Business circles call for easing of border control measures

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday.

Calls are mounting for the easing of the government’s pandemic-related border control measures from the business community, which claims long quarantine periods and strict measures that go beyond those imposed in other major economies are affecting their operations.

Japan Business Federation Chairman Masakazu Tokura expressed doubts about the government’s measures at a press conference Monday. “Japan is now sealed off to the outside world. I think there is no point in continuing the measures. I would like the government to review them promptly,” Tokura said.

“Japan has single-mindedly focused on the omicron variant. Although border control measures must be implemented appropriately, I think it isn’t realistic to prohibit the entry of [non-resident] foreign nationals,” he said.

In a teleconference with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda on Friday, Tokura said there was little significance in maintaining border control measures that were strengthened to mitigate the spread of the variant, as infections have already surged.

On Jan. 18, Kengo Sakurada, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives told reporters, “It is important to ease isolationist immigration controls.”

Earlier this month, the government shortened the quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days for Japanese nationals and foreign residents returning to Japan, but many companies believe it is still long.

Executives of major automobile companies that have production bases and sales networks overseas have canceled overseas business trips because of the disruptions caused by the measures.

At the end of last year, the top management of a major manufacturer canceled a planned trip overseas to visit an event. The company’s public relations department said the procedures for applying for visas were difficult and as a result, overseas business trips had been reduced.

Trading companies that have operations overseas sometimes ask representatives in countries with less strict entry restrictions to go on business trips instead of employees in Japan.

“I hope that the Japanese government will consider issuing the minimum level of entry restrictions necessary based on scientific evidence,” an official of a major trading company said.

Leading financial institutions, including banks and securities firms, have started holding online meetings for foreign institutional investors instead of in-person briefings. But an executive of a major securities firm that sells Japanese stocks to foreign investors said, “It’s difficult to find new customers online.”

A senior executive at a major insurance company has been trying to maintain relationships with overseas investors through web conferences. Due to the time difference between the United States and European nations, the meetings are often held in the middle of the night.

With spring just around the corner, concerns have also been mooted about the impact the border control measures will have on personnel management during a period when many company employees complete transfers to new departments.

A source at a major pharmaceutical company said, “It has become impossible to transfer employees from overseas to Japan and has made recruiting employees in foreign countries difficult.”

A spokesman for a leading bank said it is becoming difficult to determine the start date for Japanese employees returning to Japan from overseas because the quarantine period has to be taken into account.

There has also been strong criticism of measures that prevent foreign students from entering the country.

“Continuing to deny opportunities for young people [from abroad] who want to study in Japan may reduce the number of people who will be well-informed about Japanese affairs in the future,” Tokura said.