Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu

Friday, July 17, 2020, 11:51 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Japan-UK Economic Partnership (Visit to the United Kingdom by Minister Motegi)

TV Asahi, OISHI: I would like to ask about trade negotiations with the United Kingdom. I believe it is aimed to have an agreement in principle by the end of July for a bilateral agreement to enter into force on January 1, 2021. Can you please tell us the current status of negotiations, as well as if you intend to visit the United Kingdom to meet in person with Secretary of State for International Trade Truss to hold the final consultations, which some reports are saying?

Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: In order to continue smooth business between Japan and the United Kingdom, I believe it is necessary to create an Economic Partnership, a new framework for trade and investment between Japan and the United Kingdom to substitute for the Japan-EU EPA. In consideration of the fact that the transition period following Brexit will end at the end of this year, I believe we must enter into the final consultations soon.

In the case of the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement which entered into force on January 1, 2020, if we consider the schedule for that, U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and I made the final agreement on August 23, 2019. We had reached a point where we could mostly agree in early August. So I believe we probably have to take that into account when considering the schedule this time. Even after coming to an agreement, there is still a considerable amount of work to do, and many pages of related documents to produce.

However, although the final negotiations will be conducted going forward, coordination is currently being conducted between Japan and the United Kingdom regarding the schedule for the final negotiations and how they will be held.

Launch of the Mars Probe by Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Pan Orient News, AZHARI: Preparations are underway to launch the Hope probe to Mars in cooperation with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and with the support by the Japanese government and United Arab Emirates government. This is a very important step towards Mars and planet exploration, and in terms of cooperation between Japan and Arab countries. What is the position and statement of the Japanese government on this cooperation?

Minister MOTEGI: I have visited the Tanegashima Space Center to see a rocket launch. It is truly moving to see a launch onsite. In the TV drama Downtown Rocket, the cooperative relations between Teikoku Heavy Industries, for which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries served as the model, and Tsukuda Manufacturing were confirmed through the rocket launch.

The launch of the UAE’s Mars probe HOPE through Japan’s H-2A rocket is truly an important project symbolizing the strong relations between Japan and the UAE. It is my understanding that coordination on the timing of the launch is currently being conducted due to factors such as bad weather, but I expect that the launch will be successful.

Japan and the UAE are advancing cooperation in extensive fields. We will continue to advance cooperation in various fields including space, based on the Japan-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative.

The European Parliament’s Resolution Concerning Removal of Children in Japan

Senkyo Dot Com, MAKINO: Regarding the resolution passed last week by the European Parliament concerning removal of children in Japan, I would like to ask a question based on the content of your answers at your previous press conference and the one before that.

The resolution asserts that not only cases subject to the Hague Convention, but also cases of removal within Japan of children born through international marriages between EU and Japanese nationals, as well as denial of visits, runs counter to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The resolution calls for consideration about reviewing the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) if Japan does not respond to this alleged violation of the CRC. Do you believe Japan is adhering to the CRC? Also, there are concerns that there could be effects on the SPA agreement depending on Japan’s response to the EU resolution, so can you please tell us how you plan to handle this as a diplomatic issue?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that Japan is sincerely adhering to the CRC for cases within Japan that are not subject to the Hague Convention. If you would like to hear the details regarding this situation, please ask the Ministry of Justice, because it has jurisdiction over this. In any event, I believe that Japan is appropriately implementing the Hague Convention and sincerely adhering to the CRC as well.

Novel Coronavirus (Go To Travel Campaign, Resumption of International Travel)

NHK, WATANABE: Yesterday, it was announced that Tokyo will be excluded from the Go To Travel Campaign. I believe that Japan is advancing negotiations toward relaxing travel restrictions in the direction of allowing resumption of travel centered on business-related people between various countries, as part of its border enforcement measures against the novel coronavirus. Amidst negotiations with these countries, what effects do you think the situation in Japan will have?

Minister MOTEGI: I believe that the Go To Travel Campaign and the resumption of international travel are issues that should not be handled the same way. Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism are in charge of how the Go To Travel Campaign is implemented, and such an announcement was made yesterday.

If we look at the economic situation in Japan, a situation has emerged in Japan in which the economy has greatly fallen due to requests to stay at home and other such requests.

I believe that this generally bottomed out around April to May. I believe that during the 2008 financial crisis, until the economy hit the bottom, GDP fell 7.1% or about 35 trillion yen. This time, GDP has gotten larger since then, and has fallen at about the same level at 6.5%. We will of course take thorough measures to prevent the spread of infections.

However, I believe that it is extremely important to revive the economy in a way that also prevents the spread of infections. If we look at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, there was negative economic growth in developed countries and positive growth in developing countries. The World Economic Outlook of the International Monetary Fund at the time stated that global growth fell 0.1%. This time, global growth is projected to decline 4.9%, including not only developed countries but also developing countries. The spread of infections began in China, and now the “frontlines” of the spread of infections are in countries such as Brazil and India. Considering this, it is difficult to have recovery of economies that rely on foreign demand, and we have to seek how we can recover domestic consumption and economic activities.

