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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.

9:13-9:33 a.m.
Friday, November 11, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

Advanced Semiconductors

I would like to start with a few points.
First, I would like to give an overview of our efforts for establishing design and manufacturing bases for next-generation semiconductors in the latter half of the 2020s.
The research and development platform for new technologies that will be responsible for the research and development function for the mass production of next-generation semiconductors will be named the Leading-edge Semiconductor Technology Center (LSTC), and the relevant parties have agreed to appoint Mr. Higashi Tetsuro as the chairman.
Several major Japanese R&D organizations will be involved with this technology association, including AIST, RIKEN, the University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tohoku University, and the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). It will play a central role in the joint research and development of next-generation semiconductors that has been agreed upon by Japan and the US. We are giving instructions to the administrative staff in order to accelerate the necessary work with the goal of launching it by the end of this year.
In addition, Rapidus Corporation has been selected as the recipient of the 70 billion yen in R&D subsidies to establish the manufacturing base. This company was established and is invested by major Japanese companies including Toyota, NTT, Sony, and NEC.
Semiconductors are a key technology that supports digitalization and decarbonization. They are becoming increasingly important from the viewpoint of economic security as the competition for technological hegemony between the US and China intensifies. In particular, next-generation semiconductors, called Beyond 2 nm, are a core technology that will bring about major innovations in all fields, including quantum computing and AI. Japanese academia and industry will work together and in cooperation with research institutes and industries in the US and other countries to strengthen the foundation and competitiveness of Japan's semiconductor-related industries.
The administrative staff will explain more details, including the names of key members who will be involved with the LSTC.

Visit to Thailand

Second, next week, from November 15 to 18, I will visit Thailand and Singapore to attend the APEC Ministerial Meeting and other events. At the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Thailand, I will discuss what measures are necessary in order to increase trade, investments and travel in the APEC region and create a growth path that will bring about sustainable growth, while dealing with various issues such as supply chain resilience after the pandemic, the aggression against Ukraine, and transitions to clean energy.
While in Thailand and Singapore, I will also hold talks with economic and energy ministers and other officials from relevant countries. I would like to build relationships of trust, further develop bilateral economic relationships, and strengthen cooperation in the regions. In addition, as it looks like the next COVID-19 wave is coming, I will make every effort to ensure that adequate preventive measures are taken.

Visit to Hiroshima

Third, I will visit Hiroshima Prefecture tomorrow, on the 12th.
I plan to exchange views with business leaders from the Chugoku region in Hiroshima City. After that, I will visit Micron's factory which is an advanced memory semiconductor production base located in Japan. I will also inspect the next-generation high-efficiency thermal power generation and carbon recycling demonstration site in Osakikamijima.

Question-and-Answer Session

Advanced Semiconductors

Q: Regarding the relationship between LSTC and Rapidus, which you mentioned at the beginning, I understand that these two companies will take on the challenge of developing advanced semiconductors. However, this area requires a large amount of investment and skilled human resources. Please tell us what issues you think will need to be addressed for mass production, and what kind of role the government will play.

A: The major premise is that semiconductors are a core technology that will support digitalization and the development of various promising leading-edge technologies, including AI and quantum technology. It will also be used to develop various technologies for decarbonization. It is an extremely important technology from the viewpoints of creating a new economy and society. It is easy to understand that it is also important for ensuring economic security if you look at the ongoing competition for technological hegemony between the US and China.
To meet Japanese companies’ requirements for semiconductors, there will be investments from overseas such as TSMC's JASM which I visited in Kumamoto, Micron which I will visit tomorrow in Hiroshima, and KIOXIA. By increasing investment in Japan in these areas, we will secure a sufficient supply of semiconductors, which are needed by Japanese industries. At the same time, we will encourage investment toward creating an industrial cluster to attract related domestic companies around the base. In other words, we will move forward with building a firm semiconductor supply chain in Japan.
There are also a wide range of human resource development efforts starting at universities, high schools, and colleges of technology for training human resources locally, as we can see in Kumamoto and Hiroshima. We are supporting these efforts as well.
While building bases that are necessary now and in the near future, we will cooperate with the US and other like-minded countries in the development of leading-edge microscopic semiconductors known as Beyond 2 nm. The establishment of the LSTC and support for Rapidus are a large step forward.
Furthermore, as we proceed in this direction, we have secured a supplementary budget of 1.3 trillion yen. We are working on making the urgently needed bases that I just mentioned and will use the 1.3 trillion yen effectively to support the development of new next-generation technologies. To that end, I hope that the supplementary budget will be approved and implemented as soon as possible.

Export Controls Against Russia

Q: There is a large influx of used Japanese cars into Russia, and it is possible that they are being used on the front lines in the aggression against Ukraine.
Please tell us if METI is aware of this situation, and if it is considering measures such as tightening export regulations.

A: I understand that there have been media reports. We are working on economic sanctions against Russia and have been implementing them in cooperation with the US, the EU, and others. The ban on the export of passenger cars was established in light of the leaders of the G7 nations agreeing to make it difficult for oligarchs and others who support President Putin to obtain luxury goods.
Specifically, Japan has banned the export of passenger cars with a value of over 6 million yen since April of this year. European countries have banned the export of cars worth over 50,000 euros, and the US, 50,000 dollars. We are working in cooperation with these countries. To answer your question, we will make appropriate responses in cooperation with Europe and the US based on the situation in Ukraine and discussions in the international community.
What is particularly important for Japan is that passenger cars and other items exported to Russia are not diverted for military purposes from the viewpoint of maintaining peace and security in the international community. We will continue to strictly enforce the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act. However, if there is concrete information on the use of passenger cars for military purposes, exporters will be required to obtain a license from the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry under the so-called catch-all control. We may take measures such as this.
If there are concerns about exports, we will issue a call to attention to relevant organizations so they can consult METI. In the meantime, we will collect relevant information thoroughly.

Advanced Semiconductors

Q: About NSTC, which you explained in the beginning, you said that cooperation in the plan for the technological development of advanced semiconductors will be the core. However, the IPEF must address the issue of strengthening the semiconductor supply chain. Please tell us what kind of cooperation you expect from countries other than the US.

A: Regarding the development of next-generation, leading-edge semiconductors, we will focus on cooperation between Japan and the US while also cooperating with like-minded countries including those in Europe, and Taiwan, and countries that have companies and research institutions with the ability to conduct various leading-edge research and development. However, the focus will basically be on development between Japan and the US, as we have already agreed upon.
On the other hand, semiconductors of various types are already being used in industries at various levels with a wide range of applications, and I cannot make generalizations. However, in the upcoming APEC meeting as well as the IPEF, discussions are taking place at various levels in various forms on topics such as making supply chains for important materials resilient and flexible as needed. I hope that we will deepen cooperation with like-minded countries.

Last updated:2022-11-18