Morning Alert   -   Thursday, November 4, 2021
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Broadcasters led with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to scale back its quantitative easing monetary policy amid accelerating economic recovery (NHK), updates on the arson attack on the Keio train line (NTV and TBS), sightings of a wild monkey roaming around central Tokyo (TV Asahi), and a police warning on a new type of telephone scam (Fuji TV).

Top stories in national dailies included plans for RCEP to go into effect in January 2022 (Asahi, Yomiuri), criticism faced by Japan at COP26 for its continued use of thermal power (Mainichi), other COP26 news (Sankei), and new climate disclosure rules to be established by the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, a global accounting body (Nikkei).


Senate committee approves Emanuel’s nomination as ambassador to Japan

Asahi wrote that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved by a majority vote on Wednesday the nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as the next ambassador to Japan, saying that the move was a major step toward his appointment. Noting that the committee advanced the nomination despite opposition from a few Democratic senators because many Republican committee members supported it, the paper said attention will now be focused on the vote to be held in the evenly divided Senate.

Kishida eyes visit to U.S. as early as this year

Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Kishida and President Biden met briefly on the margins of COP26 in Glasgow on Tuesday and confirmed cooperation in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific. The papers wrote that the two leaders also agreed to hold bilateral talks in Washington, quoting Kishida as telling reporters he agreed with the President that they should meet again as soon as possible, possibly later this year, to hold in-depth discussions.


RCEP to go into effect on January 1

All national dailies wrote that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday that the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), involving Japan, China, South Korea, ASEAN nations, and others, is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, following the completion of its ratification by Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday. The papers wrote that the world's biggest free trade agreement, which accounts for one-third of global GDP and trade, will eventually eliminate tariffs on 91% of all industrial goods within the framework.

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ estimates that RCEP will lift Japan’s GDP by about 2.7% through increased exports and expects that the trade deal will bring about more economic benefits to Japan than the TPP because although RCEP’s 91% tariff elimination rate is lower than the TPP’s 99.9%, 86% of exports to China and 92% of exports to South Korea will become tariff-free as opposed to the current 8% and 19%. The paper also wrote that the deal is expected to benefit Japan's growing electric vehicle sector because although some EV motors for the Chinese market faced a tariff of up to 12% as of the date of negotiations, this will be scrapped in stages over 16 or 21 years. The 6% tariff on certain lithium-ion batteries will also be scrapped over the course of 16 years. However, the paper also wrote that it will take time for the pact’s full impact on regional trade to be felt because many tariffs will be phased out gradually. The daily noted that addressing China’s increased economic and military influence in Asia will also be a challenge for Japan. A Japanese trade negotiator told the paper that China’s compliance with RCEP rules will be one of the tools Japan will use to decide whether China should be allowed to join the TPP.

Yomiuri wrote that the new trade agreement is expected to rebuild supply chains and promote investment and trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan receives “Fossil of the Day Award” at COP26

All national dailies except Sankei wrote that the Climate Action Network (CAN), an international NGO working to reduce global warming, granted Japan on Tuesday its satirical Fossil of the Day Award, an award given to a country that it believes has been slow to act in the fight against climate change, at COP26 in Glasgow. The NGO apparently picked Japan as the recipient of the award because Kishida pledged Japan’s support for developing nations in Asia that promote power generation using ammonia and hydrogen, believed to be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while failing to mention whether Japan will end coal-fired thermal power generation. CAN said Japan needs to understand that these premature and costly technologies will lead to the production of fossil fuels.

Mainichi wrote that Europeans and environmental organizations reacted negatively to Kishida’s speech, which was seen as showing reluctance to end thermal power generation. Sankei wrote that although Kishida’s pledge of up to $10 billion to assist Asia in achieving net zero carbon emissions made Japan’s presence felt at COP26, whether the nation will be able to achieve its own goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a different issue.

Japanese students urge Japan to take action against climate change

Nikkei wrote that five high school and college students from Japan are participating in the COP26 conference in Glasgow. The students are members of the Japan branch of Fridays For Future, an international youth movement for climate action. On Tuesday the group handed a Foreign Ministry official a letter addressed to Prime Minister Kishida requesting the government to think about the future of the young generation.

Japan, other nations send letter to U.S. lawmakers on proposed EV tax credit

Yomiuri wrote that a group of 25 ambassadors to the United States sent a joint letter to U.S. lawmakers on Oct. 29 arguing that a proposed U.S. electric vehicle tax credit violates international trade rules. The proposal includes a tax credit of up to $12,500 for electric vehicles that would include $4,500 for union-made vehicles, limiting eligibility for vehicles manufactured in the U.S. Sankei briefly mentioned the issue as well.


Takara Bio to launch production of mRNA vaccines

Nikkei wrote that Takara Bio will mass produce mRNA vaccines starting as early as January 2022 on a contract basis, becoming one of the first Japanese companies to build key manufacturing facilities that will help Japan to reduce its dependence on imports and secure a stable supply of vaccines for COVID-19. The output volume will differ depending on the vaccine, but the company plans to have enough capacity to make the equivalent of 12 million Pfizer vaccine doses a year at its mainstay plant in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team