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As the global community enters an age of overwhelming competition, Japan must increase its efforts to revamp economic structures and create a new system with greater efficiency, according to Osamu Watanabe, who on July 11 was appointed vice minister for international trade and industry.

Watanabe, the highest career bureaucrat at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, told an inaugural news conference, “Nations around the world are now making painstaking efforts to recheck and reform their respective economic systems to achieve greater efficiency.” Japan has lagged behind other nations in its ability to become more competitive due to the collapse of the bubble economy and subsequent economic woes, he said.

Asked for his assessment of the current state of the economy, Watanabe said the worst is over and the nation’s economy will continue on its moderate but firm recovery. “Some people talk about ‘sinking Japan’ or ‘Japan passing,’ but I think there is a certain gap between such perceptions and how things are in reality,” he said.

Meanwhile, Katsuhiro Nakagawa, who was appointed MITI’s vice minister for international affairs, cited China’s entry to the World Trade Organization and the upcoming environmental conference in Kyoto as two pressing issues. He described relations with the United States as “very good,” playing down concerns over a possible resumption of trade friction later this year.

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