JapanGov Weekly

Monday, December 10, 2018

Visit to Paraguay

Cabinet Secretariat, Sunday, December 2, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On December 2, 2018 (local time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Asunción in the Republic of Paraguay.

The Prime Minister met with Japanese-Paraguayans and Japanese nationals living in Paraguay. Afterwards, Prime Minister Abe attended a salute and guard of honor ceremony, and then held a meeting with H.E. Mr. Mario Abdo Benítez, President of the Republic of Paraguay, as well as a signing ceremony, the unveiling of the logo commemorating 100 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Paraguay, and a joint press announcement. Lastly, the Prime Minister attended a dinner banquet hosted by President Abdo Benitez and his wife.


Visit to Uruguay

Cabinet Secretariat, Sunday, December 2, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On December 2, 2018 (local time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Montevideo in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

The Prime Minister met with Japanese-Uruguayans and Japanese nationals living in Uruguay. Prime Minister Abe then visited Independence Square where he offered flowers. Afterwards, the Prime Minister attended a salute and guard of honor ceremony, before holding a meeting with H.E. Dr. Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, and a joint press announcement.


Press Conference on the Passing of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States

Cabinet Secretariat, Friday, December 7, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On December 7, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Upon the passing of George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, the Prime Minister visited the U.S. Embassy in Japan to offer his condolences, and said,

“President (George H.W.) Bush was a great U.S. President who truly led the free world. Moreover, he made tremendous contributions to advancing Japan-U.S. relations and the Japan-U.S. Alliance, and to bringing our two countries closer. I would like to once again offer my condolences.”


Year-End Economists' Meeting

Cabinet Secretariat, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

[Provisional translation]

On December 5, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the year end party of economists, held in Tokyo.

The Prime Minister said in his address,

“When I attend this gathering, it reminds me of the end of the year or, it might be better to say that last days of this year are coming. In any case, there is only a short while left in 2018.

I have returned to Japan just yesterday after visiting Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Paraguay and I am still feeling the full effects of jet lag. Tomorrow, I am to attend the Committee on Judicial Affairs for two hours, and expected to response to those complicated questions, while still feeling heavy jet-lag. With respect to Uruguay and Paraguay, my visit to these countries are the first of its kind as a Japanese Prime Minister. Whenever I visit South America, I always meet people of Japanese descent. In Uruguay- immigration to Uruguay commenced 80 years ago, and while there are only 450 people of Japanese descent in Uruguay today- 80 people gathered to meet me. In Paraguay, I met many people of Japanese descent too. I was briefed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that I was the first time a Japanese Prime Minister stepped foot in the two countries. One or two weeks ago, however, a person of Japanese descent visited the embassy in Uruguay with a photo they took with my grandfather when he landed in Uruguay to transfer planes while travelling from Buenos Aires to Rio, or from Rio to Buenos Aires. This person was over 90 years old, but he was kind enough to visit again and personally show me this photo. Anyway, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, my visit was the first official visit to Uruguay, and I returned from that trip yesterday.

This year is ‘the year of the dog is a year of laughter,’ according to the market adage. Economists predict next year’s market trends and most of their prediction are mistaken. Starting with the PyeongChang Olympics, there was the U.S.-North Korea Summit Meeting, and the world economy is now facing the situation as we see. The year is truly a year of extreme upheaval. I believe predicting this year’s market trend must be really difficult one. Next year is the year of the boar, and the market adage states ‘the year of the boar is a year of solidifying.’ After laughing, the market will solidify- solidify in a positive direction, and not freeze over. I understand it in a way that we solidify ourselves in order to expand longer. Next year Japan will chair the G20, and we will also be hosting the Rugby World Cup, and countries from around Africa will come to Japan for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). Most significantly, next year His Majesty the Emperor will abdicate, and His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince will accede to the Imperial Throne, marking the end of the Heisei era and the start of a new era. In addition, we will see another big event, the consumption tax increase. While there are arguments as to whether we should raise the consumption tax, it is written in law and we basically follow this law- I see Chief Representative Yamaguchi (of Komeito) laughing and, as the coalition of the ruling coalition, I see bitter smile of Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Motegi, we are now working on a robust economic policies to deal with this change.

