*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Press Conference Room, METI
Soaring Crude Oil Prices
I would like to talk about one point at the start.
Crude oil prices remain high, and concerns about the impact on SMEs and small businesses are becoming evident in the feedback from surveys of SME organizations. Therefore, in order to fully support SMEs and small businesses amid soaring crude oil prices, we will first set up a consultation desk for them. We will also provide funding assistance and ask that due consideration be given to ensuring fair trade. The decision to take these measures was made today.
We will continue to closely monitor the trends in crude oil prices and their impact on all industries, and will make every effort to ensure that they do not adversely affect economic activities, including those of SMEs and small businesses.
That is all from me.
Q: COP26 has now begun, and coal-fired power generation and automobiles are among the topics that are going to be discussed. What kinds of discussions and results are you expecting as the Minister?
A: I believe that COP26 is an extremely important opportunity for countries to make progress through cooperative action on the urgent global issue that is climate change.
The situation surrounding energy is different from one country to another. Surrounded by sea and with scarce resources, Japan does not have a single perfect energy source that meets S+3E. This makes it important to use diverse sources of energy in a balanced manner. Based on that, I want to make efforts to progressively develop decarbonization technologies such as hydrogen, ammonia, and CCUS, and implement them throughout society.
Also, with regard to automobiles, I want to promote innovation and pursue a variety of options without being limited to specific technologies, and through this, take comprehensive measures to achieve the goal of making 100% of new passenger vehicles for sale to be electrified by 2035.
Japan is aiming to achieve ambitious goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 46% reduction by FY2030. I hope that contributing solidly to the discussions at COP26 while continuing dialogues with the countries concerned leads to effective climate change measures worldwide.
Additional Tariffs on Steel
Q: The US and EU reached an agreement in October on partial exemption from steel tariffs. How does Japan intend to respond to this?
A: I understand that on October 30th, the US and EU agreed to set certain quotas of tariff-free imports from the EU with regard to the additional tariffs imposed on the EU regarding steel and aluminum products under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. I will refrain from commenting on agreements between other countries, but our government has repeatedly called for the complete abolition of additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Japan in a manner consistent with the WTO agreements. I therefore intend to take every opportunity to strongly urge the US to do so.
Q: There are suggestions about making it a central agenda item for USTR Tai's planned visit to Japan on the 15th. What are your views on that?
A: We are currently coordinating matters regarding the visit to Japan by USTR Tai and what she and I should talk about while she is here. If we do meet, then we will certainly discuss the latest issues. However, at this point in time, the discussion agenda has yet to be determined.
Soaring Crude Oil Prices
Q: You spoke at the beginning about crude oil prices remaining high. What can the government do if OPEC Plus does not increase production? Are you considering measures such as releasing oil stockpiles?
A: There is growing concern about the rise in crude oil prices having a negative impact on the world economy, including Japan. With this in mind, first, I hope that the OPEC Plus Ministerial Meeting on November 4 will include discussions that will contribute to stabilizing the international crude oil market. Taking into account the trends in the international community, I want to continue to use various channels, working with the IEA and the US, to urge major oil producing countries to understand the standpoint of consuming countries.
Japan's Oil Stockpiling Act rules that the stockpiles are to be released only in case of actual or potential supply disruption, so I basically do not envisage a situation where stockpiles are released simply on grounds that the prices are soaring.
METI will continue to work with the relevant ministries and agencies, monitor crude oil and oil product prices, and take action including urging major oil producing countries to increase production and, if oil prices continue to soar, implementing flexible, thoroughgoing measures so that economic activities are not hampered.
Q: My question is about the COP. You said earlier that the circumstances and energy situation are different from one country to another. Achieving realistic transitions to decarbonization has become an important challenge in Southeast Asia in particular, so I would like you to give us any personal thoughts you may have about that. I would also like to ask you what kinds of assertions you want to make as a representative of Japan.
A: As I said earlier, the situation surrounding energy is different from one country to another, and in particular, being surrounded by sea, unlike European countries, Japan is not in a situation where it can flexibly share renewable energy with its neighbors. First, I want to make that difference from the European situation very clear.
I think that we need to use diverse sources of energy in a balanced manner. Consequently, Japan must progressively develop decarbonization technologies such as hydrogen, ammonia, and CCUS and implement them throughout society, and through these technologies, take the lead in Southeast Asia, which was the focus of your question.
I do not mean to say that Japan's emissions are small, but while it will strive to reduce its own coal-fired power generation, Asia is emitting far more CO2. I therefore think we need to take the lead so that emissions can be reduced in Southeast Asia in the same way as in Japan through our decarbonization technologies. To that end, I hope to achieve cooperative relations with the whole international community while working on these matters.