• Kyodo News


The government will aim to conclude free-trade agreements with Australia, South Korea and the European Union by the end of fiscal 2013, according to a draft of the administration’s growth strategy.

The draft, which the government has been trying to finish by the end of this month, also states that the nation will take steps to encourage women to return to work after giving birth as a pillar of its efforts to create more jobs.

Such measures will help increase the female workforce by 1 million and their income by more than ¥3 trillion in total by the end of March 2021, the draft says.

New Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce the plans under the nation’s long-term growth strategy before the June 25-26 Group of Eight summit in Canada, together with a fiscal consolidation plan.

By presenting the plans, the new government is hoping to secure support ahead of the House of Councilors’ election this summer, as the new government under Kan is placing priority on restoring the nation’s deteriorating fiscal health while simultaneously achieving economic growth.

On free-trade arrangements, the government aims to have Japan benefit from surging growth in other countries’ economies, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, by forming the FTAs.

But some fear FTAs with Australia and other countries whose agriculture forms a large part of their economies could hurt Japanese farmers due to an increase in cheaper imports. Negotiations on an FTA between Japan and South Korea have stalled due to differences in their stances on agricultural trade.

Japan and the EU have yet to agree on launching a joint study group to start talks on an FTA, although Japan pushed for launching one at a bilateral summit in late April.

As employment measures, the government plans to set up new child care infrastructure to provide better support for working mothers and set up by 2017 a system to enable all women to return to work after giving birth if they wish.

By combining relevant sections of the education ministry and the welfare ministry, the government plans to set up a new ministry in charge of households and children by the end of March 2014.

The draft also says the government plans to help companies boost participation in infrastructure projects abroad, including the construction of nuclear plants and railways.

Under the growth strategy, the government also plans to support sales of environmentally friendly next-generation cars with an eye on boosting the proportion of such vehicles to up to 50 percent by 2020 in terms of new car sales.

To revitalize regional economies, the government plans to designate large regional cities as special deregulated zones with tax benefits to help each district attract ¥1 trillion worth of private investment by 2020.

The government aims to increase the number of tourists from abroad to 30 million a year, estimating it could have a positive economic impact worth about ¥10 trillion.

The government also plans to create a special visa category for those who want to receive long-term medical treatment in Japan and to accept up to 500,000 foreigners a year under the visa by 2020.

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