*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
On Being Appointed
I am Nishimura Yasutoshi, the newly appointed Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry for the second Kishida Cabinet.
In addition to becoming the METI Minister, I have also been appointed Minister in Charge of the Response to the Economic Impact Caused by the Nuclear Accident, Minister in Charge of Promoting the Implementation of GX, Minister in Charge of Industrial Competitiveness, Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia, and Minister of State for the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation.
As you may know, I joined METI 37 years ago in 1985. I then retired and left my post 23 years ago in 1999. When I joined the Ministry in 1985, I made the commitment to work for Japan's economy and future. When I first aspired to enter politics after working at METI for about fifteen years, I had a desire to work for Japan's future from a broader perspective. With that commitment and desire in mind, I want to overcome the major issues and challenges Japan is facing now, and do my utmost to make Japan grow.
While we are still mourning the death of former prime minister Abe, I recall that Mr. Kishi Nobusuke, the grandfather of Mr. Abe, joined the Ministry of Commerce and Industry then later became its Minister, and my own father-in-law supported him unceasingly in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Thinking about that connection, I feel as though Prime Minister Abe led me to my appointment today. I am determined to continue his legacy, and do my utmost to support Japan's prosperity.
The Prime Minister has asked me to bring all my experience and energy to tackle the various mounting problems we face. I will answer his call by approaching my role with a fresh resolve, and I will do my best to accomplish my missions.
He has spoken to me about various challenges and given me documents detailing them.
His instructions to me included the following: spare no effort to promote the reconstruction of Fukushima, the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and action on the contaminated and treated water—including thoroughly preparing preventive measures against any reputational damage ahead of releasing ALPS-treated water into the ocean; take every measure to address the current serious economic situation caused by COVID-19 and the surging crude oil and commodity prices; implement a new form of capitalism in order to create a truly sustainable and inclusive economy and society that will achieve strong growth by turning social issues into engines for growth through partnership between the public and private sectors; accelerate investment in human resources and establish a startup ecosystem; promote the digitalization of companies and industry and the diversification and strengthening of supply chains; expand the free and fair economic zone; further strengthen the rule-based multilateral trading system; prepare for Expo 2025, Osaka, Kansai, Japan; support Japanese companies that have taken part in the plans for Russo-Japanese economic cooperation in light of the situation in Ukraine; give financial and other support to SMEs and small enterprises as they face the tough economic conditions; promote fair trade; support companies seeking to improve their productivity and restructure their businesses toward post-COVID growth; flesh out the measures toward implementing GX, secure a stable and inexpensive supply of energy that is a major prerequisite for GX; and finally, address the tight winter electricity supply and demand balance with deliberations on issues such as utilizing nuclear power.
These are the main instructions the Prime Minister gave me, and I intend to take thorough account of them and fulfill my duties as METI Minister accordingly.
Prime Minister Kishida has also instructed me to inspect and thoroughly review matters regarding any connections with the former Unification Church as part of my responsibilities as a politician, in order to dispel the Japanese people's suspicions.
I have personally checked my office, and as far as I am aware, it is in no way connected with said organization.
That is all I have to say at the moment.
Sakhalin-1 and -2
Q: First of all, congratulations on your appointment as Minister.
I would like to ask two questions about energy.
Firstly, amid concerns about a tight electricity supply and demand balance expected for this winter, the situation regarding the supply of oil and natural gas by Russia is becoming increasingly opaque. I think that the situation surrounding Sakhalin-1 and -2—which Japanese companies have interests in—is an urgent issue. Please tell us your thoughts on how to address it.
A: As you said, Sakhalin-1 is a valuable supplier of crude oil outside the Middle East for Japan, which relies on the latter region for about 90% of the said resource.
Sakhalin-2 is important from the viewpoint of a stable supply to Japan, most notably because it provides about 9% of our LNG—which is equivalent to about 3% of the electricity we generate. Therefore, our policy of maintaining our interests will remain unchanged.
I am aware that with regard to Sakhalin-1, it will not be possible to trade shares and other interests until the end of the year.
Also, regarding Sakhalin-2, I understand that Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corporation have been given a month to decide whether to agree to join the new Russian corporation. I understand they must decide by September 4.
It will be necessary to review the decisions made by the Russian government and examine specific measures going forward. In any event, I want the government and the private sector to work together to ensure a stable supply of LNG.
Policy on Nuclear Power Plants
Q: You mentioned just now that the Prime Minister has instructed you to proceed with deliberations on issues such as utilizing nuclear energy. In this connection, the business community is voicing their opinion that activating the nuclear power plants should be expedited. Please tell us your thoughts on the nuclear energy policy, including building new nuclear power plants and replacing existing ones.
A: As you know, nuclear power is a practical option as a base load power source in achieving decarbonization. From the viewpoint of securing a stable supply of electricity, we will work to ensure the trust of the people, and use it sustainably to the extent necessary, always placing the highest priority on ensuring safety.
Regarding reactivating power plants, the government prioritizes safety above all else, and if the Nuclear Regulation Authority deems that a plant complies with the new regulatory standards, then the government will respect that determination, and proceed, while gaining the understanding of the local community.
The government's policy does not currently envision replacing existing plants or building new ones. However, under the Sixth Strategic Energy Plan, we are going to pursue all options toward becoming carbon neutral, including nuclear power. Under this policy, we intend to firmly proceed with immediate-term efforts such as conducting R&D toward next-generation innovative reactors and developing human resources, in addition to promoting forward-looking efforts such as maintaining and strengthening nuclear power supply chains that will last into the future.
Economic 2+2 and the IPEF
Q: The Economic 2+2 was promoted under Minister Hagiuda, and I imagine the IPEF framework and other initiatives will be fleshed out further. Please tell us how you will address this.
A: I myself have also conducted negotiations and other activities regarding the TPP. As a State Minister in the Abe Cabinet, I was actually involved in negotiations under Minister Amari, and as the State Minister in charge, I was also involved in the negotiations toward the United Kingdom's accession. In that sense, I believe that creating a truly free and fair trade and investment environment is of paramount importance. In addition, I would like to firmly address matters such as Russia's aggression against Ukraine, and also from the perspective of economic security, the joint research and development of semiconductors discussed and agreed to in the 2+2. And as Minister in Charge of the IPEF, I intend to discuss the said framework thoroughly and work to create a free and fair trade environment for more countries.
First Things To Work On
Q: You said earlier that Prime Minister Abe might have led you to this appointment. Specifically, what are the first things you want to work on by way of carrying on his legacy?
A: There are several things, but what comes to mind right now is that I want to address the surging commodity prices and energy crisis, and secure stable, inexpensive supplies of energy. I will make every effort to address these issues.
In addition, as I said earlier, I was involved in planning and implementing Abenomics under Minister Amari as a State Minister in the second Abe Cabinet. Going forward, I would like to help change various economic and social structures, promote systematic reforms, and spur innovation to ensure that Japan can grow healthily in the medium and long term. The third of the three arrows is growth strategy, and since I am in charge of strengthening the nation's capacity to grow, I want to promote innovation and reform in order to raise incomes and make Japan grow in the medium and long term.