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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

July 21, 2017 (PM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
This video's audio is a provisional translation through live simultaneous interpretation.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Q&As

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question relating to agricultural reform. In recent speeches and on other occasions you have mentioned the importance of agricultural reform. Do you have plans to visit regional areas to confirm the status of progress of such reform efforts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Abe administration recognizes that the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries are truly the foundation of our nation. We are seeking to advance initiatives to make this sector a growth industry and raise income levels in regional Japan. In that sense, agricultural reform is a major pillar for Japan’s growth strategy and for vitalizing local economies. In particular, in recent years, exports of Japanese sake have been increasing and in the recent agreement in principle on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), it was confirmed that in addition to beef and tea, tariffs on Japanese sake exported to the EU would be immediately eliminated. Such moves mean that a broad-ranging environment is being developed that will aid the promotion of exports of Japan’s agricultural, forestry and fisheries products. It is with this in mind that on July 23, I will be visiting Miki City in Hyogo Prefecture, where I will observe the production site of Yamada Nishiki rice, which is the main ingredient in high-grade sake. During this visit I will be hearing about the current status of initiatives and challenges that are being faced.

REPORTER: You have noted that you will be visiting the production site of rice for use in sake. I believe that sake rice was exempted from the policy to reduce acreage under rice cultivation. Can I ask why you have chosen to visit a production site for sake rice?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, Hyogo Prefecture is currently a major producer of Yamada Nishiki rice. Previously, however, following the introduction of the policy to reduce acreage under rice cultivation, production plateaued. It was only after the start of the Abe administration and the introduction of the exemption system to acreage reduction targets in fiscal 2014 that production expanded significantly. This system has helped local producers to increase their incomes and has played a major role in nurturing new younger farmers who will continue to work in the agricultural sector. It is against this backdrop that exports of sake have been increasing approximately 10 percent annually. In 2016 total exports amounted to 15.6 billion yen. As I have already noted, in the recent agreement in principle on the Japan-EU EPA it was confirmed that tariffs on sake will be immediately eliminated, which will provide a further boost to export promotion. It is on the basis of these various developments that I would like to visit the production site myself.

REPORTER: I have a further question. You have just stated that you will visit Miki City in Hyogo Prefecture to see the initiatives being implemented at the main production sites. In specific terms, what sort of things will you be observing on your visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: What I would like to accomplish on my visit is to meet with people who are actually engaged in the production of sake rice, hear about their various initiatives and the challenges they face, and listen to any requests they may have of the Government. I would like to visit the actual production sites and engage with people who are directly involved in the industry.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question relating to Abenomics. In news released yesterday and today, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) has decided to postpone for the sixth time its target inflation rate of two percent. This effectively means that the BOJ has given up on achieving the price stability target during the tenure of current BOJ Governor Kuroda. Some people have observed that together with a downturn in real wages, this demonstrates that the three arrows of Abenomics are not functioning very well. Can I ask for a comment from you about this latest postponement of the price stability target?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the three arrows of Abenomics have significantly uplifted the Japanese economy. In specific terms, the number of people in employment has increased by 1.85 million, of whom 1.52 million are women, a result which has been helped by various policies, such as efforts to achieve zero children on childcare waiting lists. Furthermore, the effective ratio of job offers to applicants currently stands at 1.49, a significant improvement on the ratio of 0.83 at the time of the inauguration of the Abe administration. GDP has also expanded by almost 41 trillion yen. Against this backdrop the Government will continue to implement measures relating to the three arrows of Abenomics.

REPORTER: What is your evaluation of the sixth postponement of the price stability target by the BOJ?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Governor Kuroda has stated that the BOJ will continue to engage in appropriate operation of financial policy based on economic indicators and commodity price increases, with a view to realizing the price stability target. The BOJ has decided to continue a financial policy of qualitative and quantitative easing with yield curve control as long as necessary, with a view to realizing the price stability target and maintaining it stably. The Government hopes that the BOJ will continue to make robust efforts towards the achievement of this target.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: In a recent interview with the New York Times President Trump has stated that Mrs. Akie Abe, the Prime Minister’s wife did not even say hello when seated next to him at dinner at the G20 Hamburg Summit. It was probably the case that only a few words were spoken, but President Trump said of the conversation, “It’s hard.” When the Prime Minister’s spouse accompanies the Prime Minister on a visit I believe it is normal for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to coordinate matters in advance and it would probably have been known that Mrs. Abe was going to be seated next to President Trump. Can I ask for your thoughts about these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government about interactions that took place in a social setting at the G20 leaders’ dinner. I would add that an interpreter accompanied Mrs. Abe to the dinner and that she engaged in conversation with President Trump with interpretation. In any event, President Trump also mentioned in the same interview that Mrs. Abe is a “terrific woman” and that he enjoyed the dinner. I believe therefore that a meaningful conversation took place.

REPORTER: The recent G20 Summit was the third time for Prime Minister Abe and President Trump to meet in person and they have also held seven telephone summit talks. Mrs. Abe also accompanied the Prime Minister to the United States prior to the President’s inauguration, at which time they also had dinner with President Trump, so they were already acquainted with one another. I believe that what the President was saying was that he had hoped he could have had a franker conversation with Mrs. Abe. I believe that Mrs. Abe is usually quite a frank person, so could it have been the case that she was a little reticent at the dinner?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think it is sufficient that in the interview President Trump stated that Mrs. Abe is a “terrific woman” and that he enjoyed the dinner.

REPORTER: So are we to understand that Mrs. Abe interacted with the President in a very graceful, Japanese way?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that she made a very positive impression on President Trump.

(Abridged)

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