Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
Friday, November 11, 2011
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Today is November 11, exactly eight months since the Great East Japan Earthquake. On this landmark day I would like to again express my resolve for making my top priority working to ensure recovery and reconstruction from the disaster and responding to the nuclear power station accident in Fukushima Prefecture.
Vigorous discussion has continued within the ruling parties, Government, and various segments of the public with regard to the issue of participation in the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Even since the inauguration of my Cabinet, discussion has been carried out in the twenty-some meetings, lasting a total of 50 hours, of the Economic Partnership Project Team (PT) of the ruling party. I, personally, have also listened carefully to the various opinions of all sectors, pondering on this issue over and over. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all related parties for such a fervent debate and for providing your ideas and knowledge from such broad perspectives.
I have decided to enter into consultations toward participating in the TPP negotiations with the countries concerned, on the occasion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii which I will be attending from tomorrow. To be sure, I am fully aware that while the TPP offers significant benefits, numerous concerns have also been spelled out.
I love my country, Japan, with all of my heart. My mother is from a family of farmers, and I remember that I spent my early childhood days swaying to and fro in a basket on my mother's back in the farming village. The sceneries and smell of the earth in our peaceful farming village from those old days remain as the starting point of my memories.
I will ensure the firm protection of Japan's world-renowned healthcare system, our traditional culture, and our beautiful farming villages, and am determined to reconstruct a stable society that is bolstered by a robust middle-class. At the same time, as a trading nation, in order to pass down the affluence we have cultivated to our future generations and to develop our society into one with vigor, we must incorporate the economic growth of the Asia-Pacific region. From this perspective, Japan will start consultations with the countries concerned, make efforts to gather further information as to what each country would expect from Japan, and, through sufficient national debate, reach a conclusion on the TPP faithfully from the viewpoint of our national interests. This concludes my opening statement.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, we would appreciate it if you would first state your name and affiliation. Thank you.Ms. Sakajiri, please.
REPORTER: I am Sakajiri of the Asahi Shimbun. In your opening statement just now you revealed that Japan would be entering into consultations with related countries regarding the TPP. I understand this to be an announcement of Japan's intention to participate in the negotiations. So I have two questions I would like to ask. The first question is, you said at yesterday's meeting between the Government and the three senior officials of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) that you wanted to "consider this carefully for a day," and so you put off this announcement until today. However, DPJ members of the Diet who are cautious about the TPP are becoming stronger in their opposition to the issue. There are those who worry that this issue will split the Party, throwing it into confusion. How do you take this situation? That is my first question. My second question is related to the response on the Government side. The Government this time merely confirmed this in the Ministerial Committee that met just before this, but this Committee comprises all the members of the Cabinet. I think that you also had the option of formally raising this issue at a Cabinet meeting and making a Cabinet decision on it. I think that this is a theme for which it would be appropriate if you acted as a Cabinet to show the people your stance and resolve. What is the reason for not undertaking the Cabinet decision process?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Regarding the first question, as I said earlier, the Economic Partnership Project Team held a long and intensive debate and compiled a proposal. I received a report on that proposal yesterday from DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara. The issue is whether or not we should, at APEC, announce our participation in the negotiations. There were opinions that it is too early, or that we should not announce this on the one hand, and opinions that we should announce this on the other hand. There were more opinions voiced in favor of the former option. Accordingly, the proposal was that we should respond cautiously. So there was that proposal, and on top of that, I considered this issue with extreme care. The Government and the three senior officials of the DPJ continued to discuss it, and I continued to discuss it with the relevant members of the Cabinet, and as a result, we worked out the direction that I have just announced.
On the second question, as to why there was no Cabinet decision, this is a matter of whether to enter into consultations on the TPP, and no diplomatic negotiation requires a Cabinet Decision before entering into consultations.
This is the case for all negotiations. Cabinet decisions are needed say, for times when the Government is signing on to agreements, or ratifying them. Such times call for a Cabinet decision. But this is a diplomatic negotiation. I don't want anyone to misunderstand this. But again, I explained the direction and the policy I just mentioned at the Ministerial Committee, where really the entire Ministers participated in, so it is my intention to act in accordance with this policy.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person please. Mr. Yamazaki, please.
