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Sakakibara proclaimed next Keidanren chief

Kyodo

Keidanren announced Tuesday it will appoint Toray Industries Inc. Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara as the next chief of the nation’s most influential business lobby to accelerate the country’s economic revival led by the private sector as a leader from a manufacturing company.

Sakakibara, who will take over from Hiromasa Yonekura in June, said earlier in the day he will do his utmost to help ensure the revitalization of the economy, telling Kyodo News, “The business community and the government should cooperate as two wheels (of the same axle)” under the “Abenomics” policy mix of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The voices of businesses need to be delivered properly,” Sakakibara said, indicating Keidanren under his leadership will actively lobby on various issues, including corporate tax cuts.

Sakakibara also called for improving soured ties with China and South Korea over such issues as territorial disputes and different perceptions of history, saying the relationships are currently “not normal.”

“I’d like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet with the leaders of China and South Korea for normalization to build favorable relationships at an early date,” he said.

Touching on the need to raise wages, Sakakibara said “it’s important for companies that are capable to take the lead and conduct (pay hikes) to generate a virtuous cycle of the economy.” But he added it is up to each company regarding how to increase wages.

The appointment was approved at a chairman and vice chairmen’s meeting earlier in the day. Sakakibara, 70, will be formally appointed to the post at Keidanren’s general meeting on June 3 after approval at an executive meeting in May.

Yonekura, who has said a person from a manufacturing company will be appropriate to lead the group, told a news conference in Tokyo that Sakakibara, as chairman of Toray, which represents Japan as a manufacturing firm, leads not only the industry but also the Japanese economy.

Yonekura said Sakakibara is “the most suitable person” to be his successor, taking into account such factors as his excellent management skills, vast experience in business circles as well as global fields, and his emphasis on innovation.

“Though an economic recovery continues to take place thanks to Abenomics, the path to overcoming deflation and economic revival is only halfway,” Yonekura told reporters in Tokyo.

“In order to restore a powerful Japan, we need to accelerate the growth strategy and to steadily realize a virtuous cycle of the economy,” Yonekura said, adding that Keidanren has to take the lead in creating an opportunity for new growth and employment.

The Abe administration welcomed the appointment.

As the administration aims to spread favorable effects of Abenomics throughout the country, “the role of Keidanren is huge,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, adding that the government has “high expectations” for Sakakibara to realize revival of the manufacturing sector as well as the economy.

Finance Minister Taro Aso also welcomed the appointment, saying, “A good person has been chosen as his management sense is very legitimate.”

“Japan will lose its stability as a state unless it keeps manufacturing steadily. It will move to a favorable direction from the perspective of an economic cycle,” Aso said, adding that Sakakibara is a leader from the engineering field.

Sakakibara was vice chairman of Keidanren from 2007 to 2011. It is rare for a former vice chairman to be selected as Keidanren leader, as the federation usually elevates serving vice chairmen.

Sakakibara joined Toray in 1967 after graduating from Nagoya University’s graduate school of engineering. He became president of the major fiber and textile maker in 2002, before becoming chairman in 2010.

He also serves as a private-sector member of the government’s council to boost Japan’s industrial competitiveness.