Fukuda softens expectations for G8 meet

No medium-term goal for greenhouse gas emissions, solutions to global problems to come out of Toyako summit

by Reiji Yoshida

No medium-term goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions will be set at next month’s Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, leaving the key issue for future negotiations at the United Nations, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda indicated Tuesday.

Fukuda also sought to lower expectations for solving various problems confronting the global economy, such as price surges in food and oil products, saying the summit’s main mission is to send out “messages” pointing to solutions.

He made the remarks at a meeting in Tokyo with heads and executives of major news agencies from G8 countries, including The Associated Press, Reuters, AFP and Tass.

“Agreeing on this medium-term target is the core challenge for U.N. negotiations that will take place up to the end of 2009,” Fukuda said. “The G8 is not a forum to agree on that target.”

Fukuda has said Japan will try to cut gas emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050, but the government will not reveal its medium-term goal until sometime next year.

On the domestic front, Fukuda strongly suggested a rise in the consumption tax in the near future, saying deficits and debts are hampering the government despite a recent increase in the social security burden borne by elderly people.

“The level of consumption tax today in Japan is 5 percent, which is very low compared with some European countries,” he said.

“With the 5 percent consumption tax, perhaps you could say we are carrying heavy budget deficits. So we are at a very important juncture where we have to make up our mind in that respect,” he said.

Fukuda added that his administration “is now thinking hard about how the general public would respond” if the government decides to raise the tax.

“We have fewer and fewer options” aside from the consumption tax, in light of the aging of society and growing social security burdens, Fukuda said.

Asked what was nice about being prime minister, Fukuda joked, “It’s nothing but pain.”

To relieve the stress, Fukuda said he simply sleeps or enjoys wine since his every move is reported by the media.