Keidanren, Itochu chiefs on economic policy panel

by Hiroko Nakata

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has named the head of the nation’s most influential business lobby, the chief of a major trading house and two university economists to his key economic policy-setting panel, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Friday.

Among the people who will take the four private-sector seats on the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy is the chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), Fujio Mitarai, who is also chairman of Canon Inc.

The other three are Uichiro Niwa, chairman of trading house Itochu Corp., University of Tokyo professor Takatoshi Ito, and Naohiro Yashiro, a professor at International Christian University in western Tokyo.

Abe “regards the council as the main engine of reforms, so he picked those who fit the role,” Shiozaki told reporters.

Both Mitarai and Niwa are considered to be bold corporate leaders who slashed their companies’ debts and boosted productivity.

Ito is a specialist in macroeconomics and financial policy, and is an advocate of free trade and deregulation. Economist Yashiro has headed a government advisory committee on deregulation to reinvigorate regional economies.

The new appointments are drawing media attention because former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi used the council, and particularly its specific four private-sector members, to trumpet his economic policies and to overcome opposition from both bureaucrats and politicians.

The four new private-sector members are replacing Jiro Ushio, chairman of Ushio Inc.; Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of Toyota Motor Corp.; Masaaki Honma, a professor at Osaka University; and Hiroshi Yoshikawa, a professor at the University of Tokyo. They resigned when Koizumi stepped down on Tuesday.

The council is now headed by Abe. The other members include the chief Cabinet secretary, Bank of Japan governor and ministers handling economic issues.