Public Affairs Highlights from Japan ～ Policy & Topics ～
■ Japanese Government to Remove COVID-19 Restrictions from May
Prime Minister Kishida announced a major shift in the policy of COVID-19 control. From May 8, the policy will no longer restrict actions on infected people or those who have been in contact with them, and will also explore the relaxation of the guidelines for wearing masks.
■ 2 trillion yen in subsidies planned for domestic production of semiconductors
In order to secure a stable supply of semiconductors, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has decided to subsidize one-third of capital investments in Japan, whether by domestic or foreign companies, on the condition of delivering continuous production for 10 years or more. In the event of a tight supply-demand situation, Japan will also give priority to domestic supply. Japan plans to invest a total of about 2 trillion yen in support of semiconductors, including this subsidy.
■ Anonymized medical information and test values to support research and development
On March 3, the government approved a cabinet decision on a draft amendment to the 'Next-Generation Medical Infrastructure Law' to utilize medical information for research and development. Test values such as weight, height, blood pressure, lipids, etc. can be provided to companies and research institutions in a form that does not identify individuals in order to help develop treatments and drugs, and some intractable diseases can also be clearly indicated without withholding the name of the disease. Information is limited to government-approved businesses and research institutions, and patients are notified in advance of data utilization.
■ National Renewable Energy Council established
On February 16, volunteer members of the Liberal Democratic Party launched a Diet Members Caucus to promote domestically produced renewable energy and held the inaugural meeting in the Diet. Founded by Prime Minister Kishida, Vice President Aso and others, it is an alliance that supports technological innovation and utilization of next-generation solar cells, floating offshore wind power generation and other technologies.
■ Japanese government targets six-fold increase in hydrogen supply by 2040 with investment of JPY 15 trillion
The Japanese government will revise its Basic Hydrogen Strategy to include a new hydrogen supply target of 12 million tonnes per year by 2040, six times the current level. A total of 15 trillion yen will be invested in decarbonisation by the public and private sectors over the next 15 years. The revised proposal targets a 10% share of the global market by 2030 for water electrolysers, which produce hydrogen from water. It will also create a supply chain, including transport and the construction of industrial complexes.
■ Providing false information could lead to suspension of social media services
The LDP's Rulemaking Strategy Parliamentary Group has announced that it will compile a proposal by mid-April calling for the creation of a system that would consider suspending services if false information is confirmed to have been transmitted, with the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok in mind. The aim is to check the behaviour of app operators by indicating the possibility of suspension. Currently, the use of TikTok in Japan is only restricted for official terminals that handle sensitive information.
■ 'Shelters are needed,' Shelter parliamentary group makes recommendations
The Shelter Parliamentary Union has drafted a proposal for the development of shelter facilities to be used in emergencies. In light of the developments in North Korea, the group called for "the development of shelters where people can stay for a certain period of time as facilities to protect themselves from missile attacks and artillery bombardment." As of 1 April 2022, of the 94,424 evacuation facilities designated under the National Protection Act nationwide, over 40% are school grounds and wooden facilities, and 1,591 (1.68%) are underground facilities. There is an urgent need to develop solid evacuation facilities.
■ LDP proposal, accepting foreign high-level human resources "should be addressed through the tax system"
On 25 May, the LDP's New Capitalism Implementation Headquarters compiled a draft proposal on growth strategies. It refers to the expansion of the acceptance of high-level foreign human resources and stresses the importance of creating an environment in which overseas talent, including international students, can find employment smoothly in Japan. It also called for strengthening the development capacity of generative AI and proposed that Japan should take the lead in creating international rules on risk.
■ Shinjiro Koizumi appointed secretary-general of the LDP Surfing Parliamentarians' Federation
A general meeting of the LDP Surfing Diet Members' Federation, formed with the support of LDP members, was held on 7 June to promote marine sports as a healthy and safe activity favoured by the public at large. Koizumi Shinjiro was newly appointed as secretary-general. The meeting was held to elect new board members, report on activities, and exchange views on various topics ranging from further widening awareness of surfing to the issue of sponsorship for surfers.
■ Deregulatory policy means patient data can be used without the individual's consent
The Cabinet has approved a policy to establish a legal system that will allow pharmaceutical companies and others to use patient data without the consent of the individual. Secondary use for public interest purposes will not require the consent of the individual, and instead, the government is considering strengthening the screening process for use of the data.
■ Electric scooters can be used without a license
Electric scooters have been categorized into the new framework of "special small motorized bicycles" with the enforcement of the revised Road Traffic Law on July 1. While a driver's license is no longer required for use, "identity verification" is now mandatory, and foreigners have been able to use them since July.
■ Japan leads international AI rulemaking, seeks endorsement beyond the G7
Hideki Murai, Advisor to the Prime Minister, expressed his intention to share the G7 common action guidelines to countries outside the G7 regarding the formulation of international rules for AI, taking place under Japan's leadership. He specifically outlined the guidelines based on the Leaders' Statement and stressed the importance of clarifying the responsibilities of each country in addition to the rule of law, human rights, and a fair society. Murai recognized the importance of finding commonalities among the approaches of different countries and forming mutual guidelines.