Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 6:40 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement (Elimination of Automobile Tariff)

NHK, Yamamoto: I would like to ask about the approval of the bill for the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement by the Cabinet decision today. It has already been discussed by the Budget Committee and others, but how will you take on the Diet discussions, and also, with regards to the elimination of automobile tariffs, the opposition parties in the Budget Committee and others have pointed out that it seems that the tariffs have not been promised to be eliminated in future, which is different from the explanation from the government. I believe you already replied to this when you answered questions in the Diet, but please tell us your view again.

Mr. Motegi Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement as well as the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement were approved by the Cabinet today before being submitted to the Diet. I am aiming for them to enter into force as quickly as possible following the upcoming Diet deliberations.

I will provide thorough explanations of the content of both agreements in the Diet. I believe the content of the agreement is a win-win for both Japan and the United States and is well-balanced. As stated, in accordance with the Joint Statement of the United States and Japan of September 26, 2018, outcomes as reflected in previous economic partnership agreements constitute the maximum level for agricultural fields, and everything is settled in this scope. Furthermore, rice, which has always been an issue in such trade negotiations, will be completely exempted including regulated products. Moreover, forestry and fishery products as well as 33 TPP-wide products will not be subject to reducing of tariffs.

On the other hand, the United States can expect an effect of swift improvement of the situation in which it has fallen behind other countries due to the entry into force of the TPP11 and the Japan-EU EPA.

In the field of manufactured products, tariffs will be quickly eliminated or reduced centering on products that Japan’s manufacturing industry has high interest in as well as have high trade volume. I will explain the content regarding automobiles later. However, with regards to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 about which there were concerns, it was clearly confirmed at the summit meeting that additional tariffs will not be imposed. It was also clearly confirmed with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer that trade distortion measures, such as the quantity restrictions included in the USMCA, KORUS, and others, will not be taken.

Also, the liberalization rates of the United States and Japan are 92% and 84% respectively. Regarding automobiles and automobile parts, if you look at Article 5.1 of the Agreement, it is stated that market access shall improve in accordance with Annex I or Annex I I.

If you look at the Annex of the United States, it is stated that the elimination of customs duties will be subject to further negotiations. In other words, the specific content about how to improve market access is written in the Annex. And the Annex states that the improvement method will be further negotiations regarding elimination of customs duties. This is premised on the elimination of tariffs. It is thus my understanding that negotiations will be conducted on the timing for that and what rules of origin there will be, and naturally there will be liberalization.

NHK, Yamamoto: To confirm, is it correct to understand that future elimination of tariffs is a premise if you read Article 5.1 of the Agreement and the Annex?

Minister Motegi: That understanding is fine to speak accurately about the entire Agreement. For the wording in English, the word “elimination” comes after “with respect to.” So the English states that “with respect to” elimination, there will be “further negotiation” regarding elimination. In terms of the structure of the Agreement, market access improvement is mentioned in Article 5.1, and the specific method is written in the Annex. I believe it is thus possible to interpret that the elimination of tariffs is the premise for this.

Annual Autumn Festival at Yasukuni Shrine

Kyodo News, Takao: The Annual Autumn Festival at Yasukuni Shrine will be held this week from October 17-20.

Minister Motegi: I will not go.

Kyodo News, Takao: You will not go. Understood.

Japan’s Protest Regarding the Sinking of North Korean Fishing Boats and the Issue of Boundary Delimitation of the EEZ

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about the sinking of North Korean fishing boats. In his press conference today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga explained that Japan lodged a protest through the embassy route in Beijing to North Korea, which has demanded compensation. Can you please give your view for what specific reason was given in the protest to North Korea?

I also have another question. I believe there is an issue between North Korea and Japan regarding the boundary delimitation of the EEZ. Is there a need to come to a mutual understanding in some form with North Korea in order to avoid disputes and unexpected situations regarding maritime interests, and will you call for talks? I would like to ask for your views on this point.

Minister Motegi: Japan cannot accept North Korea’s announcement on October 12. Japan quickly issued a severe protest to North Korea again using the embassy route in Beijing. I would like to refrain from commenting on the content as it could affect various discussions going forward.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Director General-Level Meeting

NHK, Takashima: Director-General Takizaki of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau will visit the ROK from tomorrow and hold a Director-General Level Meeting. What results do you expect amidst the deteriorating Japan-ROK relations?

Minister Motegi: There were four points that we agreed at the recent Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New York. The first was that it is important to build future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. Next was both sides stated their positions on issues being faced, and then have firm Japan-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation for North Korea and other issues. The fourth was to continue to seek mutual understanding between the diplomatic authorities of both countries including at the Foreign Minister level. These have been confirmed, and the Director-General Level Meeting will be held as part of these points.

Outlook of the Meeting Between Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and Prime Minister Abe

Asahi Shimbun, Ota: I would like to ask a related question. What is your outlook for the meeting between Prime Minister Lee and Prime Minister Abe when Prime Minister Lee visits Japan for the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor?

Minister Motegi: Communication has been received that Prime Minister Lee will represent the Government of the ROK at the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor at the Seiden (State Hall) . The schedule for Prime Minister Lee’s stay in Japan will be coordinated going forward based on the requests from the ROK side.

Japan-ROK Director General-Level Meeting

NHK, Watanabe: I would like to return to the meeting between Director-General Takizaki and the ROK side. You mentioned mutual understanding but what is expected for a meeting at this timing? In view of Japan-ROK relations now, can you please specifically explain your thoughts on what you would like to take place?

Minister Motegi: At the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New York, I held a frank exchange of views for quite a long period of time during the tête-à-tête. Although both sides naturally have different views, I would like Director-General Takizaki to also hold a frank exchange of views including efforts to bridge the gap.

Explosion of an Iranian Oil Tanker in the Red Sea

TV Asahi, Oishi: I would like to ask about the explosion of an Iranian oil tanker. The Iranian side is asserting that a country was involved. Can you please tell us the Government of Japan’s understanding of the situation now? Also, Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori will visit Iran from tonight. Can you please explain again what role the Government of Japan wants to play in the situation in the Middle East amidst rising tensions?

Minister Motegi: Regarding the tanker in the Red Sea, the Government of Japan is cooperating with high interest with the countries concerned and exerting all efforts for information-gathering. That is all I can say at the present stage. If I were to say anything further, it would be that Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori will go to Iran tonight, I believe. Japan has strong concerns about the increasing severity of the situation in the Middle East including incidents such as the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Continuing on from Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Iran in June, Japan has continued persistent diplomatic efforts including the Summit Meetings and Foreign Ministers’ Meetings with the United States and Iran respectively during the United Nations General Assembly last month. As part of such diplomatic efforts, Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Mori will be dispatched to Iran to follow up on the Summit Meeting and Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Iran last month and gather the latest information on the situation.

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