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

March 12, 2018

Announcement of Vice Chair Candidates for the Board of Councillors

I have provisionally nominated new vice chair candidates for the Keidanren Board of Councillors. Current vice chairs Haruo Murase, Kunio Noji, Yoichi Miyamoto, and Masatoshi Ito will step down at the end of their terms of office, with effect from the Keidanren General Assembly meeting on May 31. Current Board of Councillors vice chairs Tetsuro Tomita, Shuzo Sumi, and Shinya Katanozaka will also step down in conjunction with their appointment as Keidanren vice chairs.

Seven new candidates have been put forward: Naofumi Negishi, Chairman of the Board, Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd.; Tamotsu Saito, Chairman of the Board, IHI Corporation; Hiromichi Shinohara, Senior Executive Vice President, NTT Corporation; Masanobu Komoda, President & CEO, Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd.; Yoshihiko Hatanaka, CEO, Astellas Pharma Inc.; Ryuichi Isaka, President, Seven & i Holdings, Co., Ltd.; and Takeshi Niinami, President, Suntory Holdings Limited.

These candidates are energetic executives of outstanding character and judgment, who are innovators on the global stage. Given the Board of Councillors' role as an advisory body to the Keidanren chairman, they have been selected from a diverse range of industries. Emphasis was placed on candidates who lead companies that innovate and propose solutions to issues facing society as key players in bringing about Society 5.0, one of Keidanren's top priorities.

Recruitment and Employment of New College Graduates

Following discussion of future processes for recruitment and employment of new college graduates, we have approved a policy for those commencing work in fiscal 2020. Beginning with our policy for recruitment and employment of new college graduates commencing work in fiscal 2017, Keidanren set a timetable of recruitment campaigns starting on March 1 and the selection process starting on June 1. We applied the same schedule for new college graduates commencing work in fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019. Some parties commented that this timetable brought job-seeking and recruitment activities forward, leaving students with only a short time to research industries and companies, but there were no major problems overall, and participants generally welcomed the new schedule. In view of these outcomes, we decided to maintain the current schedule for new college graduates commencing work in fiscal 2020.

The government has requested some 450 business groups to observe the start times in the Keidanren policy and consider academic timetables. If enterprises conduct orderly recruitment and employment activities in accordance with predetermined rules, the process will take students' academic activities into account. I will raise awareness of the policy and urge Keidanren member companies to follow it.

Times are changing rapidly, with increasing numbers of students studying abroad and the growth of fast-paced industries such as IT. There is a spectrum of views on setting a fixed period and conducting mass recruitment. However, a completely unconstrained situation without any rules would present many problems. In the past, Keidanren set a timetable of recruitment campaigns starting in December, while students were in their third year of university, and the selection process starting in April. That schedule was altered following requests in 2013 from the government and universities to enable third-year students to focus on their studies without the academic timetable being affected by job-seeking activities. I am aware that some enterprises do not observe the Keidanren policy, but the current rules based on government and university wishes have certain merit.

Keidanren will continue to examine policy for new college graduates commencing work in fiscal 2021 and beyond, and indicate a direction this fall. We will seek the optimal path.

Spring Labor-Management Wage Dialogues

Companies are currently in the midst of wage dialogues, and the day when most of them will respond to labor union demands, March 14, is approaching. Wage dialogues are based on corporate performance, and many companies are expected to post record profits in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018. Share price volatility and other external factors are likely to have limited impact. Despite the existence of concerns that are bound to influence spring labor-management wage dialogues, including exchange rate trends, protectionist policies, and international circumstances inevitably raising the prospect of trade friction and trade wars, I expect that many companies will respond positively to labor union demands in accordance with the policy set out in the report of the Keidanren Special Committee on Management and Labor Policy.

North Korean Issue

Progress in dialogue about the North Korean issue is, in itself, a positive trend. However, some commentators have suggested that North Korea's willingness to talk about denuclearization is just a means of stalling for time, and we need to discern the real intention and whether the offer is genuine or merely a ploy. In 2005, the six-party talks agreed to a package entailing abandonment of nuclear programs in exchange for economic cooperation and respect for North Korean sovereignty, yet in reality nuclear weapons development continued. Given such examples in the past, I will closely monitor US-North Korea dialogue. Dialogue between Japan and the US, including the bilateral leaders' summit to be held in April, will also be important, together with talks among Japan, the US, and South Korea. I hope to see progress aimed at ensuring denuclearization in North Korea.

Moritomo Gakuen Scandal

From a public records management perspective, making alterations to approval documents is inexcusable. Such conduct is even more serious when it involves intentionally altering documents submitted to the Diet, which is responsible for making laws. The facts must be thoroughly clarified. In particular, light should be shed on what was intended and how instructions were given regarding the alterations. I hope the Ministry of Finance will allay people's growing suspicions and restore public trust.

If a company faced this kind of situation, top management would take the lead in clarifying the facts and preventing recurrence. It would also make a firm decision on accountability in accordance with the details. Regardless of whether such corporate practices apply equally to the government, it is crucial to identify causes and announce steps to prevent recurrence in order to clear away public distrust and restore faith in the government.

The Moritomo Gakuen scandal is an extremely serious matter, but a host of important issues are before the Diet, notably budget debate in the House of Councillors. There are many outstanding issues that could have major impacts on Japan, such as working style reform, North Korea, and US tariffs on steel and aluminum. Deliberation of stalled bills also needs to proceed as swiftly as possible. The Moritomo Gakuen scandal cannot be neglected, but I urge the government to deal with it in a manner that will not affect Diet deliberations.

During the period when Japanese prime ministers changed almost every year, long-term growth strategy never got beyond formulation to the actual implementation stage. By contrast, Prime Minister Abe has built a stable administration and maintained and enhanced cooperative relations with the business community. Keidanren has made proposals to government, and we have been able to build a collaborative relationship. This is the way business and politics should interact. I sincerely hope that the government will strive to explain matters to the public, restore trust, and quickly return politics to stability.

Executives' Comments