*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, June 16, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Approval of plans based on the Act on the Promotion of Ensuring National Security through Integrated Implementation of Economic Measures (the "Economic Security Promotion Act")
Today, we decided to approve plans on technological development and capital investment and offer support based on the Economic Security Promotion Act.
First of all, we plan to offer subsidies for a total of seven storage battery projects. The total amount of subsidies will be up to 127.6 billion yen, including a maximum of 117.8 billion yen to the Toyota group of companies. In tandem with intensifying international competition regarding the development of storage batteries, competition in capital investment has also been intensifying. It is expected that large-scale investments by the Toyota group will lead to significant strengthening of the supply chain of storage batteries in Japan.
The administrative staff will provide an explanation later, but we are planning to offer support to the Toyota group for achieving the production of a total of around 25 GWh. It has already been decided that support will be provided to the Honda group for achieving the production of 20 GWh. Therefore, it will become possible to secure a production scale of 45 GWh. We aim to achieve a production scale of 150 GWh by 2030 and will continue to steadily increase the production capacity.
In particular, the Toyota group is intending to accelerate its efforts for mass production of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries for its cars, the world's first initiative, and for R&D concerning all-solid-state batteries. We would like to secure Japan's competitiveness in the field of storage batteries and hold sensitive technologies within Japan.
Second, with regard to cloud technology, we will offer support totaling up to around 6.8 billion yen to SAKURA internet for its cloud programs, with the aim of expanding Japan's computational capacity and computational resources, which are indispensable infrastructures for fostering the fundamental development capacity for generative AI which is currently gaining significant attention.
The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has already developed ABCI, but SAKURA internet aims to develop a computational resource with a capacity of 2.5 times that of ABCI. We would like to accelerate the development of AI, R&D in the field of generative AI, and the implementation of AI technology in Japan. This is the technology that we expect SAKURA internet to develop. Administrative staff will provide further explanation later.
Third, from the perspective of strengthening the supply chain for semiconductors, it is important to strengthen initiatives regarding manufacturing equipment, parts and components, raw materials, and the manufacturing base, in addition to those regarding semiconductor devices. We decided to offer subsidies of approximately 55 billion yen for a total of eight projects, including subsidies up to 17.8 billion yen to SHINKO Electric Industries, which is a manufacturer of semiconductor package substrates.
We would like to further strengthen the advantages of manufacturing equipment and parts and components, in which Japan has strengths, thereby attracting foreign companies' investments to Japan, including partnerships with relevant companies in Japan.
Fourth, we approved a total of three plans related to machine tools and industrial robots for the first time under the Economic Security Promotion Act and will offer subsidies of up to around 30 billion yen.
They are major manufacturers of machine tools and industrial robots in Japan. Through offering support for the first time to companies in this field, we would like to strengthen the production capacity for control equipment, which affects the performance of machine tools and industrial robots, the demand for which is expected to grow. Control equipment will be the source of sensitive technologies and Japan's competitiveness and is also extremely important for economic security.
Regarding these support measures based on the Economic Security Promotion Act, the administrative staff will provide explanations later.
Fukushima Culture Art Promotion Office
As the second of the four major topics I want to talk about today, on June 15, 2023, the Fukushima Culture Art Promotion Office was newly established within the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group, Minister's Secretariat.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has made various efforts for promoting the reconstruction of Fukushima. In particular, we offered subsidies to attract companies to the disaster-affected areas. Through this support measure, over 400 companies have established their bases there creating over 4,500 jobs. Additionally, we supported the resumption of business for approximately 2,700 local companies.
Now we have decided to accelerate initiatives for developing attractive communities through the power of arts and culture, in addition to offering support to attract companies and help people reconstruct their livelihoods. Last year, local students made a film in Futaba Town. We aim to support such activities of young people and their zeal to create the future of Fukushima.
Volunteers in the Ministry, especially young staff members, are playing the central role in this office's activities. They normally perform their own duties in their respective departments in the Ministry but they voluntarily participate in these activities as a sideline, all sharing the recognition that the reconstruction of Fukushima is very important.
The office members include many who joined the ministry after the Great East Japan Earthquake. We have high hope for their efforts to create heartwarming visual arts, art and culture originating in Hamadori in Fukushima with their new ideas, and for the development of new attractions for Fukushima. We hope such activities will both encourage many people to visit Fukushima and many former residents to return to Fukushima. We aim to make all-out efforts across generations for the reconstruction of Fukushima.
Official trip to Osaka
Third, tomorrow, June 17, I will make an official trip to Osaka.
I will visit Toyonaka Agri, an urban agricultural farm, operated by the Social Welfare Council of Toyonaka City to see efforts for fostering human resources who will play the central roles in local welfare services and for promoting people's public participation. When I was serving as Minister in charge of Measures for Novel Coronavirus Disease, I had a chance to talk with people of the Social Welfare Council and heard about their severe situations and their requests for minor emergency funds. I will inspect the current status of elderly people’s activities at this stage of demand recovery after the pandemic and the reclassification of COVID-19 to Class 5, now that social disparity is becoming a new challenge.
Then, I will visit the Kansai Center of the AIST to see the R&D base for batteries that do not use rare metals in electrodes. There are many battery-related industries in the Kansai area. I would like to inspect the sites where battery R&D is being conducted.
Following this, I will visit the Minase Innovation Center of Sekisui Chemical to see the manufacturing and demonstration of perovskite, the next-generation solar cell.
Official visit to Hokkaido
Fourth, I will make an official trip to Hokkaido on Sunday, June 18.
In Chitose, I will visit the site where a factory will be constructed by Rapidus with the aim of building a manufacturing base for next-generation semiconductors in the late 2020s.
Then, I will visit the data center of SAKURA internet, which will carry out a program to strengthen a computational base taking advantage of the subsidy provided under the Economic Security Promotion Act that I mentioned earlier.
After that, I will visit the Hokkaido Center of AIST to see R&D of bio-manufacturing including the production of drugs using microbes.
I will also have an opportunity to exchange views with local people in economic quarters.
Q: I will ask you about Australia.
Australia, the largest LNG supplier for Japan, will revise its safeguard mechanism under the greenhouse gas emissions reduction system on July 1. After the revision, an entity that intends to newly develop a gas field is required to achieve net-zero emissions. How will this revision affect Japanese companies' investments in gas fields and LNG projects in Australia? Could you tell us the Government of Japan's responses, if any?
A: We consider that the coming revision of the safeguard mechanism by the Australian government will exert a significant influence on Japan's involvement in LNG projects in Australia.
Of course, both countries share the importance of environmental measures, but unexpected additional costs will arise due to the imposition of the obligation to secure net-zero emissions on the initial day of the project in operation for which a decision of investment has already been made. If newly established regulations are applied retrospectively, it will be inconsistent with the policy of protecting foreign investors.
I have been involved in the TPP negotiations and have worked to establish the CPTTP in collaboration with the Australian government. Therefore, this revision poses a serious concern from the perspective of the protection of investments, which is required in the TPP. Companies also complain about the lack of clarity in the system.
I have held talks on these matters with Mr. Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, and have requested flexible measures. Prime Minister Kishida also made a similar request to Prime Minister Albanese.
We will continue making the utmost efforts for environmental measures, but will also continue consultations with the Australian government regarding measures for protecting Japanese investors and ensuring a stable supply of LNG in order to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Negotiations on the working level are being conducted, but I think I will also hold talks personally with relevant ministers as necessary.