REPORTER: I am Yamazaki from TV Asahi. You said that the Government will be participating in the TPP negotiations, but there are voices in the US Congress about how serious Japan really is with the rule of eliminating tariffs in principle. Just now you said that you would be viewing the TPP from the perspective of Japan's national interest, and reaching a conclusion based on that. However, diplomatic negotiations with each country are going to be tough moving forward, and so I wonder to what extent, concretely, you will be able to succeed in securing a result in the interest of Japan?
Additionally, if you judge that this is not in line with Japan's national interest, would there be a possibility of a withdrawal from the negotiations mid-way through? For example, just a moment ago the agricultural sector was touched upon - what kind of policy will you implement and at what juncture, including the enactment of the fourth supplementary budget at the Diet?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: So you have three questions then? I understand that the TPP is basically aiming to eliminate tariffs within ten years in principle. I believe, however, that the specifics such as how many tariff lines would be eliminated immediately or how many tariff lines would be eliminated step by step within longer terms and or if exceptions from tariff elimination would be accepted, are yet to be decided. So as we enter into the consultations, I would like to have thorough consultations in order to realize our national interests.
And then, was the second question about agriculture?
REPORTER: It was about withdrawing from negotiations. I was asking if you could withdraw from them mid-way through.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: As we enter into the consultations, our basic position is that we will protect what we should, and gain what we should, and make utmost efforts in order to maximize national interests. And then excuse me, but about agriculture and the fourth supplementary budget...
REPORTER: Yes, including the fourth supplementary budget, what is your policy for the agriculture sector?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: The question I received in the Diet was what to do about those burdened with double loans. Now, the third supplementary budget has been passed by the House of Representatives, but there was a question regarding budgetary measures for the agreement made on double loans among the ruling and opposition parties. I answered that, including the issue of double loans, if there was demand for additional fiscal measures, we would make room in the budget. I did not say anything about a fourth supplementary budget.
I think you are asking if those budgetary measures that we might implement will be for the agricultural sector. On this issue, in October, we compiled the Basic Policy and Action Plan for the Revitalization of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Industries in Japan. Within this document are items on a variety of matters, including consolidation, expansion of farming units, and "the Sixth Industrialization." The Basic Policy and Action Plan state that we will focus on these issues for five years. Based on that, I want to take any needed budgetary measures.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please, Mr. Inudo.
REPORTER: I am Inudo of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. You will be leaving for Honolulu, where the APEC Summit is to be held, and convey the policy you announced today. Do you intend to make this statement at the meeting by the TPP concerned countries, or at the meeting with US President Barack Obama? At what kind of venue do you envisage to express Japan's intention? Also, taking the opportunity of this press conference, I would like to ask about consumption tax, which I think is the issue that comes just behind the TPP. Will your relationship with the DPJ members against the TPP have any impact on the issue of consumption tax? Or, in that matter, some prominent members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito Party have shown a negative stance on starting discussions for raising consumption tax. What prospect do you have about reaching a consensus within the party and with opposition parties with regard to the preparation of the draft legislation on consumption tax?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I will depart for Honolulu tomorrow, but rather than the APEC itself, I believe that there will be a meeting by the TPP countries. Though I am not yet sure if we would be treated as an observer or not, but if possible, I would like to convey our intention on this occasion. Also at the same time, I would like to use the occasion of the Japan-US summit meeting to convey our intention to the US, who is the Chair, and as such, I wish to convey fully our intention to each of the countries concerned.
