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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008

CABINET INTERVIEW

Nikai vows support for small firms


Staff writer

If the nation's small and medium-size companies start suffering from the financial crisis in the United States, the government must consider additional measures to help them, trade minister Toshihiro Nikai said in a recent interview.

News photo
Toshihiro Nikai

"When the Japanese-U.S. economic relationship is this close and the U.S. has such an abrupt incident, Japan cannot be unaffected," the economy, trade and industry minister told The Japan Times and other news organizations.

"The government needs to think about which measures will be the best for small and midsize companies," he said.

For troubled small and midsize companies, the government plans to provide ¥3 trillion in loans and ¥6 trillion in loan guarantees under the economic package adopted in August. Nikai said he is willing to consider increasing the amount if necessary.

Nikai also pledged to lead the economy back to glory. Although it will be difficult attaining growth with a population that is both shrinking and graying, Nikai said the Japanese people should not give up on economic expansion.

"We should have a mind to break through the head wind, so the sun will rise again," he said.

The ministry compiled a new strategy in 2006 that aims to attain economic growth even with a declining population.

"We will actively try to nurture small and medium-size corporations, and promote more of Japan's technological strength to the international community," Nikai said.

On the diplomatic front, Nikai said he hopes an agreement will soon be reached on the free-trade talks under the World Trade Organization, which collapsed in July.

The breakdown was welcomed by Japanese farmers, who were worried about an influx of cheap imported farm products, but was lamented by business leaders as a lost opportunity to expand market access for Japanese industrial products in developing countries.

Nikai said Japan's agriculture policy is the key to success. "I would like to discuss the issue thoroughly with the parties concerned and coordinate opinions with the farm minister," he said.

Turning to energy, negotiations with nations in Asia and Africa to secure stable resources are crucial to keep Japan up and running, Nikai stressed.



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