• Political Series

Invisible threats / Economic security minister: ‘Develop advanced technologies through public-private cooperation’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takayuki Kobayashi

This is the eighth installment of a series exploring Japan’s vulnerabilities in areas such as information and supply networks, which have prompted the government to expedite efforts to pass a law to attain economic security. The following is excerpted from an interview with Takayuki Kobayashi, the minister in charge of economic security.

Japan is operating in an increasingly harsh environment in an attempt to attain economic security. Behind this is the change in the global power balance as exemplified in conflicts between the United States and China and between the United States and Russia, as well as more complicated supply chains brought on by economic globalization.

Surges in novel coronavirus infections revealed vulnerabilities in supply chains for face masks, medical gowns and other equipment, and economic dependence was exploited for political means. In a post-pandemic world, we can anticipate that countries will prioritize their own needs at times of crisis, which will test the government’s ability to develop or secure a stock of vaccines and drugs in advance.

If the economic security promotion bill that the government has submitted to the current Diet is passed, it will put Japan at the starting point for having a mechanism to take necessary measures. From there we can take an extremely important first step, although with social and economic situations continuing to change, new issues and challenges are surely to emerge.

Right away, we should establish laws on the four main points of the bill: securing of supply chains; prescreening of crucial infrastructure; development of advanced technologies and; nondisclosure of patents on sensitive technologies.

If the bill is enacted, I would like to set up a new department in the Cabinet Office to take up the task of developing basic policies for each of the four points.

For the development of advanced technologies, we will create the framework for a council comprising officials from the relevant ministries and agencies and researchers that will select the most important technological fields from a national perspective and develop them through public and private sector cooperation. Our aim is to first allocate around ¥500 billion for research funding. For selecting key technological fields, we plan to make use of findings of a think tank to be created around fiscal 2023.

In order to guarantee the effectiveness of regulations ensuring safety and security and measures to prevent leaks of technology secrets, penal provisions are necessary. That said, we also have to pay heed not to hinder economic freedom and research activities as much as possible.

In addition to formulating government ordinances after the passage of the bill, I will be closely exchanging views with industry and academia while confronting them sincerely and with civility.

These moves to ensure economic security are not coming about because of anything said by other countries. Rather, the government is taking the initiative to establish our country’s own standards, taking into account debate within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Profile

Kobayashi, 47, entered the Finance Ministry upon graduating from the Faculty of Law of the University of Tokyo in 1999. He served as secretary general of what is now the LDP’s Headquarters for Economic Security Measures, and is now in his first Cabinet post under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. He has been elected to the Diet four times and belongs to the Nikai faction.