Masakazu Kubota, Director General
Following deliberation at today's meeting of the Board of Directors, I would like to report changes in the proposed executive line-up for the coming year that was announced in March.
With effect from the General Assembly to be held on June 1, Keidanren Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi will step down partway through his term of office. Mr. Nakanishi has nominated Masakazu Tokura, Chairman of the Board, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd., as candidate for the next Keidanren Chairman. In conjunction with this proposed appointment, Keiichi Iwata, President of Sumitomo Chemical Company Limited, who was provisionally designated as a candidate for Vice Chair, will decline appointment to this post. Please note that there are no changes to other candidates provisionally designated in March. As a result of this change, there will be 19 Vice Chairs.
On April 13, Mr. Nakanishi gave notice of his intention to step down from the post of Keidanren Chairman for health reasons with effect from the General Assembly to be held on June 1. I listed and recommended candidates to succeed to the post from among executives at company president or chair level who have current or previous experience as Keidanren Vice Chairs and who display superior character, judgment, and management skills as well as leadership and energy. And finally Mr. Nakanishi nominated Mr. Tokura, who has eagerly taken up challenges facing the Japanese economy, especially digital transformation and climate change issues. In the course of making this decision, I also consulted with Keidanren Honorary Chairs.
Please note that rather than carrying on Mr. Nakanishi's term of office, the next chairman will be newly appointed for a two-year term, normally followed by a second term for a total of four years.
Masakazu Tokura, Candidate for Next Keidanren Chairman
Mr. Nakanishi has nominated me for appointment as Keidanren Chairman at the General Assembly to be held on June 1. Although this sudden nomination came as a great surprise to me, I am tremendously honored by it.
In the normal course of events, 2021 would be the year when all Mr. Nakanishi's efforts in leading Keidanren came together, and it brings a lump to my throat when I think of the regret that he must feel at having to step down for health reasons partway through his term of office. Although my knowledge and skills barely suffice for the office, as the next Keidanren chairman I hope to carry on Mr. Nakanishi's policies as I do my utmost to promote further growth in Japan's economy and society.
In the short term, government and the public and private sectors need to pool their energies to rebound from the current COVID-19 pandemic and do all they can to prevent the spread of infection and promote economic recovery. Looking ahead to a new post-COVID-19 era, I imagine that new ideas and bold policies will be required.
Under these circumstances, I intend to firmly adhere to the course that Mr. Nakanishi has been following. To establish sustainable capitalism, I will work with the Vice Chairs to proactively lead Keidanren activities in the aim of materializing the five fundamental policies set out in the New Growth Strategy developed in November 2020, namely (1) new growth through digital transformation, (2) transformation of work styles, (3) regional revitalization, (4) rebuilding the international economic order, and (5) realization of green growth.
To address such pressing issues and, above all, the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 problem, I will respond to the demands of multiple stakeholders and aim to gain broad-based support for Keidanren from every demographic sector and society as a whole.
(Reporter: What are your reasons for accepting the post of Keidanren Chairman and your aspirations for your term of office?)
One of my favorite words is "honor." I agonized over appointment to the post, but decided that accepting it was a matter of honor for me. Having accepted the role of Chairman, I will devote all my energies to it with my ideals firmly in mind.
Mr. Nakanishi led the business community and made various statements while undergoing medical treatment in hospital, and I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude for his spirit of determination.
(Reporter: How will you drive Japan's economy forward as we live with COVID-19 and in the post-COVID-19 era?)
As Vice Chair of the Board of Councillors, I was involved in developing the New Growth Strategy, and the point that resonated most with me in this strategy was the aim of establishing sustainable capitalism. Sometimes companies have tended to emphasize profits and management efficiency, but this approach has resulted in some criticism for risking destruction of ecosystems and creating disparities. In response to these concerns, the US Business Roundtable and the World Economic Forum have advocated an end to shareholder capitalism and a shift to stakeholder capitalism. Amid such global trends, Keidanren should also adopt a social point of view and realize a capitalist market economy where value is co-created with multiple stakeholders.
(Reporter: What are your thoughts on the relationship between business and politics, and reducing influence of business on politics?)
As symbolized by economic security issues, we live in an era when the superstructure of political ideology and the substructure of business are interrelated and influence one another. While actively collaborating with politics, it is vital for Keidanren to make policy proposals based the realities of business, and to work towards realization of such proposals.
I sometimes hear that Keidanren has less power to communicate its ideas, but at a time when the world faces many and varied problems, I believe that Keidanren's proposal of the Society 5.0 concept rather than ordinary economic policy has had a major impact, and is the greatest outcome of Mr. Nakanishi's term as Chairman. The vision for developing Society 5.0 is set out in our New Growth Strategy. Digital transformation and carbon neutrality are especially important policies within that strategy. Since these policies are aligned with key policies of the Suga administration, Keidanren will join forces with the government and lead the world in these fields.
(Reporter: What are your thoughts on relations with China and South Korea, and the situation in Myanmar?)
China is an important business partner for Japan, and building stable Japan-China relations is crucial not only for our two countries, but also for the global economy. As responsible world powers, it is vital that we continue to cooperate closely at high levels and contribute to the development of the regional and international communities. The Japanese business community will continue to take various opportunities to engage in close dialogue with China. We will firmly communicate our views, foster deeper mutual understanding, broaden the range of fields where we can cooperate, and contribute to further growth in bilateral economic relations.
Japan and South Korea also have a long history as key partners. I believe that the Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration of 1998 forms the basis of Japan-Korea relations, and that we should return to its principles. Many issues still exist between our two countries, including legal action by former workers from the Korean peninsula, the "comfort women" issue, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, and export controls, and I hope that relations in these areas will improve as quickly as possible. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has recently been signed, and can be expected to expand trade between Japan and Korea and strengthen ties between Japanese and Korean companies. Keidanren will continue to promote economic exchange with Korea and contribute to forward-looking Japan-Korea relations.
The Myanmar issue needs to be considered based on the universal values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights.
(Reporter: How will you work to realize a decarbonized society?)
To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we will have to muster all our strength to meet the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 46% below 2013 levels by 2030. This will be a tough challenge, but innovation occurs when efforts are made to achieve such challenging goals.
In our policy proposal "Toward Realizing Carbon Neutrality by 2050" (announced in December 2020), we suggested four specific actions and encouraged companies to implement them. The first is generating innovation, and companies are further expanding their efforts to meet this challenge, focusing on Keidanren's "Challenge Zero" initiative. The second action is creating next-generation electricity systems with investment cycles. The third action is promoting sustainable finance, and the fourth is expanding innovation internationally. We will continue working to realize these actions.
(Reporter: Can you summarize your vision for us?)
The vision set out in the New Growth Strategy matches my ideas exactly. First of all I want to build the sustainable capitalism advocated in that strategy, and create a business and industrial community that can gain the cooperation of society.