In particular, the manufacturing industry mostly declined during the 2008 financial crisis. However, this time the effects are reaching various industries such as the food and beverage, accommodations, and event industries. Various initiatives such as the Go To Travel Campaign are necessary to achieve recovery and activation of these industries.

As has been stated and as implied in the name “Go To Travel Campaign,” it is aimed at supporting tourism and travel by regular people. However, as I have repeatedly stated, resumption of international travel will begin with people related to business. In terms of countries, the targets are limited to the four countries of Viet Nam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. In terms of people, travel will be opened up sequentially to overseas exchange students in the future, and lastly be expanded to regular people including tourists. Also, regarding countries, travel will be expanded sequentially from countries where infections are winding down. That is the direction we have.

In that sense, I believe that the approach to the resumption of international travel and the Go To Travel Campaign are issues that should not be discussed in the same way.

NHK, WATANABE: I have a related question. Perhaps my previous question was a little insufficient. My question was about what effects the situation of novel coronavirus infections will have on negotiations with foreign countries, as the Go To Travel Campaign has been partially reviewed and the situation in Japan centered on Tokyo is severe. Also, tomorrow it will have been exactly one month since the Government of Japan indicated its plan to relax measures on inter-prefecture travel if conditions were met. In that sense, I believe that the Go To Travel Campaign was partially reviewed because the situation in Japan is serious. What are your thoughts from the perspective of what effects there will be due to the situation of the spread of infections?

Minister MOTEGI: Questions about the situation of infections in Japan, specifically in relation to the Go To Travel Campaign, are outside my jurisdiction, so I would like to refrain from answering. However, if we look at the global situation of infections, over 13 million people have been infected and the speed of the global spread of infections is growing. It took 67 days for the number of confirmed infected people to grow from zero to over 100,000. It took 11 days for the number to grow from 100,000 to 200,000 people. It took just four days for the number to grow from 200,000 to 300,000 people.

Now the number of infected people is growing at a rate of one million in four days, and infections are continuing to spread around the world. Depending on the country, infected people are being confirmed in units of 10,000 people, and there are countries where such a situation is continuing. The respective countries are advancing initiatives toward winding down the spread of infections, and Japan would like to provide cooperation and support to the extent possible for such measures. But if we look objectively at the situations of infections in the world and compare that with the current situation in Japan, I believe the answer is self-evident.

Novel Coronavirus (Travel By Dignitaries)

Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about travel by dignitaries. I believe you settled important negotiation matters with various countries through face-to-face diplomacy before the novel coronavirus. On the other hand, since the spread of the novel coronavirus, you have been repeatedly conducting video teleconference meetings and telephone talks. Can you please tell us your views about what specific differences there are in negotiation matters between face-to-face meetings and video teleconference meetings and telephone talks?

Minister MOTEGI: Amidst various restrictions on movement, I believe that not only Japan but also summit leaders and foreign ministers from countries around the world agree that we cannot necessarily select the best method. During this, although there are various issues with the novel coronavirus in the international community now, there are also other issues that require close communication and consultations, so we have been conducting communication using methods such as telephone talks and video teleconference meetings. In terms of just telephone talks with foreign ministers of various countries, I believe I have conducted close to 60 of them.

Having tried this, we have been able to save time in various areas, for example not having to travel for 10 hours. However, frankly speaking, I believe that there are negotiations which are considerably difficult to be conducted by telephone, such as the negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to conclude the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement. For issues touching on subtleties, negotiations can be held over two or three days depending on the situation, and can require in-person discussions by working-level people. Sometimes, tête-à-tête meetings between two people without interpretation are needed in the last part to work out the final details. In that sense, for important situations, I believe there are negotiations in which such face-to-face meetings are necessary.

The European Parliament’s Resolution Concerning Removal of Children in Japan

Senkyo Dot Com, MAKINO: To continue on from my previous question regarding the European Parliament’s resolution, the European Parliament is alleging that Japan is violating the CRC, but Japan is answering that it is adhering to the CRC and no problems are occurring. I believe that this answer does not only involve the Ministry of Justice. Is it correct to understand that this is the viewpoint agreed upon by the Government of Japan, including the Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister’s Office?

Minister MOTEGI: No, as I stated earlier, please ask at the Ministry of Justice, which has jurisdiction over this matter, if you think there is a problem with the answer that Japan is sincerely adhering to the CRC. You will have to ask at the Ministry of Justice if you think that Japan’s implementation for this is a certain way. Because the Ministry of Justice actually implements the domestic laws related to this, I believe that anyone would realize that they would have to ask there.

Novel Coronavirus (Resumption of International Travel)

NHK, WATANABE: In regard to relaxing measures restricting entry into Japan, negotiations are being conducted with Thailand, following Viet Nam. What is your current view on the prospects for when mutual travel will actually be allowed?

Minister MOTEGI: Consultations are progressing well. I believe that it will not be a long time from now, but we must finalize the details with the other country. At the same time, even if both countries agree on a scheme, travel will not actually resume unless people start to go to the other country. We will accelerate consultations while monitoring matters such as when people might start traveling. I believe it will not be too far in the future.

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