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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 (AM)

[Provisional Translation]

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

Q&As

REPORTER: Today, the exchange rate reached the 83 yen level for the first time in 11 months, and the Nikkei Stock Average also rose to the 10,000 line for the first time in 7 months. How does the Government perceive these turnarounds in these elements that had been minus factors for the economy so far?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First of all, I would like to refrain from making direct comments about market trends. Having said that, as was stated in the Monthly Economic Report which was released earlier, it is the Government's view that the economy is picking up slowly while difficulties continue to prevail due to the Great East Japan Earthquake. Regarding the future outlook, while it is hoped that the Japanese economy will continue to pick up slowly, there is a risk that the effects of the euro zone debt crisis and other factors will depress the overseas economies and place a downward pressure on the Japanese economy. As such, we will continue to closely monitor the situation with a sense of caution. Moving forward, the Government will continue to take steps to break away from deflation and recover the economy while coordinating with the Bank of Japan. That is my comment.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding rare earth. Can you discuss why the Japanese Government decided to participate in the case (against China)? China has refuted that the restrictions on rare earth exports are implemented purely for reasons of environmental protection. What are your views on China's response?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The Government of Japan has taken a variety of measures in response to the export restrictions on rare earth. This has included the development of alternative materials, the reduction of rare earth use, and the diversification of supply sources. The Government has also requested through dialogue with the Government of China that improvements are made to the export restrictions as well as to domestic and overseas price differences. The United States (U.S.), the European Union (EU), and Mexico filed complaints, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) made a final decision on China's export restrictions on raw materials, including bauxite, which was released in January. After reviewing this decision, Japan has come to the view that for rare earth and other raw materials, too, it will be appropriate to steadily conduct working-level consultations based on WTO rules, in cooperation with the U.S. and EU. Now, what Japan has requested this time is consultations based on the WTO Agreement. This is different from the request to establish a panel, which is equivalent to so-called case procedures or lawsuits. It is not the type of case that is being reported by the media. The WTO Agreement sets forth that WTO members shall request the country in question to hold consultations before members request the WTO to establish a panel.

REPORTER: Regarding the restarting of operations at a nuclear power station, the Mayor of Ohi Town in Fukui Prefecture has said at the town assembly that he would like the Government to hold an explanatory  session for the residents. How do you plan to address this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe your question corresponds to the comment that Prime Minister Noda made at his recent press conference. Prime Minister Noda said that, "Four ministers - myself, Minister Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura, and Minister Hosono - will hold a meeting to discuss how to proceed with various issues such as safety and local understanding. Based on that, explanations will be provided to local communities. The Government will make concerted efforts to provide such explanations and must seek the understanding of local residents, and as the head of Government it is I who must stand at the forefront of such efforts to seek the understanding of the public."

(Abridged)

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