*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
In front of the Cabinet Room, 2nd floor,
National Diet Building
I would like to mention one thing.
Japan will issue a WTO joint statement initiative on e-commerce in Geneva tonight, Japan Time, together with other co-conveners of the initiative, namely Australia and Singapore.
Digitalization has made the world even more connected, and the WTO has many member states, so providing it with rules on digital trade that embody "data free flow with trust" (DFFT) will make business more predictable and stable. This will in turn encourage further digital trade.
As a co-convener, we will work to add further impetus to the negotiations with the aim of achieving early results.
That is all.
Business and Human Rights
Q: At the Summit for Democracy held last week, the United States issued a joint statement on export control aimed at preventing human rights violations. Please tell us first why Japan did not join it.
A: Although Japan did not join the joint statement you mentioned, we support the motive behind the United States' idea of closely cooperating with European, American, and other like-minded nations that share basic values to help prevent serious human rights violations, and hope to actively discuss with our partners including the U.S.
When doing so, I believe we will have to discuss and examine whether that export control framework will be useful to our country—a holder of various advanced technologies—as a tool against human rights violations. We should discuss and consider this while focusing on the risk of misuse of technology to abuse human rights and referring to the EU's approach which introduced export control on specific technologies, regardless of export destinations.
For this reason, we decided not to join the joint statement, thinking that we should discuss with more like-minded countries rather than simply following the U.S. and others and talking with a limited number of partners.
We agreed in the joint statement adopted at the G7 Trade Ministers' Meeting in October that trade policies can be an important tool to help eliminate forced labor in supply chains. It is important that we properly engage in discussions with more of our allies on topics including the possibility of utilizing export controls to prevent human rights violations. As METI Minister, I will continue to demonstrate leadership in these discussions.
As this was the first summit for democracy, invited countries seemed somewhat imbalanced. There were only a few countries from EU and Asia in attendance that share values or have a trade relationship with Japan. So, we thought it might be better to take an approach of further discussion. We are in no way against the summit's objective. I hope you will understand.
Clean Energy Strategy
Q: I have another question for you. It has been announced that discussions toward a clean energy strategy will start on the 16th this week. What kind of discussions do you expect?
A: We believe that we must secure a stable, inexpensive energy supply and achieve further economic growth even while aiming for a decarbonized society in the future. In the joint meeting, participants will discuss energy transition measures in various fields on the demand side, such as those regarding industry, as well as the supply side, in order to achieve the high goals set out in the Green Growth Strategy and Strategic Energy Plan.
I expect them to provide new developments in important conversion technologies—such as hydrogen, ammonia, nuclear power, and storage batteries—for each field, a concrete market scale outlook for the future, and so on, and come up with a strategy that will encourage corporate investment and create a positive cycle of economic growth and environmental protection.
Q: South Korea has announced that it will start domestic procedures to join the TPP. What are your thoughts on it?
A: I understand that South Korea has not applied to join at the moment. As a government representative, I would like to refrain from making any comments based on assumptions.
Generally speaking, the CPTPP is a high-level agreement in terms of both market access and rules, and we need to see if an economy is truly ready to meet its high standards when it shows interest in becoming a new member.
We are also thinking that we should respond while taking into account the strategic perspective and the understanding of the people.
Rising Crude Oil Prices
Q: Regarding the release of oil stockpiles, the United States announced its intention to release on the 16th. What does Japan intend to do?
A: I am aware of the United States' announcement about releasing on the 17th. As for the timing of selling by tender to replace oil grades, we will continue to make preparations while closely monitoring developments in the international energy market. We are not thinking we must sell by the end of the year or at the beginning of the new year. We want to sell at the best time while closely watching the market. Having said that, we cannot take a long time to decide. Therefore, we would like to make preparations while monitoring the trends over the year-end and New Year.