[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Policy ]

Looking to Japan's Future:
Keidanren's Perspective on Constitutional Policy Issues

(Outline -tentative translation-)

January 18, 2005

Nippon Keidanren
(Japan Business Federation)

1. Necessity for the New National Foundation

Japan faces challenges both home-grown and external. To better manage the dangers posed by terrorism perpetrated by non-state actors, natural disasters, rising crime rates and viciousness, coupled with a national birthrate below replacement levels and an aging population, drastic measures that will cut incisively into the basic framework on which the nation has thus far been based, are called for. Nothing short of a new foundation is required.

That said, it is important that Japan hold firm to the basic principles on which it was built - democracy, freedom and peace - acting on its own initiative to secure and attain them.

To this end, Keidanren set forth its recommendations aimed at helping Japan realize an idealized image - a state that is trusted and respected by the international community, a state that achieves economic prosperity and spiritual richness, and a state that is just, fair, secure and safe.

2. National Security and Diplomatic Policy

Lacking natural resources, and thus wholly dependent upon trade, it is essential for Japan's prosperity to achieve peace and stability in the international community and cooperate with other nations in solving global community problems. Using its economic and technological strengths, Japan should practice and work to preserve and expand free trade, and enhance mutual relationships focusing on economy and industry. For this, skilled diplomacy is required.

Japan should maintain and strengthen the Japan-US security alliance. Japan should also work actively to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Beyond the security considerations, it should build closer, cooperative relationships with the US through human exchanges and candid discussions that will deepen mutual trust.

To enhance cooperation with countries in East Asian region, Japan should enter into Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with South Korea, China and the ASEAN countries. In addition, an East Asia Free Economic Zone should be created as soon as possible, in which Japan should exert leadership. In promoting this, the relationship between China and Japan is quite important.

In the field of international security, Japan should engage in the fields of conflict prevention and assistance in reconstruction as well as development. Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) having been highly regarded in cooperative activities with the international community, and these should be expanded. In doing so, a basic policy on SDF activities, including the scope and the extent of overseas activities, should be clearly delineated, and a general law to that effect - not "special measures" provisions - should be enacted.

The "Security Council of Japan" should be fundamentally reinforced. Under the leadership of the prime minister, a system should be established to deal with national security issues continually and comprehensively. Recovering a level of public safety and ensuring sea-lane security are both pressing issues. In addition, it is necessary to improve the ability to gather, analyze and control information and intelligence for strategic diplomacy, prevention of crises, and so forth. Better coordination between government ministries and agencies would do much to further these goals.

3. Revision of the Constitution

As it stands today, Japan's present Constitution, especially in the preamble and Article 9, seems outmoded. Among other things, debate over interpretation of Article 9 has long been "theological" and seemingly endless. Public confidence in the Constitution has substantially declined as a result.

Specifically, while Paragraph 1, Article 9, which is built on the philosophy of "peace" should be retained, Paragraph 2 shows obvious divergence from the reality. The existence of the Self-Defense Forces in order to exercise the sovereign right of self-defense should be recognized in constitutional terms. It should also be explicitly stated that the role and duty of the SDF are to protect Japan's sovereignty and independence, preserve peace, and both contribute to and cooperate with the international community in activities for international peace.

The Constitution should also make clear that the right of collective self-defense may be exercised to secure Japan's national interests and international peace. At the same time, a fundamental law on security should be enacted to provide for rules and measures to limit and control the exercise of such rights - such as requiring advanced approval by the Diet, taking international situations, as well as areas and types of activities, into consideration.

Without waiting for a formal amendment of Japan's Constitution, necessary measures should be implemented immediately to lift the constraints from a rigid interpretation of the current Constitution, which would legally permit necessary activities for security.

In addition, requirements for amending the Constitution are too strict. Conditions for revision, including the motion to propose for the constitutional revision, should be eased so that necessary revisions become available promptly based on the will of the people whenever necessary. As an immediate matter, it is essential that new legislation providing for a national referendum on revisions to the Constitution be enacted as soon as possible.

