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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, November 14, 2011 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Let me start. Today, I attended a meeting of the Committee on Rules and Administration of the House of Councillors. With regard to Senior Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Matsubara's attendance at Diet sessions as the minister in charge of the abduction issue, I explained the background and our policy moving forward as well as expressed my apologies. Specifically, I explained that Senior Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Matsubara will be removed from his senior vice minister role to support Minister for the Abduction Issue Yamaoka on the abduction issue, and that a Senior Vice Minister of Cabinet Office will be newly appointed and will handle matters at the Diet. In addition, I expressed my apologies for causing confusion during the deliberations of the House of Councillors' Special Committee on North Korean Abduction Issue and Related Matters on October 28, as the purport of the statement made by the Prime Minister at the Cabinet meeting on September 6 was not thoroughly understood with respect to Minister Yamaoka and Senior Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Matsubara. I also apologized for the fact that, despite there being improper items with regard to the procedures for requesting a senior vice minister to de facto assume a supporting role based on the Prime Minister's statement, which date back to before the change in government, nothing was done to improve them. Furthermore, I reported this matter to the Prime Minister, including the background. The Prime Minister, too, took the matter very seriously, and issued a warning to me and an admonition to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Taketoshi. I take this matter very seriously and will work to ensure that this does not happen again. Regarding these series of events, I would like to express my apologies for causing concern to everyone involved with the abduction issue.

I have one more announcement. The 16th meeting of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Measures against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and Other Related Issues and International Terrorism will be held from 5:00pm today. At the meeting, a report is expected to be given on measures for preventing terrorist acts against nuclear power stations, among others, based on the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. There will be a photograph session at the start of the meeting, and a briefing is scheduled to be held by the Secretariat after the meeting. For details, please inquire the Secretariat.



REPORTER:In his press conference in Honolulu, the Prime Minister once again expressed his determination to submit and pass the draft legislation for increasing the consumption tax at next year's ordinary session of the Diet. With the Cabinet's approval ratings falling overall, some wonder if the Government will truly be able to advance reform at this moment in time. Can you speak about the administration's resolve regarding this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The Government and ruling party approved the so-called Definite Plan for the Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Taxation Systems in June of this year, which states that the consumption tax, national and local, will be raised incrementally to 10% by the middle of this decade. However, a condition applies, which is that there is an upturn in the economic situation. Also, the proposal sets out that the relevant legislation shall be submitted by the end of this fiscal year in accordance with the law. The Government believes that this is something which should be done.

REPORTER:In other words, you are saying that this is something that should be done and something that is already decided, so the Government will not be swayed by the Cabinet's approval ratings and other such external factors.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:We recognize that this is something which should be done in accordance with the law.


REPORTER:Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), there is disagreement between the United States (U.S.), which states that all goods and services will be put on the negotiating table, and Japan. My question concerns Japan's protest and request for correction with respect to the statement issued by the White House. Is it correct to interpret that the immediate protest and request for correction was made based on Prime Minister Noda's judgment and instruction?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe this was handled there (Honolulu), and I, too, am not familiar with the details regarding the circumstances. In protesting, one would normally think that the Prime Minister gave his confirmation.

REPORTER:Going back to the earlier topic of consumption tax, as was also asked about at the Prime Minister's press conference, the Prime Minister declared in his press conference earlier that there is no opposition within the party to increasing the consumption tax. Do you also share this view?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:To say that there is no opposition to increasing the consumption tax is, I believe, not necessarily accurate. However, as I also said earlier, I believe the Government and ruling party compiled a plan, which sets forth that the consumption tax will be raised incrementally to 10% by the middle of the 2010s, through discussions which also included opposing views.


REPORTER:Regarding the TPP, I have a question about measures for strengthening the agricultural industry. A basic policy compiled in the past states that such measures will be considered for each economic partnership. With respect to the agricultural strengthening measures relating to the TPP, from around when will the Government be beginning to examine them?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Recently, we presented a policy on the food, agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries in Japan. The policy, which includes budgetary measures, sets out that over the next five years, measures will be taken to, in a sense, shore up the industry to a great extent. A moment ago, you asked me from when. I believe these measures will be included in next fiscal year's budget, and it will not be a one-time measure. These measures will be taken over a period of five years.

REPORTER:On a related note, regarding the TPP Prime Minister Noda also commented that budgetary measures would be implemented in accordance with the Basic Policy on agriculture. Some TPP advocates have recently expressed concern over not being able to find financial resources if this is a permanent budget, as consumption tax will ostensibly be used for the social security system and income and corporate taxes for the reconstruction budget, making it difficult to secure core taxes. Will the Government enter into consultations with a vision for acquiring financial resources?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Even in the formation of next fiscal year's budget, we will be asking each ministry to conduct a review and will be cutting expenditures significantly. Furthermore, decisions are to be made on strategically allotting the necessary funds by creating new schemes such as a revival scheme. I believe that we will have to employ such innovative methods moving forward.

REPORTER:This question is with regard to the TPP. In this morning's press conference you commented that at the present stage you have yet to envisage a minister to be in charge of the TPP as proposed by the ruling parties. I believe that Minister Motohisa Furukawa was the minister in charge during the Ministerial Meeting for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), but do you mean to say that Minister Furukawa will not be in charge of affairs concerning the TPP as well?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:At present, Minister Furukawa is the minister in charge of ministerial meetings on the FTAAP and economic partnership agreements (EPA). We have not decided that he will not be the minister in charge of the TPP - we actually just discussed this in the Ministerial Committee - but this is something that we will be deciding in the near future.

REPORTER:This question is regarding the issue of consumption tax as mentioned in the Prime Minister's press conference. The Prime Minister remarked that he would submit the bill and exert every effort to ensuring that it is passed during the ordinary Diet session amidst the divided Diet. How does he intend to engage this issue? Also, in the event that the bill passes, will he stand by his previous position of dissolving the Diet after the bill passes and going to national citizens?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Your latter question is something that the Prime Minister will decide, and as such is not something that I can comment on. However, of course, thorough discussion must be carried out between the ruling and opposition parties. We have addressed various difficult issues in the past through three-party discussions, and this will just be another.


REPORTER:This is with regard to the previous question about Minister Furukawa. You commented that it is unclear whether Minister Furukawa will become the minister in charge of TPP negotiations. I am sure that the TPP will become a rather important policy of the Noda Cabinet, so if Minister Furukawa were not put in charge of the TPP, what role specifically would you expect of and assign to him as the Minister for National Policy under the Noda Cabinet?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Are you assuming that Minister Furukawa will not become the minister in charge?

REPORTER:Well, you said that no decision has been made.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Before the Prime Minister departed, he commented that if the TPP was to be promoted, the Cabinet would have to construct a very strong structure to do so. So, when I say that no decision has been made, I mean that this is no longer an issue to simply be taken up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that moving forward we must make decisions with regard to the staff and personnel to be involved on the front line of negotiations, not only concerning a minister in charge. In that sense, I never said that Minister Furukawa would no longer be the minister in charge as a result of making those decisions.

REPORTER:No, what I mean to say is that, normally - even in his remarks in the Diet the Prime Minister said that he would be a sort of control tower. I believe that he would gather staff in the National Policy Unit (NPU) and Minister Furukawa has been the minister in charge up until now, so I wanted to know if he would be one of those staff members.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The structure that we have used until now was ministerial meetings on the FTAAP and EPA. Minister Furukawa was in charge of these; however, a decision has yet to be made on whether these ministerial meetings will be converted into a new meeting on the TPP or whether they will be changed. Nevertheless, just as you say, there is no question that this is a major issue with regard to national strategy.


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