*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Ministerial Council on Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Related Issues
At the beginning, I would like to mention three points.
First, the Ministerial Council on Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Related Issues was convened today, with Prime Minister Kishida in attendance.
First of all, to expand the utilization of renewable energy, we compiled and determined an action plan that should be implemented with cooperation between relevant ministries and agencies. In particular, in order to expand the utilization of domestic renewable energy, we will make efforts to create demand, develop mass production systems and build robust supply chains with respect to perovskite solar cells and floating offshore windmills.
We would like to expand utilization of domestic renewable energy while building supply chains within Japan without relying on any particular country. In particular, there is a great deal of anticipation for the perovskite solar cell as a next-generation solar cell. By taking advantage of Japan’s strengths in terms of technology and materials, we hope to achieve social implementation at an early time, before 2030.
As you know, this solar cell is light and flexible, so it can be attached to building walls. Great efficiency can be achieved, and when the production system has been well developed, the cost can be kept very low, so we would like to speed up domestic development. By using green transition bonds, among other means, we intend to accelerate development and public implementation.
As for hydrogen, we have decided to proceed in accordance with the policy outline for revising the Basic Hydrogen Strategy while taking into consideration the basic policy for implementing GX. More specifically, we will consider a hydrogen utilization target of 12 million tons for 2040, which is the midpoint between 2030, for which the target has been set at 3 million tons, and 2050, for which the target has been set at 20 million tons. Investment in hydrogen is accelerating globally, mainly in the United States and Europe. In Japan, we are now considering a plan to invest 15 trillion yen over a 15-year period in the public and private sectors combined. We have reaffirmed the policy of accelerating preparations for developing institutional systems in a comprehensive manner, through integrated regulatory and support measures by the government. We would like to proceed with those measures, including support for filling price gaps with conventional fuels.
Going forward, we will revise the Basic Hydrogen Strategy by the end of May and work out a concrete plan for developing institutional systems.
The Prime Minister instructed relevant ministries and agencies to avoid sectionalism and cooperate with each other. We will accelerate preparations in cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies. The administrative staff will give you a briefing later regarding detailed information.
Business and Human Rights
Second, we will publish today practical reference materials regarding the use of the guidelines on respecting human rights. While the guidelines, which were compiled in September last year, have drawn high praise from business circles for giving a broad picture of what companies should do in terms of human rights, we have received requests for information on specifically what should be done under the initiative, mainly from companies that are about to start engaging in it.
Therefore, in the practical reference materials that will be published today, we have included detailed explanations and many case examples in order to assist companies including SMEs that until now have not engaged in the initiative to respect human rights and company staff in charge of practical affairs. They can easily find practical ways to engage in the initiative in accordance with the guidelines. We hope that companies will make progress in the initiative to respect human rights by using the practical reference materials together with the guidelines and that Japan’s international competitiveness will grow by reducing risks and increasing corporate value. The most important thing is to improve predictability for companies, so we have already decided to establish a task force with the United States. While improving predictability for companies by implementing international activities like that, we would like to promote the initiative to respect human rights.
On this point, too, the administrative staff will provide a briefing to you.
G7 Trade Ministers’ Meeting
Third, this evening, Japan time, the first G7 Trade Ministers’ Meeting is scheduled to be held online, in the teleconference format. At a time when the global economy is facing unprecedented crises, such as the pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the meeting will discuss such themes as how to maintain and strengthen a free and fair trade system and how to strengthen economic security.
As president of the forthcoming meeting, I will mention several points to keep in mind. First, we would like to accelerate discussions on the restoration of the functions of the WTO’s dispute settlement system and new challenges related to digital trade.
Secondly, we will make efforts to further strengthen cooperative relationships in trade and investment within the G7 and with like-minded countries in order to build robust supply chains.
Thirdly, we will propose close cooperation between G7 countries in preventing and mitigating the impact of economic coercion, and we hope that the G7 will hold substantive discussions on that.
Regarding those issues, we would like to set the direction of future discussions while confirming the G7’s solidarity, paving the way for the Hiroshima Summit in May and the Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Osaka-Sakai in October.
G7 Trade Ministers’ Meeting
Q: I have a question related to today’s G7 Trade Ministers’ Meeting, which you mentioned just now. Of the various themes that you mentioned, which do you think is particularly important? Regarding that theme, please also tell me about the points on which you would like to obtain agreement as a concrete result.
A: At today’s meeting, we are scheduled to discuss a free and fair trade system and economic security. The WTO is the core of the free and fair global trade system. In the runup to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, scheduled for February next year, we would like to discuss what needs to be done in order to restore and strengthen the WTO’s functions.
On the second theme, economic security, this will be the first time for the G7 Ministerial Meeting to take up this issue as an agenda item. At last year’s meeting in Germany, various discussions were held on economic coercion, but this will be the first time to discuss it as a matter of economic security. In particular, how like-minded countries should cooperate in strengthening supply chains and how to respond to economic coercion are matters that are difficult for any single country alone to address, so we would like to hold discussions on concrete forms of cooperation between G7 countries.
While reaffirming the G7’s solidarity regarding how to respond to those challenges, we would like to set the direction for the future by holding substantive discussions today on such points as cooperation with like-minded countries other than the G7 countries, including those in the so-called Global South group.
Export Control of Semiconductors
Q: At the end of last month, METI announced a government plan to add 23 new items to the scope of export control of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, and China’s Foreign Ministry press spokesperson expressed protest against that. Could you comment on that?
A: Regarding the export control measure concerning semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, for which the public comment procedure started on March 31, we are introducing a measure that Japan considers to be necessary in comprehensive consideration of the factors involved, such as the most recent trends in export control by relevant countries. It is not something whereby we intend to follow suit with the United States. As this measure covers export to all regions, we do not have any particular country in mind.
Japan has already been enforcing export controls in a manner consistent with international rules, and we will take appropriate actions in the future under the same policy.
This is not an export ban. We strictly examine whether or not there is the risk of conversion to military applications. On that point, if there is no risk of conversion to military applications, export is permissible. As the public comment procedure is ongoing, we will make a final decision in light of public comments. If a foreign country has implemented a measure that is inappropriate in consideration of international rules, we will take appropriate actions based on international rules.
Q: Regarding semiconductors, I have heard that Rapidus reached a new agreement with imec, a semiconductor research institution in Belgium. I understand that various consultations were held, including on imec’s possible advance into Japan. Please tell me about the details and your policy for future support.
A: Regarding the partnership between Rapidus and imec of Belgium that you mentioned, the two concluded a basic agreement concerning a next-generation semiconductor project in December last year.
At this time, as a concrete step under the partnership, they agreed on March 29 to collaborate in developing EUV lithography technology, which is the core element for realizing mass production of next-generation semiconductors. I have heard that a new contract has been concluded. If this development collaboration proceeds in a concrete way, we expect that imec’s activity in Japan will expand.
As the core of the initiative to establish a manufacturing base for the most advanced next-generation semiconductors in the latter half of the 2020s, collaboration with a foreign research institution like imec, which possesses the most advanced knowledge and experience, will take concrete form, with Rapidus playing the central role, and we welcome that.
Going forward, we look forward to speedy progress in this project, and while continuing to closely watch the evolution of this next-generation semiconductor project, we will provide the necessary support to the maximum possible extent.
At some point in time, I would like to inspect the project if an opportunity to do so arises.