- Rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake
- Economic Situation
- Working Style Reform
- Premium Friday
- Japan-US Relations
- Ballistic Missile Launch by North Korea
- Announcement of Vice Chair Candidates for the Board of Councillors
Rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake
On March 11, it will be six years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Although steady progress has been made on restoring fundamental infrastructure for everyday life in the areas affected, industries are still only midway to recovery, partly due to the impact of false rumors. To achieve genuine recovery, rumors affecting the core regional industries of tourism, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries need to be refuted. To this end, Keidanren will host a symposium to encourage greater consumption of Tohoku products and boost tourism to the region. The symposium will include presentations from the Reconstruction Agency and Fukushima prefectural government on the damaging effects of rumors, as well as discussions with representatives of the agriculture and tourism industries who are facing such harm. Keidanren is committed to continuing its efforts to support recovery, and the symposium will open new avenues for eradicating rumors as well as issuing a joint appeal from Keidanren and the Reconstruction Agency.
The second preliminary estimate of the GDP growth rate, covering the reporting period October to December 2016, will be announced on March 8. The first preliminary estimate indicated year-on-year growth of 1.0%, marking four consecutive quarters of positive growth estimates. Statistics of Corporations by Industry show hopeful signs for investment in plant and equipment, and upward revision of investment figures is anticipated. Thus, the overall trend toward economic recovery continues. Consumption remains sluggish, partly due to the mild winter, but prospects need to be viewed in light of wage increases. I am hopeful for good outcomes from next week's spring labor-management dialogues.
Working Style Reform
Labor and management are continuing administrative-level discussions on upper overtime limits and interval regulations with a view to reaching agreement by mid-March. The key to working style reform lies in changing the culture of overwork. It is vital to rectify long working hours, which are negatively impacting workers' health, impeding the active participation of women in society, and hampering men's involvement in child-rearing. Unpaid overtime does not exist in principle, and if it does occur in practice, it must be stamped out.
Since the end of the month is busy enough already, particularly at the conclusion of the week, some feel that early in the month or mid-month would be better for Premium Friday. However, Premium Friday was set on the last Friday of the month because many companies pay out salaries on the 25th of the month, so choosing a day after that date is more likely to spur consumption.
The first Premium Friday, which took place on February 24, was widely reported in the media and attracted enormous attention. However, several issues became clear. For example, although the campaign prompted excitement in Tokyo, it was noted that enthusiasm was lacking regionally. Popularizing Premium Friday throughout the country is a crucial issue. Keidanren will advocate the merits of Premium Friday nationwide and tenaciously promote the concept to boost participation. Further issues will emerge as the initiative progresses, and we intend to surmount these as they arise. The initiative is off to a smooth start, and we will continue our efforts to maintain momentum in March and beyond.
Hopes for President Trump's policies are tempered with unease. On the plus side, his policies designed to promote industry, infrastructure investment, tax cuts, and deregulation are all positives for the US economy. Such policies are likely to further strengthen the robust US economy, and this will have global economic benefits. I hope that these tailwinds will speed up economic revitalization in Japan. However, trade policies are cause for uncertainty, and we will continue to monitor specific policies as they are announced.
Keidanren is undertaking a series of visits to the United States. The first was the recent mission of senior women managers. This will be followed in May by an economic mission from our Committee on US Affairs. We are planning a third mission in the fall, which I will lead. Our visits will include not only federal government, but also state governments, especially in the Midwest, and I believe it is vital to clearly communicate the Japanese business community's stance and the contributions that Japanese companies make to the US economy.
Ballistic Missile Launch by North Korea
The launch of ballistic missiles by North Korea must not be tolerated. In addition to contravening a UN Security Council Resolution, such actions also cause concerns over Japan's security. North Korea's missiles and nuclear development program pose a serious threat not only to Japan, but also to Northeast Asian and global security, and this violent behavior is deplorable. I hope the Japanese government will swiftly gather information on the incident and work in close cooperation with the international community to respond to it.
Announcement of Vice Chair Candidates for the Board of Councillors
At today's meeting of the Keidanren chairman and vice chairs, I announced vice chair candidates for the Keidanren Board of Councillors. Current vice chairs Ichiro Itoh, Setsuhiro Shimomura, and Akihiro Nikkaku will step down with effect from the Keidanren General Assembly on May 31, and Takashi Yamauchi will also step down due to his proposed appointment as Keidanren vice chair. Three new candidates have been put forward: Nobuhiro Endo, chairman, NEC Corporation; Hideki Kobori, president, Asahi Kasei Corporation; and Shinya Katanosaka, president & CEO, ANA Holdings Inc.
Globalization and innovation are important guiding principles for Keidanren activities, and these candidates have been selected for their strength in implementing key policy initiatives such as the Society 5.0 concept. I hope that the Board of Councillors will continue to give advice and opinions on various matters, offering new and fresh perspectives.