Press Conference by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu
Tuesday, September 1, 2020, 10:46 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel
Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I would like to speak about one matter. It is not about the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election. I would like to speak about resumption of cross-border travel. We have been conducting consultations with various countries and regions toward allowing resumption of cross-border travel.
I visited Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar about two weeks ago. During these visits, we agreed on launching the “Residence Track” in early September that will enable travel between Japan and the respective countries by people with long-term stays, such as expatriate employees. The details have been finalized based on this, and it has been decided to start the “Residence Track” on September 8 with the four countries of Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. We have also been holding consultations with Taiwan through now, and the “Residence Track” will be started in the same way from September 8.
Furthermore, in regard to the “Business Track” that is mainly for use by short-term business travelers that will enable limited business activities at hotels, workplaces, and other locations even during the quarantine period at home or other locations, we are continuing coordination toward quickly implementing it with countries and regions including the ones I mentioned.
For details, please ask the officials. The “Residence Track” was already launched with Viet Nam and Thailand last month, and it will start with Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar as well as Taiwan from September 8. That is all from me.
Resumption of Cross-Border Travel
Sankei Shimbun, ISHINABE: I would like to ask about what you just announced. In regard to allowing resumption of travel gradually from the “Business Track,” can you please tell us again the significance of allowing resumption of travel?
Minister MOTEGI: As is true for countries around the world, we are taking measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and to bring it under control. At the same time, the economies of countries around the world are declining majorly and being affected by the novel coronavirus. We will probably see the Japanese economy decline even more than during the 2008 global financial crisis.
If we look at the United States and Europe, the International Monetary Fund estimates that their economies will decline by close to 10% compared to the previous estimates. This is also true for Brazil, India, and other countries. Amidst this situation in countries around the world, the earliest possible economic recovery is also extremely important to people’s lives. Accordingly, how to balance prevention of the spread of the novel coronavirus and economic recovery has become an extremely important viewpoint.
For this, while maintaining various measures to prevent the spread of infections that have been worked out thus far, we will balance preventing the spread of infections with recovery of business activities and the economy by allowing resumption of travel with additional conditions. Economic recovery has become the priority, so resumption of travel will be allowed by launching the “Residence Track” for people with long-term stays and the “Business Track” for businesspeople, as I mentioned before. Permission will next be expanded to exchange students and others, and finally to general people such as tourists. I believe that this will be the order when keeping an eye on balancing preventing the spread of infections and economic recovery, as I mentioned.
Through this, firstly it is expected that even in Japan, for example, activities at foreign companies will probably be stimulated. I also believe that there will be effects as in further movements of mutual investment and other issues which had been halted.
Status of Negotiations on the Japan-U.K. Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
NHK, YAMAMOTO: I believe that working-level consultations are advancing regarding the EPA with the United Kingdom. It is being reported that a LDP presidential election will be conducted in Japan and the new Prime Minister will be selected on September 17. Would you like the agreement in principle for the EPA to be completed during the current administration? Or are you not particular about the time period?
Minister MOTEGI: It is true that the presidential election within the LDP will be held from tomorrow. The current administration will continue through to the inauguration of the new administration. When I visited the United Kingdom in early August, Secretary of State for International Trade Truss and I reached an agreement in principle on most of the fields for the Japan-U.K. Economic Partnership and shared recognition of the major points in question. Based on this, working-level consultations are currently being conducted diligently. We were aiming to have an agreement in principle by the end of August. As this is being negotiated, the agreement in principle might be delayed by a few days or one or two weeks. But we are working to have an agreement in principle as quickly as possible, which would be during this administration if possible.
Independent Web Journal, WATARAI: I would like to ask a related question. You discussed the agreement in principle just now. Within this, the item on prohibition of demands for algorithm disclosure, which could have major effects on Japan’s economic sovereignty, needs to be considered extremely carefully and should not be decided hastily. In response to the previous question, you answered that you would like to reach an agreement during the current administration. I believe that this should be widely disclosed to the people of Japan and decided based on discussions. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister MOTEGI: It is an international rule to not disclose the specific content of negotiations one by one at the stage before reaching an agreement in principle. Although I cannot speak about the details, I believe that certainly the aim is to create rules at an even higher level for ecommerce, digital fields, and other fields going forward.
We are considering how to precisely protect the free flow of data, but also the rights of individuals and various forms of information. Discussions on these fields were advanced while compiling the TPP11 and the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement, and it is undoubtedly true that this is being further advanced internationally. We are currently engaging in work from the perspective of aiming to create rules at an even higher level for international standards.
Independent Web Journal, WATARAI: You did not mention this in your answer, but it is said that there are various issues with algorithms particularly related to finance, stocks, and other investment. Computers are completing transactions systematically at extremely fast speeds. I have heard concerns that unless countries set standardized restrictions on these systems, the Japanese market could be in an inferior position in the sea of competition with foreign countries. What are your thoughts on this?
Minister MOTEGI: The negotiations are currently being conducted with full awareness of the various points in question concerning those issues.
LDP Presidential Election
Yomiuri Shimbun, OYABU: I would like to ask about the LDP presidential election. Last Friday, you stated that you would decide your response by discussing it with your colleagues. After that, calls to support you have emerged within the Takeshita faction that you are part of. Can you please tell us again your thoughts regarding the presidential election?
Minister MOTEGI: In regard to the presidential election, I believe that later today, the LDP General Council will probably make decisions on how the presidential election will be held, the schedule, and other matters. Discussions seem to be advancing now in the direction of choosing a new president by around mid-September.
In regard to my response to the presidential election, our group’s board meeting and plenary meeting were held yesterday morning. During the plenary meeting, there were certainly various requests made to me and views were spoken.
At the same time, as has been stated, various developments are occurring now concerning the presidential election. I am consulting with my colleagues, and have also been communicating almost daily with various members of the LDP beyond those in my group. I would like to announce the conclusion soon. It will be announced within 24 hours.