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

March 7, 2022

Appointment of Chair and Vice Chairs of the Board of Councillors

An unofficial decision was made at today's meeting of the chairman and vice chairs on candidates for the chairman and vice chairs of the Board of Councillors to be newly appointed at the General Assembly this year (on June 1).

With effect from the General Assembly, Board of Councillors Chairman Koga will step down, as will Vice Chairs Kobayashi, Negishi, Saito, Hatanaka, Isaka, Niinami, Futamiya, and Nagai.

The tentative new appointee for Chairman is Tetsuro Tomita, Chairman of East Japan Railway Company. Tsutomu Sugimori, who will step down as Keidanren vice chair at the General Assembly, is a candidate for appointment to the post of Board of Councillors vice chair. Other new tentative vice chair appointees are Tatsuro Kosaka, Chairman of Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.; Masahiko Uotani, President and CEO of Shiseido Company, Limited; Tsugio Mitsuoka, Chairman of the Board of IHI Corporation; Takehiko Kakiuchi, President & CEO of Mitsubishi Corporation; Keiji Nishizawa, President of Sompo Japan Insurance, Inc.; and Kenji Yasukawa, President & CEO of Astellas Pharma Inc. These tentative appointments will bring the total number of chair and vice chair positions to 22.

All candidates were selected based on an overall assessment of their personal character, knowledge, management skills, achievements in their respective industries, and other attributes.

[In response to a question about selection of multiple vice chair candidates from the same industries] Executives in the finance sector are engaged in a wide range of global business activities. Such candidates have been selected bearing in mind the potential for their knowledge to be reflected in Keidanren activities. Furthermore, in an era when priority is placed on well-being, healthcare is an important field where further growth is anticipated, and two candidates have been selected from pharmaceutical companies. All candidates have been selected on the basis of character.

Proposal Regarding COVID-19

At today's meeting of the chairman and vice chairs, a proposal regarding COVID-19 was compiled for release.

Since I was appointed as chairman in June last year, Keidanren has made a series of proposals regarding COVID-19, and this is the fifth. As of today, some regions including Tokyo have passed the peak of infections, but unfortunately Japan is not yet out of the sixth wave, and restrictions relating to priority measures to prevent the spread of disease continue.

However, priority measures to prevent the spread of disease were lifted today in many other prefectures, and the government has started examining an exit strategy. The proposal we have compiled today moves on a step from the previous one published in November, and advocates developing and implementing a pandemic exit strategy while preparing for future waves of infection, and shifting course towards endemic-focused countermeasures.

The proposal addresses two key points. The first is future infection countermeasures. Based on issues that became clear during the sixth wave, there is a need to speed up vaccination, secure antigen test kits and therapeutic drugs, establish mechanisms for convalescing at home that enable patients to receive support with peace of mind, improve access to medical treatment, and develop and implement scientific, rational, and convincing countermeasures according to the characteristics of variants.

The other key point is constructing and implementing a pandemic exit strategy. Pillars of such a strategy should include changing the mindsets of the people and society as a whole in ways that enable pursuit of social and economic activity while maintaining appropriate fear of infection, full-scale restarting of international travel, and simplifying the position of COVID-19 in terms of designated infectious disease law, as well as establishing production systems that enable stable supply of goods in times of emergency and promoting digital health.

The proposal also urges the government to declare that COVID-19 has become endemic as promptly as possible.

COVID-19 Countermeasures

Vaccination, testing, and therapeutic drugs are all available, and as many other countries shift from pandemic countermeasures to treating COVID-19 as endemic, Japan has been slow to start booster shots, and the switch to endemic-focused countermeasures has been delayed. Given the characteristics of the Omicron variant, I question positioning it as a Category II designated infectious disease. The time has come to examine whether there is any sense in continuing restrictions on eating and drinking establishments and travel, which place burdens on such businesses.

The government is steadily taking steps toward reopening international travel. The season is approaching for company assignees to relocate and schools and universities to hold their entrance ceremonies. I welcome the decision to permit entry to those wishing to come to Japan for business or study purposes, who have been unable to enter, as well as the raising of the daily arrival cap to 7,000 and the permission for international students to enter above this cap. I hope the government will continue to progressively ease restrictions. In deciding whether or not to send employees and students overseas, companies and schools are referring to the Travel Advice and Warning on Infectious Diseases issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Europe and the US are currently placed at Level 3 (Avoid all travel) and countries including China and Australia at Level 2 (Avoid non-essential travel). This travel advice needs to be reviewed, since it is unduly severe.

Ukraine Situation

I am deeply saddened by the increase in victims of the conflict in Ukraine, including civilians. I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have died. I strongly condemn the invasion by Russia, which is a grave violation of international law. The situation continues to deteriorate more than a week after the invasion began, and I am profoundly concerned. Russia's "unilateral changes to the status quo by force" disturb the international order as a whole, and I recognize that this problem extends beyond Europe. It is crucial for the G7 and the entire international community to show strong unity in their response.

Business costs have increased in conjunction with the sharp fall in the ruble due to economic sanctions against Russia, and difficulties with international money transfers and receipt of payments are starting to affect Japanese-affiliated companies. A certain level of economic impact is inevitable. Russia and Ukraine both export rare metals. To some degree we must prepare for the impacts to extend beyond large fuel price hikes and affect a wide range of sectors. The ideal scenario would be a swift end to the Russian invasion, but some form of additional response may be required if sanctions continue over the medium to long term.

[In response to a question about the Eight-Point Cooperation Plan with Russia] Keidanren has energetically engaged in business activities with Russia based on the Eight-Point Cooperation Plan agreed by our two governments. At present, it is difficult to continue proactively doing business with Russia, which is attempting to disrupt the international order by force. As Foreign Minister Hayashi has said, we are not in a position to pursue cooperation in new economic fields. I hope that Russia will resume a stance of adherence to the international order as quickly as possible.

[In response to a question on business community support for Ukrainian refugees fleeing overseas] I agree with the Japanese government's policy of accepting refugees. The business community will consider support if requested by the government.

[In response to a question about the Sakhalin projects] This issue relates to energy security, and I understand that companies involved in these projects will cooperate with the Japanese government and deal with the matter appropriately. LNG is being procured at low cost under a long-term contract for the Sakhalin 2 project. It would be difficult to suddenly substitute supplies at spot prices that remain high.

Eleventh Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Other countries have finally eased restrictions on imports of agricultural and marine products from disaster-affected areas. This is the result of strong advocacy for the safety of people in those areas and Japan as a whole.

We must clearly pass on memories of the disaster, and not allow them to fade. Keidanren will continue to powerfully promote support for recovery from the disaster.

Executives' Comments