Next year, while the United States and China are to cease their competition of retaliatory measures in their borders, so-called trade war, for 90 days for time being, that cessation will end after the 90 days and we must be ready to make a robust response to its resumption. At the same time, I would like to create a strong economy that is not swayed by such state of the world economy. To that end, I received a briefing regarding a second supplementary budget just before. I would like to steadfastly compile a supplementary budget, which surely responds to immediate needs. That is true to the supplementary budget to be finalized next year. I would like to compile one that surely repel the shock caused by the consumption tax increase. At the same time, I also would like to take firm measures in fiscal policy too. I see the Governor of the Bank of Japan is here; the Government will work with the Bank of Japan to achieve the price stability target, won’t we. We would like to steadily exert efforts to achieve that.

We are seeing that the foundation of our economy is being strengthened steadily. For example, since the Abe administration inaugurated, the minimum wage has increased by 15 yen, then 16 yen, and we made them believe that next would be 17 yen- we have such a song, don’t we- 15, 16, to 17. 15, 16, then 18. Afterwards, the minimum wage rose by 26 yen last year. This was the largest increase since we began collecting statistics on the hourly wage. Going forward, I would like to create the economic conditions that support the annual increase in the minimum wage no less than 3%. At the same time, (the average of) winter bonus for this year is 950,000 yen. Companies kindly increased it significantly. It is important for people to ride the wave, and to ride the wave we have to keep pushing wages upwards. Since I missed the last year’s party, I would like to ask you the major increase in next April for these two years. For six years, I always request the same thing and, if you steadily do it- as Mr. Kobayashi nodding vigorously- if you steadily do it, it is certain that we will see the increase of consumption and a virtuous economic cycle. Afterwards, two years later, we will have the Tokyo Olympics. Following that, we won the bid for the World Expo in Osaka- it was quite a fierce competition. We are getting close to the same pattern when the Olympics were held in Tokyo in 1964, and the World Expo in Osaka in 1970. While I was only 10 years old at the time of the Tokyo Olympics, I thought Japan was amazing, with a great feeling of strength in my young, child’s body. I would like to make next year and following years the one that can create this same feeling of strength and pride in young people throughout Japan.

To that end, if everyone is going to make a prediction, I would like to ask you to make a positive prediction. Next year, the TPP11 (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) or CPTPP will come into effect. With respect to the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), while deliberations are currently taking place in the Diet and the EU is also working on too, I hope to materialize the early entry into force of it. I believe Japan is in a position to lead the global economy and free trade next year and I would like to make next year a wonderful one.

I am making a heartfelt prayer that next year will be a brilliant year for all of you. And this is not a small statement referring only to the Abe administration or the ruling coalition, I am extending my heartfelt wishes that it will be a wonderful year for all of Japan. That concludes my greeting, thank you very much.”


Japan-Singapore Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Foreign Affairs, Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On December 4, commencing at 7:25 p.m. for approximately one hour and 30 minutes, Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, held a Foreign Ministers’ meeting over dinner with H.E. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore, who is visiting Japan. The overview of the meeting is as follows. Before this meeting, the two ministers signed a revised Memorandum of Discussion (MOD) for the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP 21).

1. Minister Kono welcomed Minister Balakrishnan’s visit to Japan, expressed his respect for Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018. Minister Kono expressed his gratitude for the warm reception when Prime Minister Abe and Minister Kono visited Singapore respectively, and also stated that Japan will use Singapore’s management method of the meetings as a good example for the G20 summit meetings in next year. In response, Minister Balakrishnan stated that he was pleased to be able to visit Japan, he was grateful for the contribution of Japan to the series of meetings related to ASEAN, and he intended to continue strengthening bilateral relationship.

