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Editorial: Aid international business deals by translating laws into foreign languages

  • May 20, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:36 p.m.
  • English Press

To invigorate international trade involving Japan, it is indispensable for foreign companies to have a proper understanding of Japan’s legal system.


A panel of experts for the Justice Ministry has compiled a proposal for improving the translation of Japan’s laws and regulations into foreign languages. It calls for speeding up the translation and expanding services for providing information.


Laws and regulations form the basis of business activities and the public’s daily lives. Making them more accessible not only to the Japanese people but also to foreigners is meaningful for increasing the number of foreign business firms that enter the Japanese market and promoting their investment in Japan.


The balance of foreign direct investment in Japan amounted to about ¥28 trillion as of the end of 2017. Japan’s laws and regulations are relevant in many business situations, increasing the potential need for the laws and regulations to be translated correctly into foreign languages.


The government has been making full-fledged efforts toward the translation of Japan’s laws and regulations into English for the last 10 years. As of March this year, however, the English translations of only 733 laws and regulations, or just about 10 percent of the total, had been carried on a website specifically for that purpose managed by the Justice Ministry.


It is understandable that the proposal calls on the government to intensively work on the translation of laws and regulations related to fields of business, such as financing, intellectual property and labor relations.


Important laws and regulations are often amended. There are many cases in which translation work cannot keep up with legal amendments. It requires more than three years on average for a law or a regulation, after its enactment or amendment, to be translated and officially made public.


Ministries should cooperate


To drastically reduce the time needed for the translations of laws and regulations to be provided to the public, it is key to secure human resources with a thorough knowledge of a relevant foreign language and the law. It is also worth considering using translation software that utilizes artificial intelligence with advanced learning capabilities.


Furthermore, it is important to explain clearly the point of a new law or of an amendment.


There is a diverse range of ministries and agencies responsible for laws and regulations related to economic activities, ranging from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the Financial Services Agency and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, for instance. Ministries and agencies, centering around the Justice Ministry, should cooperate with one another, thus making efforts to improve the provision of relevant information.


The acceptance of foreign workers will expand based on the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which came into force in April this year. The number of foreigners living in Japan is expected to increase in the days ahead.


The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan has also been on the rise.


There will also be many occasions in which a response based on Japan’s laws and regulations will be needed in various situations in daily life or when someone is involved in trouble.


The recent proposal sets forth a policy of prioritizing the translation of laws and regulations into English, but it may become necessary to make progress on translating laws and regulations into other foreign languages in the future.


Among local municipalities with a large number of long-term foreign residents, some provide multilingual information related to daily life. Cooperation between the central government and local governments will also be called for.

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