and investment specialists.
METI officials will later explain the details of each designee's profile and related selection criteria as it relates to their roles at the new INCJ.
New Strategic Energy Plan: Plutonium Possession
Q: As for the new Strategic Energy Plan, it seems that the expression of the policy regarding plutonium possession has been slightly more emphasized or become clearer than before. Could you tell us the intent behind this?
A: I recognize that efforts to reduce the amount of plutonium are necessary in order to steadily promote the nuclear fuel cycle, while contributing to nuclear non-proliferation and gaining public understanding based on the basic premise of peaceful use. The government has already been making efforts to promote plutonium utilization to reduce stockpiles, such as requesting nuclear power plant operators to promote plu-thermal program.
Based on this recognition, we intended to clarify the purpose of the reduction of plutonium possession in this Strategic Energy Plan.
Specifically, by further promotion of the plu-thermal program and the government’s involvement based on the framework of the "Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Implementation Act", we would like to implement proper management and utilization of plutonium including reduction of stockpiles
US-China Trade Conflicts
Q: The US announced that it would impose tariffs of 34 billion dollars on China on the 6th of July for its infringement of intellectual properties, and China also announced its proportional response. As such, amid growing concern over the situation further escalating, could you tell us about the impact of this on the world economy and the Japanese economy? Also, could you tell us how the Japanese government intends to respond, in order to ask them for self-restraint?
A: As the US and China are the world's first and second largest nations in terms of GDP, it is extremely important for the entire world that they build a good relationship that leads to stable growth and development of the global economy.
In addition, Japan believes that any trade measures should be consistent with the WTO, and retaliating with unilateral, non-WTO compliant measures would not benefit any country.
We will assess the impact on the Japanese economy in detail, including the impact on Japanese companies, while closely watching the trends of future consultations between the US and China and the status of the items subject to the trade measures.
US Import Restrictive Measures
Q: Last week, the Japanese government submitted comments to the US government over their consideration to impose additional tariffs on automobile imports based on their national security reasoning. Could you tell us what the intention of the comments is?
A: As the US government solicited public comments for the investigation under Section 232 over the automobile imports, we submitted comments on Japan's position including assessments of: Japan’s significant contribution to the US economy through Japanese subsidiaries of automobile and auto parts manufacturers in the US; possible adverse effects not only on the US economy but also on the global economy in case the US trade restrictive measures are invoked; and our strong belief that any trade measures should be consistent with the WTO Agreement.
We expect that the US Department of Commerce will be fully aware of these facts in their future investigation, and we will continue to firmly communicate our position with the US at various future opportunities.
Renovation of the INCJ
Q: I would like to ask you about the assessment process regarding the new management organization of the renewed INCJ, or JIC.
As for the organization’s efforts for supporting startups, they can be positively assessed to certain extent, on the other hand, some point out that it might be used to rescue companies in the midst of restructuring or crisis in management. What are your thoughts on this?
A: The INCJ is not used for relief purposes. Rather, the INCJ has been investing on the premise of open innovation. I think that such criticism might stem from its functional defects as an investment institution, due to the ambiguous characteristics of the role of the government and of investment professionals in the organization. That is why we revised the relevant Act and the government firmly indicated the basic policies. As long as its investments are conducted in accordance with the basic policies, we will leave its operation to the investment and operation professionals. That was a major purpose of the revision on the Act. With the revision of the Act and the new management team announced today, INCJ has taken a first step forward in the improvement of the system. That is why we have chosen these particular investment professionals to lead the organization and to rely on in this situation.