Protect Japan’s economic security through public-private cooperation

Conflicts between nations over strategically important technologies and goods are intensifying. There is an urgent need to strengthen efforts to secure Japan’s national interests through cooperation between the public and private sectors.

The government has adopted an economic security promotion bill at a Cabinet meeting. The bill consists of four key elements: securing a safe supply chain for semiconductors and other products, reviews of critical infrastructure facilities before they are established, the development of advanced technology, and not disclosing patents.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring a stable supply of vaccines, medicines, masks and other supplies.

There is also growing concern that advanced technology may flow to other countries and be used for weapons development, and that cyber-attacks may cripple infrastructure.

It is important to be prepared for such risks and to take measures on a regular basis.

The United States and Europe have recently introduced new regulations and sought a coordinated response from their allies and other partners, in light of the increasing economic and military pressures from China and Russia.

In order for Japan not to be a loophole in international efforts, it is necessary to develop legislation as quickly as possible. Japan also needs to strengthen its cooperation with the United States, Europe, Australia, India and other countries in order to play a leading role in creating international rules.

Japan’s laws regulating various industries have lacked a security-based perspective. It is highly significant that the economic security promotion bill will enable the prime minister to take necessary measures under their authority.

In addition to allowing the government to investigate the supply situation for critical goods, the bill will require businesses in 14 fields, including electricity, railroads and finance, to undergo a preliminary review before installing certain equipment.

With nuclear technology and weapons in mind, the government will be able to examine patents and keep them secret, and companies will be compensated financially.

The bill also includes penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment for business operators that submit false reports or fail to comply with suspension orders.

It is understandable that penalties will be imposed to ensure effectiveness. However, it is important for the law to be applied in a restrained manner, in order not to hamper business activities excessively and thereby impede free competition, and to gain the cooperation of the business community

The bill also clearly states that the government will set up a public-private sector council on key technologies and support development of them by providing information, funding and human resource development.

Japan’s scientific and technological capabilities have been declining markedly. It is the government’s responsibility not only to regulate, but also to nurture technologies and products that will give Japan an international advantage and lead to economic growth.

The government needs to continue to consider the remaining issues, such as the introduction of qualifications for private-sector personnel to access classified information.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 27, 2022.