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Top business leaders want Takashi Fukaya, new minister for international trade and industry, to take further measures to assist small and midsize firms that are struggling amid the stagnant economy, officials of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) said Thursday.

The leaders were attending an informal meeting Thursday morning at the Keidanren building in Tokyo.

Kosaku Inaba, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed his hope that the new Cabinet will act to help those firms through a supplementary budget and law revisions.

Fukaya reportedly said he plans to introduce new measures to encourage small and midsize firms, which are important for restoring the country’s economy and creating jobs.

He also said he regards the firms as a driving force in the economy, in contrast with the conventional view that they are weak and should be protected by the government, the officials said.

Among the business leaders who attended the meeting were Keidanren Chairman Takashi Imai, Yotaro Kobayashi, chairman of the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), and Tadao Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations (Nikkeiren).

Imai called on Fukaya to promote structural business reforms by arranging related laws and tax systems for the measures, such as a consolidated corporate tax starting in fiscal 2001, the officials said.

Imai also expressed his hope that the government will continue the current fiscal measures until the economy recovers and no longer has to rely on government assistance, the officials said.

As a way to encourage companies, Kobayashi proposed to Fukaya that MITI disseminate information on successful companies that are doing well in spite of the stagnant economy, according to the officials.

Suzuki requested that in a supplementary budget the government redirect money away from conventional public works projects into rearranging the infrastructure of information and telecommunications to help boost private demand, the officials said.

Suzuki also called for the nurturing of venture businesses and assisting companies to reform their corporate pension systems, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Fukaya mentioned that the government plans to submit a bill at the next Diet session so that it can better cope with disasters such as the nuclear fuel accident two weeks ago at the uranium-processing plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, the officials said.

Hiroshi Araki, vice chairman of Keidanren and chairman of the Tokyo Electric Power Co., expressed his intention to raise awareness of safety measures within small and midsize firms in the nuclear power industry, the officials said.

Continue pump-priming

In a separate move, the top business lobby urged top executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday to continue pump-priming fiscal spending into the next year to ensure an economic recovery.

Keidanren Chairman Takashi Imai made the request during his meeting with five senior LDP officials, including Secretary General Yoshiro Mori, Policy Affairs Research Council Chairman Shizuka Kamei and Executive Council Chairman Yukihiko Ikeda, at a Tokyo hotel.

Imai welcomed the three-way alliance among the LDP, Liberal Party and New Komeito for bringing political stability, and urged the new government to tackle the current economic slump.

Imai said the economy has to be on a self-sustained recovery track and urged the LDP to put emphasis on public works for urban areas and transportation and distribution systems.

Kamei agreed with Imai’s views on the economy, pledging to promote large-scale projects such as construction of expressways and repositioning electricity poles underground, the Keidanren officials said.

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