As an initial step, Paragraph 2 of Article 9 (not to maintain war potential) and Article 96 (revising the Constitution) both of which diverge greatly from reality today should be revised as a precursor to an indispensable - and overdue - nationwide debate on the Constitutional revision.

4. Building a More Democratic and Efficient Government

In order to accurately reflect the opinions of the public, it is necessary to fairly and equally allocate the electoral seats to the House of Representatives among each electoral district corresponding to the change in population. At the same time, new voters should be educated about social rules so that they can more responsibly participate in the political arena and engage in civil discourse.

Voluntary political contributions are important means for people to participate in politics. Political parties should use donations from the private sector to strengthen their ability to draft and promote policy recommendations. Full and transparent public disclosure of campaign finances is necessary as well. Legal and tax systems should be established or improved, including a fundamental review of the Political Funds Control Law.

Rights and obligations, freedom and responsibility, are two sides of the same coin. Accordingly, government itself must become more efficient and accountable. As to the legislative branch, the functional distinction between the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors is blurring.. The roles and functions of each House must be distinguished based upon each unique character, and the legislature must utilize the benefit of bicameral system. At the same time, Members of Diet should not depend too much on the government's bill proposals and drafting. Instead, they should enhance their policy making ability and actively engage in legislative drafting.

As to the executive branch, it is necessary to review the reorganization of ministries and agencies comprehensively, to strengthen the functions of the Cabinet Office, to eliminate bureaucratic sectionalism, to drastically reform the civil service system, to expand political appointments and to seek the sources of government officials widely from the private sector.

And as to the judicial branch of government, it is necessary to strengthen the Supreme Court's power to determine the constitutionality of a law. Relationships between the government and local municipalities should be reviewed.

5. Other Fundamental Issues

(1) Education

Moving beyond the concept of homogeneous human resource development - the foundation of Japan's post-war prosperity - Japan should carry out bold education reforms based on the principles of diversification, competition and evaluation. It is important that a system be established that allows diverse parties to participate in education. A system should be introduced to distribute subsidies for education based on the choices by the students and their parents. It is also important to review education related to tradition, culture, history, politics and religion, and to evaluate teachers and schools.

(2) Decline in Population

As of 2007, Japan will experience, for the first time in its post-WWII history, a declining population. Accordingly, it should create social mechanisms enabling the fuller utilization of women and the elderly. At the same time, as it expands measures to deal with a falling birthrate, it should promote the acceptance of foreign workers.

(3) Science and Technology

The government's role in science and technology is manifold: to promote long-term and/or large-scale research and development projects that are too costly for private industries to adequately pursue; to maintain and develop technologies the nation must possess for its technological security; and to provide the infrastructure for, and guide the development of technologies into, new industries for the prosperity of the nation. Human resources must support the development of science and technology. Reformation of the education system so as to secure the necessary people in technical fields is urgent.

(4) National Budget

Japan's national budget is in a critical state. Action is simultaneously needed in three areas: controlling government spending; securing revenues by increasing the consumption tax; and stimulating economic growth. The most important issue in control of government spending is reform of the social security system. The most effective way to secure revenue is to raise the consumption tax rate.

(5) Energy, Environment, and Food

Japan's Achilles' heel is energy. A stable energy supply must be secured, consistent both with environmental and economic concerns. Sources should be diversified to avoid the risk of over-concentration. Japan should strengthen its cooperative efforts to secure energy, and to develop energy resources, etc., with China and other countries in East Asia, that are also likely to generate vigorous energy demand. Japan should also make further efforts to develop energy and environment related technologies.

Japan also depends on other countries for food. It should ensure a stable supply of food by appropriately combining imports, stocks, improvements to the competitiveness of domestic production, and international cooperation.

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