Welcome to May’s Policy Radar!
This is a continuation of Langley Esquire’s new initiative to deliver up-to-date information on political developments in the Japanese Diet. This is the last time we will post Policy Radar on our website for the general public, so please subscribe to our policy mailing list below if you wish to keep receiving these via email.
The Reiwa era kicked-off on the 1st of May with the accession to the throne of the new emperor, Naruhito. The Japanese government and companies saw a hiatus of a 10-day holiday to celebrate the beginning of Reiwa. With the new era, the government has put an emphasis on updating data-related laws and making Japan a more tech-friendly environment.
Health Ministry alerts on slimming and libido-boosting products bought on foreign portals
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has concluded that most of the slimming and libido-enhancement products sold on foreign portals may be a risk to consumers’ health. Although no damage derived from their use has been reported yet, the ministry has issued a warning of the potential risks. Subsequently, the health ministry has asked foreign facilitators to remove some of the hazardous products from their websites, also urging consumers not to buy these products. Among the drugs analyzed, the ministry found that although those substances were legal in Japan, they exceeded four times the maximum recommended dosage. In other instances, tests showed that 12 out of 49 drugs bought through those operators used sibutramine, an appetite suppressant banned in Japan.
Kymriah cancer drug to be covered by Japan’s health insurance
The health ministry included Novarti’s 33.49 million yen cancer treatment (Kymriah) in the list of covered treatments by the national medical insurance. The Central Social Insurance Medical Council panel decided that the treatment will start to be covered by insurance from May 22nd. Insurance will only cover this expensive treatment in those 25 years or younger, who have not successfully responded to other more conventional cancer treatments. Furthermore, parliament passed a legal revision further revising the terms of usage of the national health insurance. Under the current social security system, foreigners not residing in Japan have been exploiting the health service, but the new legislative revision aims to restrict insurance-usage to foreign (and their families) who currently reside in Japan.
Japanese government enacts legal revision aimed to reduce mobile-phone fees
The Japanese parliament passed a legislative revision on the 10th of May with the objective of reducing mobile fees for customers and opening up the mobile-carrier market to competitors. The government has highlighted, on multiple occasions, that mobile-phone fees are too high. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga slammed telecom companies for charging too much and that their prices could be reduced by around 40%. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is expected to compile guidelines for fee plans and other specifics at the beginning of October, and enact the revisions thereafter. The law, as passed by the Upper-House, aims to reduce mobile-phone fees by barring companies from selling communication costs and phone devices together in a single package. It also aims to have registration requirements for retailers and sanctions for companies that carry-out any form of misleading advertising. Additionally, it will also prevent the big telecom carriers (KDDI, Softbank and Docomo) to lock clients into long-term contracts. This law parallels the effort by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to promote mobile virtual network operators (i.e. Rakuten), in order to open-up the telecommunications industry.
LDP to sponsor bill that pushes for the protection of consumers’ data privacy
The LDP finished preparing a bill that would further protect consumers’ data privacy. It was created by the party’s economic growth strategy division, under Kishida’s Policy Research Council. The party has increased its efforts scrutinizing online giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Rakuten. Last month, Japan Fair Trade Commission had expressed its intention of releasing policy directives (by this summer at the latest) to restrict market dominance by a few players. This time, the objective of this bill would be to develop an equitative and transparent market through disclosure requirements. It will, as it stands now, restrict usage of consumer’s purchases to target advertising as well as other measures limiting online retailers’ control of consumers’ data. This draft bill will be included in the government’s annual Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management (set to be released in June), with the cabinet set to introduce the bill to parliament as early as next year.
Government to review Private Information Protection Law in 2020
The first amendment to the Private Information Protection Law will be introduced in parliament next year, as the same law contains a clause stating that the law must be renewed every three years. The Personal Information Protection Commission, within the government, proposed the “right to be forgotten”, allowing internet users to remove old images or articles about themselves. It also sets to include further data protection measures such as respecting consumers’ requests barring online vendors from using their personal data to be sold elsewhere. The commission is also currently thinking about how to apply this law to foreign companies not based in Japan.
Government adds military bases and sport facilities to drone-flight restriction areas
On Friday the 17th the House of Councillors approved legislation restricting the use of drones close to U.S. military bases, SDF bases, 2019 Rugby World Cup stadiums and Tokyo 2020 Olympic facilities to counter any potential terrorist intentions. The legislation outright bans the private use of drones over these areas, but allows leeway to local authorities allowing them to grant temporary permits for drones monitored by certain sectors (like the media). This legislation adds to the previous restriction of drone use over the Prime Minister’s office and the Imperial palace.
Agriculture Ministry to further develop new technologies seeking to cut farming posts
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has communicated its’ desire to further invest in new technologies to increase exports, notably to south-east Asia. The ministry predicts that the use of new technology (AI, self-driven tractors and other vehicles) could reduce production costs by over 40%. It also wants to further develop the use of information technologies, reducing the reliance of human capital. These new technologies will be tested during a two-year span in four prefectures (Fukui, Gifu, Ibaraki and Miyagi) and the results will then be analysed by the ministry.
Casino agency and bidding process details postponed by government until next year
The Japanese government has decided to delay the release of further IR-related regulations and details pertaining to the bidding process (notably criteria that the national government will use to choose where to locate IRs), originally planned to be revealed on July 1st. The creation of the Casino Management Committee (カジノ管理委員会) will also be affected by the government’s postponement. The establishment of the casino committee would require its five board members to be confirmed by the Diet, giving opposition parties a chance to make IR-issues salient again. The LDP has declared its intention to focus on IR-related legislation from either this fall or early next year, over fears that IR-issues could stir a setback for the ruling parties in the July upper-house election. This change will seriously affect local governments’ timetables, delaying the coming of IRs to Japan by a few months.
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