2. Furthermore, the two ministers exchanged views regarding the regional situation, including the issue of North Korea, South China Sea issue, and the situation of Rakhine State in Myanmar, as well as the promotion of free trade, in particular TPP 11 and RCEP, and agreed that they would continue working closely together. In particular, regarding the issue of North Korea, the two ministers shared the view that full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions is necessary towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Minister Balakrishnan also expressed his understanding and support towards the early resolution of the abductions issue.

[Reference] Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP 21)

(1) This is a program in which Japan and Singapore cooperate to provide technical cooperation to third countries. It was implemented from 1994 as JSPP and in 1997 a consensus document for JSPP 21 based on an equal partnership was signed. Trainees invited from countries in Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Africa, etc. were trained in Singapore under JSPP21.

(2) In December 2007, (then) Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Komura and (then) Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore George Yeo signed a new Memorandum of Discussion (MOD) calling for JSPP 21 to be strengthened in a form that contributes more to strengthening the integration of ASEAN, etc.

(3) In the revised MOD signed before this meeting, the strengthening of connectivity and the rule of law are added as objectives of this Programme, and areas of training in line with these objectives are included in the priority areas for training.


Japan-Seychelles Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On December 5, commencing at around 7:30 p.m. for approximately 90 minutes, Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, held a meeting with H.E. Mr. Vincent Meriton, Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Seychelles, who was making a working visit to Japan. The overview is as follows.

Minister Kono welcomed Vice President Meriton’s visit to Japan and expressed his intention to further deepen the bilateral relationship between Japan and Seychelles, which is situated in an important geographical location in the Indian Ocean, and to continue to work closely for the success of TICAD 7 scheduled to be held in 2019.

In response, Vice President Meriton expressed his gratitude for Japan’s contribution to the development of Africa, including Seychelles, and to the peace and stability of the international community through the TICAD process. Vice President Meriton confirmed President Danny Faure’s attendance at TICAD 7, and the two Ministers reaffirmed that they will collaborate for the success of TICAD7.

The two Ministers reaffirmed to further enhance the cordial bilateral relationship, particularly seizing the momentum of establishing the Embassy of Japan in the Republic of Seychelles in January 2019.

Both Ministers exchanged views on matters such as cooperation in the international arena, including the United Nations Security Council reform and the situation in North Korea. With regard to North Korea, the two Ministers shared the view that the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions is necessary for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Minister Kono also requested understanding and cooperation for resolving the abductions issue and Vice President Meriton expressed understanding for this.

Following the meeting, Japan-Seychelles Foreign Ministers’ Joint Press Statement was issued.


The Adoption of the Draft Resolution on Nuclear Disarmament submitted by Japan to the Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly 

Foreign Affairs, Thursday, December 6, 2018

On December 6 (December 5 local time), the draft resolution entitled “United action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons”, submitted by Japan, was adopted with the supports of 162 countries in the Plenary Meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

This draft resolution was adopted in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly on November 2 (November 1 local time). The draft resolution stresses the importance to maintain and strengthen the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, looking ahead to the 2020 NPT Review Conference. The draft resolution also emphasizes the importance of seeking security and nuclear disarmament simultaneously towards a world free of nuclear weapons, and emphasizes the importance of bridging different views and facilitating dialogue in the international community, based on recommendations made by “the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament” in this Match.

This draft resolution aims at contributing to creating a common ground where the international community can take united actions towards a world free of nuclear weapon even under the current severe international security environment. The draft resolution this year was adopted with widespread supports from many states including nuclear-weapon-States and the states in favor of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Japan will continue to work tenaciously to proceed steadily towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Reference: Results of the voting for the adoption of the draft resolution
Approval: 162, Oppositions:4 (China, North Korea, Russia, Syria), Abstentions:23


Statement by Governor Kuroda concerning the Bank's Semiannual Report on Currency and Monetary Control (Committee on Financial Affairs, House of Representatives)

Bank of Japan, Friday, December 7, 2018


The Bank of Japan submits to the Diet its Semiannual Report on Currency and Monetary Control every June and December. I am pleased to have this opportunity today to talk about developments in Japan's economy and present an overall review of the Bank's conduct of monetary policy.

