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Executives' Comments  Press Conferences Chairman Tokura's Statements and Comments
at His Press Conference

January 24, 2022

Response to Rapid Spread of COVID-19 Infections

As in other countries, COVID-19 infections are rising rapidly in Japan. With reference to overseas examples, Japan needs to take measures adapted to the characteristics of the Omicron variant and maintain economic and social activities.

Firstly, except for essential workers, the isolation period for infected persons and close contacts is 10 days in Japan, but in many other countries it is five days. There is a need to examine the appropriate isolation period.

Current border measures prohibiting new entry of foreigners are also unrealistic. In the early stages of the Omicron wave, when there were many uncertainties surrounding the new variant, casting a wide net was the correct response. As this variant continues to account for larger numbers of infections, I believe the time has come to review border measures. Business is not conducted solely on a domestic basis. Cutting movement to and from Japan has impeded business activities such as technical cooperation with foreign companies and M&A negotiations. Taking Israel as an example, from January this year the government enabled entry by holders of vaccine certificates and those considered recovered. I hope that Japan will verify measures taken by such countries, and alleviate its state of isolation as quickly as possible.

Japanese manufacturers have already introduced systems to address the shortage of antigen test kits by increasing production. I urge the Japanese government to support these moves, increase supplies of such kits, and strive to maintain medical services.

Spring Labor-Management Negotiations

Spring labor-management negotiations are not forums for discussing wages alone. There is significance in labor and management coming together once a year to share views on, and intensively discuss, a wide range of issues including investment in people, work styles, and productivity improvements.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, business results vary from one industry and enterprise to another, and uniform wage increases are not realistic. Under such circumstances, companies that have maintained favorable results, and those that have improved their performance, have a duty to return the fruits of their success to employees, who are key stakeholders. In the upcoming spring labor-management negotiations, labor and management should engage in discussions based on factors including pertinent internal and external matters and the company's financial situation, and identify the optimal solution according to fundamental principles on deciding wages.

Ensuring Appropriate Transactions

To raise wages throughout Japan, it is essential to improve productivity in the entire supply chain and increase added value, and SMEs must be included in these enhancements. Transaction prices are a crucial factor in achieving these goals. In our Charter of Corporate Behavior, Keidanren encourages its member companies to improve terms of trade with subcontractors and other SMEs. We have also repeatedly called upon members to sign the Declaration of Partnership Building.

Items for Disclosure in Financial Statements

[In response to a question about Prime Minister Kishida considering making wage differentials between men and women a disclosure item in financial statements] As part of the shift from shareholder value to stakeholder value, I believe this statement was made in the context of the trend towards increasing disclosure of non-financial information. Since this is an important matter, it needs to be thoroughly discussed by all interested parties.

Japan-U.S. Leaders' Summit

With a view to achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific, I welcome the leaders' agreement to deepen the close ties between Japan and the U.S. as well as cooperation with like-minded countries. I also take a very positive view of the agreement to establish a new Economic "2+2" committee. It will be important to discuss economic security with the U.S. and like-minded countries.

In a situation where it is difficult for the U.S. to return to the TPP in the immediate future, I also welcome the U.S. stance of economic engagement with the region through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

Relations with China

This year marks the milestone of 50 years since normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. For the sake of economic prosperity and peace in East Asia, our two countries need to build a stable and constructive relationship.

The world cannot thrive without China, and China cannot decouple itself from the world. We face global issues such as climate change and dealing with COVID-19, and we should cooperate to resolve them.

Ukraine Situation

We will carefully monitor the situation.

[In response to a question on the likely impacts if the Russian military actually invades Ukraine] It would probably cast a shadow over economic exchange between Japan and Russia. If the situation escalates further, there could be a risk of Russia halting supply of natural gas to Europe and a sharp rise in gas prices, with unavoidable impacts on the Japanese and global economies.

Merger of Keidanren and Nikkeiren

This year is the 20th anniversary of the merger of Keidanren and Nikkeiren. Before the merger, Keidanren had addressed a wide range of internal and external policy issues, while Nikkeiren had been responsible for social security and labor matters. Foreseeing that issues including social security and work styles would become challenges relating to Japan's economy and society as a whole, the decision for Keidanren and Nikkeiren to merge and address them as one was highly significant. We transformed ourselves into an organization capable of responding to requests and demands from multiple stakeholders and all levels of society. This was a very beneficial merger.

Executives' Comments