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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The issue related to online sale of pharmaceutical products
  • The issue related to national referendum bill
  • The explosion in Shanxi Province and the car crash in Tiananmen Square in China
  • The issue related to rulings in the ROK ordering Japanese companies to compensate for war time conscripted labor
  • The issue related to Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security
  • The issue related to the nuclear power plant project in Jordan

REPORTER: Chairman Mikitani of Rakuten has decided to resign from his position as a private sector member of the Industrial Competitiveness Council in protest of the Government's policy that was decided yesterday regarding the online sale of pharmaceutical products. What is your reaction to this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: We have been informed that Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani plans to hold a press conference from around 4 pm today. However, as we have not yet heard his intentions, I would like to refrain from making any specific comments. So far, Mr. Mikitani has made a variety of concrete contributions to the growth strategy of the Abe administration through the Industrial Competitiveness Council. I believe progress has been made on the issue of the online sale of pharmaceutical products thanks to Mr. Mikitani's strong push. Not only that, Mr. Mikitani has made various specific recommendations, for example, to incorporate the concept of Key Performance Indicators into the growth strategy and to transform the Japanese business community through the use of the Internet. We hope that Mr. Mikitani will continue to make contributions.

REPORTER: Despite the argument by some that the policy agreed upon by the four ministers yesterday contravenes the January Supreme Court ruling and is unconstitutional, in the end, regulatory reformers have yielded. To date, you have supported the complete lifting of the ban on online sales of pharmaceutical products. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, what is your own personal opinion on this matter?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: Yesterday, the four ministers held talks and laid out a vision. Naturally, as we move toward the task of creating a bill, an assessment will be made by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and other experts, as well as the as Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, who will be playing a central role in this process, to determine whether the bill is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling, before the bill is submitted to the Diet. Naturally, as the Supreme Court has made a ruling on the matter, the legislation must be revised in light of said ruling. The Government will conduct a detailed and careful assessment of these matters before submitting the bill to the Diet.


REPORTER: Regarding the national referendum bill, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has indicated a policy that the age at which voting rights will be granted will be set at age 20 and above. The New Komeito party has indicated a stance of age 18 and above. It therefore seems that slight difficulties are being encountered in the talks. Some have expressed the view that if the challenges continue, even the submission of the bill to the current session of the Diet may become difficult. Can you please explain the view of the Government on this issue?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: I understand that yesterday, the LDP compiled a view to lower the age to 18 for the so-called package of concerned issues My understanding is that tireless efforts will continue to be made to coordinate this matter among the ruling parties, and therefore, we will watch over the coordination.

REPORTER: Regarding the incident in Shanxi Province in China where an explosion occurred, the Chief Cabinet Secretary said that the Government was working on collecting information. Since then, what kind of information has the Government become aware of? Also, could you please share with us any views you may have?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: I understand that the public security authorities of Shanxi Province have announced that at around 7:40 am today, an explosion occurred in front of the building of the Shanxi Communist Party Committee in Taiyuan, killing one person and injuring eight people. When the Japanese Embassy in China confirmed the facts with the authorities of Shanxi Province, they were informed that as of that moment there was no information regarding Japanese nationals being affected. There are still many things that are unclear regarding the details and background of the incident. We will continue to work on collecting information.

REPORTER: In any event, that incident at Tiananmen Square took place, and today, albeit against a different backdrop, this incident occurred in Shanxi Province. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, what are your thoughts regarding this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: As is the case with today's incident in Shanxi Province and the incident at Tiananmen Square, we do not yet know the full details. The Japanese Government will continue to closely monitor the developments of the investigations, while seeking further information provision from China. At this point in time, the Japanese Government is unable to make any specific comments. However, we will continue to closely monitor the social and security situation in China.

