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Press Conference by Minister Saito (Excerpt)

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

10:44 to 11:01 a.m.
Friday, March 29, 2024
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

Energy price mitigation measures

Good morning.
At the beginning, I would like to mention four points.
The first point is energy price mitigation measures.

These measures have been implemented as an emergency response to the sharp rise in international energy prices against the backdrop of the increasingly tense international situation.

I will explain the future policy regarding those measures, which have been implemented as an emergency response to the sharp rise in international energy prices against the backdrop of the increasingly tense international situation.
First, with respect to measures for fuel oils, in order to examine the risk from rising prices and various other economic conditions that derive from the increasingly tense situation in the Middle East, we will extend, for a while, the period of their implementation, which was originally scheduled to expire at the end of April 2024. 
Regarding electricity and gas, we will maintain the measures until the end of May in light of the falls in the import prices of LNG and coal to levels similar to those seen before Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In May, the size of the subsidy will be reduced to 1.8 yen per 1 kWh for low-voltage power, for example.
If prices rise rapidly due to an unforeseen change in the international situation and if it becomes necessary to take emergency action to avoid an excessive impact on people’s lives, we will naturally act promptly and flexibly.
As for detailed information, the administrative staff will give you a briefing later.

Progress in support for disaster-affected SMEs

Second, regarding the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake, I will report on the progress made in support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
First, as for the livelihood support subsidy, in Ishikawa Prefecture, six cases were authorized on March 27. The public invitation for applications will continue after April 1.
In order to deal with the double debt problem, the government will establish a fund for reconstruction of Noto Peninsula jointly with Ishikawa Prefecture and regional financial institutions. On April 1, a consultation center for reconstructing industries in the Noto region will be opened within the Nanao Chamber of Commerce and Industry to provide consulting concerning funding.
I would also like to inform you that Iroha Bookstore in Suzu City, which is an important local cultural information hub, has restarted selling school textbooks at a temporary store. Officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry visited the store immediately, and we will provide support in preparation for a full-fledged reopening.
We will continue to cooperate with relevant organizations to make sure to provide meticulous support for business operators affected by the disaster.

Support for the development of automotive semiconductors

Third, today, we made a decision to support Advanced SoC Research for Automotive (ASRA), which engages in research and development concerning advanced automotive semiconductors.
ASRA, which we have decided to support this time, has been established jointly by automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, auto parts makers, and semiconductor-related companies, and it is engaging in research and development with a view to developing use cases of advanced semiconductors based on collaboration between users and suppliers of semiconductors.
We strongly hope that this technology will promote the use of high-performance, low energy consumption, and highly reliable advanced semiconductors in the automobile sector and lead to the realization of vehicle electrification and intelligent vehicles. I also believe that this is an important initiative in that it will lead to future demand for the next-generation 2-nanometer semiconductors that Rapidus is developing.
As for detailed information, please consult with the administrative staff.

The Third Sanriku Joban Weeks

Fourth, I will report on the results of the Third Sanriku Joban Weeks.
During the two months of January 22 to March 24 this year, around 147,000 meals using products from the Sanriku Joban region were consumed in various locations across the country. I ate a delicious Makunouchi packed lunch containing po-po grilled saury together with young staff members of the ministry.
During that period, through the Sanriku Joban Mono Network, in which around 1,100 companies are participating, local products were consumed as a show of support on a large scale across the nation as a result of sales promotion events, consumption at employee canteens, and purchases of lunchboxes. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for support from everyone, including people in the media.
We will continue to disseminate information, including monitoring data related to the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea, with a high level of transparency, and we will also do our best to continuously expand the consumption of products from the Sanriku Joban region and limit reputational damage.
As for detailed information, the administrative staff will give you a briefing later.
That is all I have to say.

Question-and-Answer Session

Support for the development of automotive semiconductors

Q: Regarding the support for ASRA in your opening remarks, it is said that the development of automotive semiconductors, from designing to manufacturing, requires a huge cost. What are your thoughts on the size and direction of future support? You also talked about future demand for Rapidus’ products. Do you have only Rapidus in mind as a company to which manufacturing will be entrusted? Or do you also have TSMC in mind?

A: First, the project we are supporting this time will design, develop, and demonstrate advanced semiconductors for use in automobiles around 2030. We believe that long-term, sustained efforts are necessary to achieve project results.
Today, we announced assistance valued at one billion yen, which covers the budget for the first stage of chip development in the project cycle that I mentioned just now. Going forward, we intend to gradually implement necessary support measures while closely watching the progress of the project.
As to the question of which company the manufacturing of automotive semiconductor chips will be entrusted to, I am not in a position to give a reply, as it is a matter for consideration at the company-by-company level. However, as Rapidus is developing the next-generation 2-nanometer semiconductors, we believe and expect that semiconductors that sufficiently meet the specifications for future automotive semiconductors can be manufactured if the development proceeds as scheduled.

Last updated:2024-03-29