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Creating National Strategic Special Zones

Obsolete regulations in Japan have hindered the emergence of new businesses, critics charge. Because amending or creating new laws can be time-consuming, the government has set up an initiative called National Strategic Special Zones that it hopes will provide businesses with special benefits by way of extralegal measures.

The idea of the National Strategic Special Zones is to designate some areas to be model cities, free from opportunity-narrowing regulations. The prime minister’s office set up a working group on the National Strategic Special Zones in May. This working group, whose members are from businesses, academia and the Cabinet Secretariat, has held five meetings so far.

Hundreds of similar special zones have been established, but the National Strategic Special Zones are important as deregulation is considered a major point of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy.

“Abe has been saying the highlight of the growth strategy is to bring in private sector investment,” said a Cabinet Office official working in a division in charge of the National Strategic Special Zones.

For the previous special zones, municipalities and other areas came up with ideas and applied for special zone status, thus the burden was on municipalities. For the National Strategic Special Zones, as the name suggests, the national government takes initiative and the working group collects ideas widely from economists, professors and businesspeople, the official said.

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