*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI
Additional Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Products
Good morning. I would like to bring up three points to start with.
First, the US government announced today that it will partially abolish tariffs from Section 232 of its Trade Expansion Act—which concerns steel products imported from Japan—and completely abolish the same tariffs for derivative products.
As I said in my statement this morning, Japan has been calling for complete elimination of these steel and aluminum tariffs in a manner consistent with WTO rules. I believe that the US response is a step towards such a solution, but we will continue to strongly urge them to completely eliminate these tariffs.
A joint statement was also issued that included the start of discussions on a global arrangement on steel and aluminum. We hope to work together with the US and other like-minded countries and regions including the EU to address market distorting measures and promote decarbonization, thereby leading the world toward sustainable development in two key industries: steel and aluminum.
The staff in charge will explain the details later.
Soaring Crude Oil Prices
Secondly, I received instructions from the prime minister on measures against soaring crude oil prices at today's ministerial discussion.
More specifically, given the rise in crude oil prices due to intensifying international situations—such as in Ukraine—and to make flexible, anticipatory efforts to minimize the impacts on citizens' lives and economic activities, Prime Minister Kishida instructed relevant ministers to first cooperate and take action under the Chief Cabinet Secretary on two points: examining the effectiveness of the government's current response measures against soaring crude oil prices, and considering further measures to address both domestic and international situations.
METI will examine the effects of the operation to respond to sudden fluctuations in oil product prices based on Prime Minister Kishida's instructions, and we will also continuously examine what measures are effective from the viewpoint of minimizing impacts on citizens' lives and economic activities. At the same time, we will assess how long these soaring crude oil prices will persist.
As for my third point, we are strengthening our efforts toward increasing the pace of vaccinations.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Kishida instructed the relevant ministers—including myself—to strengthen said efforts and aim to increase the pace to 1 million vaccinations per day as soon as possible, within February. I have been instructed to actively encourage companies in industries under our jurisdiction to carry out workplace vaccinations.
Per these instructions, METI as a whole will encourage all companies within the industries under its jurisdiction to actively carry out vaccinations in their workplaces. These efforts will include inaugurating a specialized team to focus on said encouragement.
Getting the third dose of the vaccine is vital as a response to the highly infectious Omicron strain to prevent both the onset of symptoms and serious cases. I would like to ask those companies concerned for their cooperation.
That is all.
Additional Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Products / Soaring Crude Oil Prices
Q: I have two questions.
The first is about the tariffs on steel and aluminum. You expressed your intention to continue working toward completely eliminating those tariffs, but how will you actually work towards that goal moving forward?
The second is about the gasoline subsidy, which the prime minister gave instructions on earlier. Can I understand that measures will be considered such as raising the upper limit on subsidies and reducing taxes on gasoline? Please let us know your thoughts on this subject.
A: As I said before, we have been calling for a complete solution in a manner consistent with WTO rules. However, some steps have not been taken this time: for example, the tax exemption quota for aluminum is not established.
However, looking at the situation related to Section 232, Japan exported less than 20,000 tons of aluminum to the US in 2020, compared to 720,000 tons of steel. The product-specific exclusion system will be continued, making it possible for Japanese companies to pursue tax-free export business opportunities by utilizing this system.
In any case, this measure is the first step toward eliminating the tariffs, and I intend to continue strongly urging the US to completely abolish them in a manner consistent with WTO rules.
On the topic of gasoline: the subsidy provisions just started on January 27, and I would like to firmly implement them before anything else. At the moment, we are not considering raising the upper limit of 5 yen.
METI will examine the effects of the operation to respond to sudden fluctuations in oil product prices based on Prime Minister Kishida's instructions—which I mentioned at the start. Additionally, we will continuously examine what measures are effective from the viewpoint of minimizing impacts on citizens' lives and economic activities, while also assessing how long these soaring crude oil prices will drag on.
The Situation in Ukraine
Q: The situation in Ukraine is intensifying. This is a question related to the whole government rather than METI alone, but is the government considering any sanctions in the event that Russia actually invades?
A: Regarding the situation in Ukraine, we intend to take appropriate action while cooperating with related countries, which includes the US and the rest of the G7. However, due to the nature of this matter, I should not disclose the content of our current consideration or coordination. I can say, though, that we are thoroughly and proactively considering a wide range of options in order to firmly protect our citizens' lives under any circumstances.