For consumption tax, we compiled a final draft plan for the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems in June, and we are now working on the details, that is, working to secure stable financial resources for social security using consumption tax. This idea is discussed in a number of councils overseen by the related department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Also, I believe that the issue of tax will come up for serious debate in the Tax Commission from now, and I hope to receive the participation of both the ruling and opposition parties and include their opinions as we work to flesh out this idea written in the aforementioned proposal. And legally, as is written in the supplementary provision of the Tax System Reform Act of FY2009, by the end FY2011 we are supposed to propose a new Act, so I want to make thorough preparations for this. As to whether or not the idea is feasible, there are indeed a mountain of issues in front of us. We are now putting up posters to gain people's support for our cause in every area of the country. I want to move forward by overcoming each issue before us one by one through resolute action.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Hirokawa, please.
REPORTER: I am Hirokawa of the U.S. news agency Bloomberg. You have announced your decision to participate in the TPP negotiations to the people in Japan and overseas. However, right now, in the world of international business, the issue of Olympus's cover-up of losses is being perceived not just as a matter of one company, but as a matter concerning the entire corporate governance framework of Japanese companies and the overall trustworthiness of the Japanese financial and securities markets. Going beyond the issue of participating in the TPP negotiations, how does the Japanese Government regard the Olympus issue? Does the Government intend to take measures to prevent the recurrence of the problem and restore confidence?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: It is very regrettable that improper accounting methods were employed at Olympus. The Government has always maintained the view that accounting methods should be rigorous and transparent and that this is of extreme importance. Therefore, if such cases of improper behavior arise, then I believe strict countermeasures should be taken. Through such measures, I very much hope to secure confidence in the Japanese financial market.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Iwakami, please.
REPORTER: I am Yasumi Iwakami, a freelance reporter. I was wondering why you did not engage in a thorough debate upon asserting your resolve to participate in the TPP negotiations and upon stating your intentions at the Diet. That is my first question.
Secondly, while you have said that the Project Team has discussed this matter for 50 hours, the discussions were not made public. Why did you decide to make the discussions off-the-record and closed door?
Thirdly, the TPP proponents, who were an overwhelmingly minority in the Project Team, stressed less the economic merits of the TPP and more the opinion that the TPP is necessary for deepening relations with the U.S., especially security relations, upon stating that this is essentially a national security matter and noting the threat posed by China. This view is also often stated by DPJ Policy Research Committee Chair Maehara. I believe TPP's relationship to security issues was rarely discussed at public forums. Can you please share your thoughts on this?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Regarding your first question about whether I should have indicated my stance during the Diet deliberations, I certainly believe that was a possibility if time allowed. However, by going through the decision-making process within the Government and the DPJ, the end result was that I announced my decision or conclusion after the completion of the intensive deliberations at the House of Representatives and House of Councillors today. While this was the end result, I believe we were able to deliberate the fundamental issues, such as the advantages and disadvantages of the TPP. Moving forward, I believe we need to continue to provide thorough explanations during the variety of deliberations of the Diet.
Regarding your second question, I believe the Project Team probably had some sort of way of deciding this. I am not aware of the details of how this worked out. It was in this context that the discussions within the party took place in this format. However, with regard to the TPP issue, we have also held debates, for example, which were broadcast on the Internet. I believe the Government as well as the ruling party will need to employ such creative efforts to provide opportunities for nationwide discussions to as many people as possible.
Also, regarding your point that discussions took place on the TPP from the perspective of security, I personally believe that the significance of the TPP lies in its economic value of incorporating the growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Particularly, as a trading nation and an investor nation, Japan, by participating in the TPP, can expand its frontier in the Asia-Pacific region. So I thought first and foremost of economy when thinking about Japan's future presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and as such figured out the direction.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are almost out of time. We will take one more question. Mr. Imaichi, please.
REPORTER: I am Imaichi of TBS. You stated that the Government will enter into consultations toward participating in the TPP negotiations with the countries concerned. But you did not say that the Government will participate in the negotiations in a straight-forward manner. You said you wanted to ponder on this for one full day since yesterday. Please explain the reason why the expression came to be the one you used.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: What I said is that we will enter into consultations toward participating in the TPP. This I believe is the very first step of the process to maximize our national interests. Until today, concerning the TPP, we were to have consultations to gather information on it, based on the Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships drawn up last November. But by making further steps forward, we are now to have consultations toward participating in the negotiations.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you very much.