REPORTER: A short while ago, at around 4 pm, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, and the Japan-Korea Economic Association released a proposal regarding Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. Given that there have been a series of rulings in the ROK recently ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime conscripted labor, the proposal seeks the breakthrough of the situation on the grounds that these rulings will have an adverse impact on the bilateral relationship between Japan and the ROK. What is the Government's view regarding this issue or matter?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: Naturally, as companies investing in the ROK are indeed involved in this matter, it is fully understandable that these companies have profound concerns. My understanding is that today, the business community released a statement expressing deep anxiety over the fact that because these matters are occurring despite the full and final settlement of the issue of property and claims between Japan and the ROK pursuant to the Japan-ROK claims agreement, these matters could harm the good economic relationship between the two countries. The view of the business community is truly and fully understandable. The Government will continue to deal with this matter appropriately based on the Japanese Government's consistent position regarding the issue of property and claims between Japan and the ROK.

REPORTER: Today, Acting Chair Kitaoka of the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security delivered an address and indicated that if the Advisory Panel's report is submitted, it is expected that a Cabinet decision will be made in two to three weeks' time. What is the understanding of the Government?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: Nothing has been decided at all regarding the timing of the submission of the report as well as when a Cabinet decision will be made after the submission of the report.

REPORTER: Regarding Jordan, it has been reported by the media that preferential negotiating rights for the nuclear power plant project in Jordan have been granted to a Russian company. A joint venture between Japanese and French companies was also one of the candidates. What does the Abe administration, which has identified nuclear technology exports as one of Japan's growth strategies, think about this decision made by Jordan?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: I am aware of the media reports regarding this decision made by Jordan. The Japanese Government is not in a position to comment on the decision of the Jordanian Government. However, as this was the granting of exclusive negotiating rights, we do not believe that a final decision has been made regarding the contract recipient. The Japanese Government will continue to watch over the developments of the negotiations between the Jordanian Government and the Russian company.

REPORTER: Returning to the topic of the online sale of pharmaceutical products, Minister Tamura explained during his press conference this morning that what played a large role in the arrival at the decision to exclude the online sale of highly toxic pharmaceutical products was the fact that experts reached the conclusion that the safety of such products needed to be confirmed face-to-face at stores. I think Mr. Mikitani disputed this point, asking whether there was truly a difference between stores and the internet. What are your opinions on this issue, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: With regard to this issue, as a member of the Diet, while I belong to an extremely small minority within the LDP, I have taken the position from quite some time ago that the online sale of pharmaceutical products should indeed be approved. I have long held the position that there is not very much difference in safety between face-to-face and online sales, and conversely, that the internet could even be better in terms of confirming the safety of products. From this standpoint, I feel the decision to allow the online sales of all pharmaceutical products, except for a specific 28 items, which includes highly toxic pharmaceutical products, marks significant progress. I believe the contributions of everyone, including CEO Mikitani, played a very big part in this decision. The Prime Minister has stated that ultimately the ban will be lifted completely under a set of rules that take safety into consideration. With regard to safety, it was decided that medical and pharmaceutical experts will review and determine the optimal way, in the eyes of experts, of selling pharmaceutical products from a medical and pharmaceutical perspective, irrespective of preconceptions regarding face-to-face or online sales. Following this review, the experts identified that the side effects of highly toxic pharmaceutical products do indeed need to be confirmed for around three years, and that this confirmation can only be done through face-to-face sales. Therefore, I believe this judgment weighed heavily on the decision.

REPORTER: If Mr. Mikitani, who made such a large contribution, were to resign from the position of Council member, I think this would inevitably give the impression of a setback in regulatory reform. What are your thoughts in this regard?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: I disagree. Under the previous rule, the sale of only the third category of pharmaceutical products was allowed. But now, sales of the second category will be allowed as well as a large portion of the first category, which I myself thought would be quite difficult. The exceptions were the 28 items, so I consider this to truly be a considerable step forward. Conversely, I believe this was a tremendous outcome of the hard work put into the Abe growth strategy, or of the discussions on regulatory reform that have been conducted under Prime Minister Abe.

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