I. Economic and Financial Developments in Japan

I will first explain economic and financial developments in Japan.

Japan's economy is expanding moderately, with a virtuous cycle from income to spending operating. Although the real GDP growth rate for the July-September quarter was slightly negative, this is likely to be mainly due to the effects of temporary factors such as natural disasters. Looking at this in more detail, exports have been on an increasing trend amid overseas economies continuing to grow firmly on the whole. Business fixed investment has continued on an increasing trend, with corporate profits following their improving trend and business sentiment staying at a favorable level. Private consumption has been increasing moderately, albeit with fluctuations, against the background of steady improvement in the employment and income situation. Going forward, Japan's economy is likely to continue its moderate expansion. Risks to the outlook are skewed to the downside, particularly regarding developments in overseas economies, including the consequences of protectionist moves and their effects.

On the price front, the year-on-year rate of change in the consumer price index (CPI) has been positive but has continued to show relatively weak developments compared to the economic expansion and the labor market tightening. This is largely attributable to the fact that firms' cautious wage- and price-setting stance as well as households' cautiousness toward price rises have been deeply entrenched, due mainly to the experience of prolonged low growth and deflation. In addition, such factors as the large room to raise productivity, mainly in the nonmanufacturing sector, and the technological progress in recent years have allowed firms to maintain their cautious stance toward raising prices, even amid the economic expansion. With regard to the outlook, however, the year-on-year rate of change in the CPI is likely to increase gradually toward 2 percent, mainly on the back of the output gap remaining positive and medium- to long-term inflation expectations rising. The momentum toward achieving the price stability target of 2 percent is maintained but is not yet sufficiently firm, and thus developments in prices continue to warrant careful attention.

II. Conduct of Monetary Policy

Next, I will explain the Bank's conduct of monetary policy.

The Bank has been conducting powerful monetary easing under the framework of "Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing (QQE) with Yield Curve Control" introduced in September 2016. In terms of yield curve control, with a view to facilitating the formation of the yield curve that is considered most appropriate for achieving the price stability target of 2 percent, the Bank has conducted purchases of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) under the guideline for market operations, in which it sets the short-term policy interest rate at minus 0.1 percent and the target level of 10-year JGB yields at around zero percent.

At the July Monetary Policy Meeting (MPM), with a view to persistently continuing with such powerful monetary easing, the Bank decided to strengthen the current policy framework. First, the Bank introduced forward guidance for policy rates, with which it intended to maintain the current extremely low levels of short- and long-term interest rates for an extended period of time. This aims to clarify the policy stance of continuing with powerful monetary easing by making clear future policy rates in advance. Second, the Bank decided to conduct market operations and asset purchases in a more flexible manner. As the degree of market functioning consequently improves, such as through interest rate formation becoming more flexible, this likely will lead to enhancing the sustainability of the policy.

The Bank deems that such policy responses will lead to achieving 2 percent inflation at the earliest possible time while securing stability in economic and financial conditions. It will continue to examine the risks considered most relevant to the conduct of monetary policy and conduct its policy in an appropriate manner, taking account of developments in economic activity and prices as well as financial conditions.

Thank you.


Tax Convention with Argentina Agreed in Principle

Ministry of Finance, Monday, December 3, 2018

[Provisional translation]

1. The Government of Japan and the Government of the Argentine Republic have agreed in principle on the tax convention between the two countries.

2. This Convention includes provisions for the purposes of clarifying the scope of taxation in the two countries, eliminating international double taxation and preventing tax evasion and avoidance, and is expected to promote further mutual investments and economic exchanges between the two countries.

3. This Convention will be signed after the necessary internal procedures have been completed by each of the two Governments. Thereafter, the Convention will enter into force after the completion of the approval process in both countries (in the case of Japan, approval by the Diet is necessary).