The appointments of state ministers and parliamentary vice-ministers of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries announced by the government on Aug. 5 are creating a stir. The reason is that former Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) bureaucrats now serve in three of the four posts. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and METI only recently in June this year conducted a personnel swap of bureau-chief-level officials for the first time. Amid the decline in Japan’s agriculture, the Abe administration hopes to carry out agricultural reform with the help of industry circles.
The three former METI officials are Ken Saito, now state minister of MAFF, and Kenichi Hosoda and Katsuo Yakura, both parliamentary vice-ministers in the ministry. Yakura belongs to Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Saito and Hosoda are LDP members. Saito took charge of such issues as information technology policy and Japan-U.S. automobile talks when he worked at METI. Hosoda, who worked at the ministry for 18 years, has a good knowledge of policies for small- and medium-sized companies. Yakura, a lawyer, was engaged in international negotiations on measures against counterfeit products while he was on loan to METI.
The roles of the three former bureaucrats, who have close relations with business circles, are to pave the way for turning agriculture into a growth industry.
In MAFF, while one senior official says, “There is no prospect in sight for the traditional protective agriculture policy,” and a division-chief-level official expresses mixed feelings, saying, “The actual agricultural policy will not easily change.”