*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, November 12, 2021
Press Conference Room, METI
Thoughts on the Reappointment
I would like to say one thing at the start.
Prime Minister Kishida has appointed me Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Minister in Charge of Industrial Competitiveness, Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia, Minister in Charge of the Response to the Economic Impact Caused by the Nuclear Accident, and Minister of State for the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation.
The instructions I have been given by the Prime Minister include the following: (1) working toward recovery in Fukushima, and taking action on the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the management of contaminated water and treated water; (2) directing all government policies, including actively using the government's finances, to address the serious economic situation caused by COVID-19; (3) establishing a new form of capitalism; (4) expanding the free and fair economic zone; (5) further strengthening the rule-based multilateral trading system; (6) ensuring a stable energy supply; (7) achieving carbon neutrality by 2050; and (8) providing support for investment in clean energy; and (9) taking necessary, flexible measures to address soaring crude oil prices.
On the basis of the instructions the Prime Minister has given me, I will fulfill my responsibilities as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to the utmost.
That is all from me.
Q: I have two questions about COP26.
First, as the meeting approaches its end, what kind of agreements and outcomes does Japan expect?
Second, a voluntary alliance of like-minded countries has been formed regarding automobiles, energy, and other goals. However, the United States and China, as well as Japan, did not join it. So, there is a view that the alliance lacks extensiveness and a discrepancy is arising between the group with ambitious targets and other nations. What are your opinions on it?
A: First of all, I believe that COP26 is an important opportunity for countries to make progress through cooperative action on the urgent global issue that is climate change. Japan has ambitious goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 46% reduction by FY2030.
On the other hand, in order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, it is necessary to promote decarbonization not only in Japan but also throughout the world. For this reason, I understand that many participating countries highly appreciated and welcomed Japan's new commitment of providing international assistance of 10 billion dollars over five years, and its role in building a decarbonized society in Asia and other regions, and we were able to show our presence to the world.
Japan hopes that making strong contributions to the discussions at COP26 while continuing to dialog with the countries concerned will also lead to the outcomes of the conference producing effective climate change measures worldwide.
You asked about cars. I am aware that at COP26, various voluntary alliances have been formed in the automobile and energy sectors under the leadership of presidency-holder the UK and others. I will refrain from commenting on each initiative, but the situation surrounding energy is different from country to country, and I think respective countries are taking actions based on their own circumstances. There should be various ways to achieve a decarbonized society, and I believe that to effectively address climate change worldwide, it is important to implement comprehensive decarbonization measures based on the circumstances of each country, rather than limiting them to specific methods.
In addition to the ambitious goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 46% reduction by FY2030, Japan intends to contribute to effective global climate actions through the new commitment to providing 10 billion dollars in international assistance over five years and establishing a decarbonized society in and around Asia. The UK has proposed a different approach, but we are aiming for the same goal, only taking different paths, and I do not think that will create a divide between us.
Japan has to properly explain its situation to the world because there are other island countries in similar situations, like Australia. Japan has also led the world with hybrid technology. We are utilizing all available policy tools and working toward the goal. In that sense, I believe we are heading in the same direction.
Soaring Crude Oil Prices
Q: This morning, a ministerial meeting was held to discuss measures to deal with the surging crude oil prices. Could you tell us why it was held again? If any concrete additional measures were decided in the meeting to cope with the ever-rising petrol prices, please let us know.
A: The second ministerial meeting was held because oil product prices continue to rise nationwide, and there are concerns about their impact on economic activity and people's everyday lives.
The ministers concerned mentioned that they would work hard on actions including steadily implementing the fuel cost compensation scheme in agriculture and fisheries, thoroughly applying the fuel surcharges in trucking and transportation industries, and appealing to oil producing countries. The Chief Cabinet Secretary instructed us to include measures against soaring crude oil prices in the new economic measures, so that economic activity and the people's daily lives are not hampered.
METI has set up about 1,000 consultation desks and established financing measures. In addition, it is currently speeding up discussions to include as many measures as possible in the new economic measures to address rising crude oil prices.
We will continue to work with relevant ministries and agencies while monitoring the trends in crude oil prices and their impact on individual industries and people's daily lives, in order to flexibly respond to the situation so that the higher fuel costs do not burden the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I am afraid that if we were to use a supplementary budget, we would not be able to take actions by the New Year's. Therefore, we are making a proposal with a view toward making use of the reserve funds.
Q: I have a question regarding the use of the reserve funds you have just mentioned. As the average price of regular gasoline has hit 169 yen, the issue has started to affect our everyday lives. Could you tell us what specifically the reserve funds will be used for, if it has been decided?
A: As I said earlier, gasoline prices continue to rise, and we are very concerned about it.
I would like to refrain from making any specific comments for today on what kind of money will be put where, because we have yet to finalize the details. But if we could have a mechanism that would curb the retail price, we would be able to give the people a sense of security by the end of the year. That is what we are thinking of.
Additional Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum
Q: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Raimondo is visiting Japan on the 15th next week. If you are able to have a meeting with her, what kind of outcomes would you expect regarding the additional tariffs on steel and aluminum and other issues?
Also, what impact do you think the additional tariffs have made on the Japanese economy and manufacturers?
A: The United States has been imposing additional tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum products since March 2018 based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. In this situation, exports of steel products to the United States decreased from 1.66 billion dollars in 2017 to 980 million dollars in 2020, and aluminum products from 250 million in 2017 to 130 million in 2020.
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. Should I have a chance to meet Secretary of Commerce Raimondo while she is in Japan, I would of course appeal to her to fully abolish the additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.