- Social Security System
- Prospects for US-China Talks
- Electricity Policy
- Issues with 24-Hour Operation of Convenience Stores
- Osaka Gubernatorial and Mayoral Elections
Social Security System
Ensuring that the social security system is sustainable remains a question of considering the needs of the next generation. Keidanren will engage fully with the digital transformation of the Society 5.0 era and call for policies to ensure the sustainability of social security that focus on issues such as longer healthy lifespans and improvements in preventive medicine. We are currently compiling specific suggestions in an upcoming policy proposal. The Japanese government is in the midst of discussing direction for the social security system in the Council on Investments for the Future and the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. We recognize that the timing is right to release our own policy proposal.
Prospects for US-China Talks
It is becoming difficult to objectively anticipate where friction between the US and China may lead. The initial point of contention was to remedy the trade imbalance between the two countries, and there was some discussion that this might trigger the restructuring of supply chains with China. Now, however, the issue has morphed into a struggle between the US and China for technological supremacy. Depending on how the US moves on control of sensitive technologies, this could have a greater impact on companies than the trade imbalance issue, and thus prospects are unclear. The challenge we face as business executives is to discuss multiple measures so that we are ready to cope with any change in circumstances.
China recognizes itself as the flag bearer for free trade and continues to energetically communicate this message to the world. At the recent B20 Tokyo Summit, China showed a desire to augment its alliances around the world, especially in Asia, and to collaborate with Japan.
In this situation, Japan needs to think seriously about what kind of strategy it should adopt. Rather than leaving this up to the government, Keidanren will share information with the Japanese government and cooperate to build a strategy that does not present any major obstacles to business activity.
I have long felt that Japan faces a severe crisis in terms of electricity policy. Since my appointment as Keidanren chairman, Keidanren has vigorously pursued examination of this matter, and today we have finally issued a policy proposal on Japan's electricity system, which summarizes business community views.
Through our world-leading energy-saving efforts, Japan's electricity market now appears to be shrinking. In a tough market environment caused by the introduction of competitive principles, there are no incentives for suppliers to take up the challenge of new investment. The situation the electricity industry currently finds itself in is completely different from the one it faced during Japan's high-growth era, when improvement of electricity infrastructure was required. In pondering the future of electricity, Japan needs to conduct a national discussion based on not only technicalities, but also the social aspects of economic and legal considerations, and to include government, business, and academia in such deliberations. As part of this process, mechanisms must be constructed to drive economic growth by channelling funds into investment, promoting technology development, and helping new industries to flourish.
The policy proposal we have published today limits itself to raising such issues, and does not present solutions. If we consider the energy mix from 2030 onward, there are various technological options, but no single conclusion can be proposed. Several solutions exist, and a decision cannot be made by the business community or the government alone. This conclusion was also reached following discussion in the government's Round-Table for Studying Energy Situations in 2017 and 2018. All levels of Japanese society need to be included in consideration of solutions.
It is clear that we cannot keep using fossil fuels forever. For the future of humankind, it will be vital to secure energy options other than fossil fuels, namely renewable energy and nuclear energy. All parties involved in nuclear energy, including the government, electricity companies, and equipment manufacturers, need to work together to foster public trust.
Practical implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and utilization of hydrogen present further technological options for eliminating CO2 emissions. However, once again the issue is determining who will actually invest in such technologies.
A blackout occurred in Hokkaido in September last year. If the problems facing Japan's electricity sector remain unaddressed, we cannot exclude the possibility of similar circumstances arising nationwide. Despite having experienced such a situation, however, Japan as a whole still has no commonly-held sense of crisis over electricity. I want to foster a broad-based sense of shared urgency and encourage discussion aimed at reaching solutions.
Issues with 24-Hour Operation of Convenience Stores
There is no denying that many people would be troubled if convenience stores were not available, yet it is difficult to operate such stores without labor. This problem is unlikely to be resolved quickly just because the government has made a statement on it.
Osaka Gubernatorial and Mayoral Elections
The governor of Osaka Prefecture and the Mayor of Osaka are key partners for Keidanren as we work toward Osaka hosting the World Expo, and we intend to continue collaborating with the new incumbents.