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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, February 25, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Current opinion polls on the Government's approval rating
  • Japan-ROK relations
  • The TPP
  • Standards for radiation in food products


REPORTER: I have a question about opinion polls. In an opinion poll conducted at the weekend the Government's approval rating was found to have risen since last month, to stand at 69.6%. There seems to be an increasing trend in terms of the approval rating of the Government, with some polls showing approval rates over 70%. What is the Government's reaction to these figures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The results of the opinion polls are very pleasing. It is always better for approval ratings to be higher rather than lower and it is still only two months since the start of the administration of Prime Minister Abe. I believe that the opinion poll results show that we have gained the understanding of the public for the priority policies that the Prime Minister instructed all Cabinet members to devote themselves to when they were appointed, namely revitalization of Japan's economy, reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and thorough crisis management. Measures to deal with these policies have now begun and the Cabinet will steadily work together with a sense of speed to ensure that we can meet the expectations of the public.


REPORTER: This afternoon Deputy Prime Minister Aso is scheduled to meet with newly inaugurated President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea (ROK). Could you tell us the Government's expectations about what this meeting is expected to achieve?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Bilateral relations between Japan and the ROK are very important, and today Deputy Prime Minister Aso and many Diet members have travelled to the ROK to offer their congratulations on the formal inauguration of the new president of the ROK. Given the current extremely tense situation concerning the nuclear and missile issues with regard to North Korea, Japan-ROK relations remain of the utmost importance and we believe that the meeting today will confirm this fact and pave the way for further development of bilateral relations in the future.


REPORTER: With regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, do the discussions that took place in the Japan-United States summit meeting on this issue mean that preparations have now been completed to announce that Japan will participate in the negotiations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that it has now been recognized that a prior commitment to eliminate tariffs with no sanctuary is not a requirement for participation in the TPP negotiations. This was the major point of concern for the Prime Minister, and one on which he made a pledge to the people during the election campaign.

REPORTER: There are those who consider it would be preferable to announce participation in the TPP negotiations at the earliest possible time. Is there a possibility that such an announcement will be made in the form of a policy speech, or some similar means?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the matter relating to the timing of an announcement is something that the Prime Minister will decide himself, once various preparations and responses have been made. The Prime Minister will be providing an explanation to Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members and there are other procedures to be completed, so the question of timing is one that he will decide based on these various factors.

REPORTER: You have just mentioned procedures within the LDP. What type of procedures need to be completed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Basically I believe that in today's LDP Board meeting the Prime Minister will present an explanation of the discussions that took place at the Japan-United States summit meeting.

REPORTER: Does that mean that once the Prime Minister has provided an explanation, a final decision will be left to his discretion?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I don't know whether I would refer to it as being left to the Prime Minister's discretion, but basically as this issue is a matter that the Government has the power to decide, I believe that the Prime Minister will first provide an explanation to LDP members on the details of discussions on this issue.


REPORTER: There are press reports that the announcement of participation in the TPP negotiations could be as early as this week. Given that the sooner an announcement is made the better, is the target to make such an announcement this week?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: If a decision were made to participate in the TPP that would be the case. However, while viewing the various circumstances the Prime Minister will start by providing an explanation to the LDP Board meeting today and the process will go from there.

REPORTER: While an announcement in the near term is preferable, another question relates to what point you are aiming for in the future. For example, the U.S. Congress has a 90-day rule concerning approval and therefore, with a swift announcement on participation, it may be possible to join the TPP meeting scheduled for May. If there is not sufficient time to participate in the May meeting, is the Government aiming for participation from July or September? Or is the aim to participate from the May meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is not a question of aiming for any specific timing, rather, as the Prime Minister has clearly stated, recognition has been gained that a prior commitment to eliminate tariffs with no sanctuary is not a requirement for participation in the TPP negotiations. It is on that basis that a decision will be made from now with regard to timing.


REPORTER: With regard to the TPP, while I fully understand that the Government has abided by its election pledges, there is ultimately no change to the stance of seeking to aim for high-level trade liberalization. Given that "high-level" trade liberalization would equate to approximately 97 percent liberalization, is there no change in the Government's stance to make exceptions for products such as rice, sugar cane, sugar beet and konjac root?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As a political party it is only natural that we should abide by the pledges we have made to the people of Japan and in that sense we will continue to uphold the pledges that were made at the time of the election.


REPORTER: Following the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, during the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan, standards for radiation in food products were made stricter than similar standards overseas. Does the Government intend to revise these standards in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the current time the Government has no plans to revise the classifications or standard values for food products. The ministries and agencies concerned will continue to cooperate fully to respond to this issue. The Government has received requests from producers for further efforts to be made to make the public aware that food products that are confirmed to be below the stipulated standards are safe to consume. The Government therefore seeks to make maximum efforts to provide clear explanations about food standards and respond to the requests of producers. The greatest concern of local producers is that they do not become subject to reputational damages from rumors concerning radiation and the Government will make thorough efforts to respond to such concerns.

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