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- Press Conference by Minister Hagiuda (Excerpt)
Press Conference by Minister Hagiuda (Excerpt)
*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Press Conference Room, METI
WTO Ministerial Meeting
I would like to say one thing at the start.
I regret that the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, which was due to start on November 30, has been postponed due to the effect of another outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. I hope it can be held in the near future.
It is essential to maintain and strengthen the multilateral system with the WTO at its center to promote the growth of the world economy, prevent members from taking protectionist measures and properly address challenges and changes in society and economy such as the COVID-19 crisis, digitalization and climate change.
Japan, in collaboration with the WTO's Director General and other like-minded members, leads WTO reform, which includes the enhancement of the negotiation and dispute settlement functions of the WTO. Japan will also make efforts to strengthen the WTO’s capabilities to address various challenges.
The MC12 was postponed, but I intend to keep the dialogues moving forward via online conferences regarding the themes that like-minded countries are discussing. In particular, I would like an agreement to be reached as soon as possible with regard to services domestic regulation.
That is all.
Q: The thermal power company JERA announced last week that they would not renew its major LNG supply contract with Qatar. What is the government's position on this? Also, how do you think this will affect relations with Qatar?
A: Yes. I am aware of the decision made by JERA that you are referring to, but would like to refrain from commenting on it, since it is a negotiation between private companies.
On the other hand, Qatar is one of the world's largest LNG suppliers and has long been one of Japan's most important energy and security partners. I understand that LNG will continue to be imported from the country.
We will continue to strengthen our cooperation with Qatar toward developing the LNG market, and also promote collaboration regarding new technologies in the decarbonization fields such as hydrogen and ammonia, with a view toward a carbon neutral society. To that end, we will continue to make use of forums like the LNG Producer-Consumer Conference, in which Qatar participates every year.
In any case, I am grateful for all the consideration the government of Qatar has extended to Japan in recent years, and I assume our amicable relationship with the country will not change. That said, this is a private-sector business matter, so there are limits to how far governments can intervene. I would therefore like to explore next steps while firmly maintaining our relationship of trust with the government of Qatar.
Rising Crude Oil Prices
Q: I understand crude oil futures prices are falling due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Will this affect the decision to sell oil stockpiles at all?
A: I am aware that oil prices are currently falling due to concerns about the new Omicron variant spreading, and also that the OPEC+ ministers are going to hold a meeting on December 2.
Based on this, we intend to continue preparing to sell oil stockpiles while also paying close attention to the developments in the international energy market. We are also moving forward with preparations to ensure that we will be able to quickly implement mitigation measures to respond to any sudden fluctuations in fuel oil prices. These are emergency evacuation measures that will be implemented for a limited period of time if the conditions are considered to be right.
Business and Human Rights
Q: The results of the Survey on Japanese Companies' Initiatives on Human Rights in Their Supply Chains have just been released, and show that some companies have yet to take any steps at all. Can you share your thoughts on this issue, and also tell us what kinds of measures METI is considering?
A: The Japanese government formulated a National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights in October last year, which states that companies are expected to implement human rights due diligence. As part of the follow-up for the action plan, the government conducted the first-ever survey to ascertain the actual situation regarding Japanese companies. Respecting human rights is a social responsibility all companies will be required to fulfill.
The survey found that companies with high sales volumes and a large proportion of overseas sales were more likely to be making efforts to address human rights. Overall, however, it was revealed that there was room for improvement among Japanese companies in light of the fact that the rate of implementation of human rights due diligence is only around 50%.
At the same time, the survey results have also revealed that the companies progressing further with human rights initiatives tend to call for harmonization of international systems as well as support in relation to the systems in other countries.
These survey results are extremely valuable for the government’s consideration on future policy responses. I would like to thoroughly examine what kinds of policy measures will be necessary, including how to encourage and enlighten companies that are not addressing human rights initiatives, and how we should cooperate internationally to increase the predictability of each country's measures. As I do so, I will constantly discuss matters with the relevant ministries and agencies.