The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

PUBLICITY | CONSULTING

OCTOBER 2014

Engagement and Influence in Japan’s Public Policy
Interview with Jakob Edberg, managing director, GR Japan K.K.

Custom Media

Jakob Edberg co-founded GR Japan K.K. in 2010 and has helped guide the company to become Japan’s leading dedicated government relations and public affairs consultancy.

“GR Japan was born of the conviction that government relations approaches used elsewhere in the world, coupled with policy expertise and the right team of people, would be very effective in Japan.

Many businesses let precious opportunities to engage go to waste because of a lack of familiarity with Japan’s decision-making processes. One of GR Japan’s goals is to solve that problem by helping clients put together and implement workable plans with clear goals, targets and timelines,” Edberg said.

In September 2014, the GR Japan team presented a policy paper in Singapore on the policy landscape under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Edberg asserts Abenomics is changing the playing field in Japan.
For more information on these issues, please see this month’s insert.

ACCJ Journal: Why did you launch this policy briefing now?
Edberg: This is an important moment in Japanese policy-making. The new Abe Cabinet started a Diet session at the end of September in which many structural reforms are up for debate.

We think this presents a real opportunity for foreign firms, whether they are operating here already, or considering Japan for the first time.

How does the Cabinet reshuffle figure into planning?
The overhaul of the Abe Cabinet indicates the government’s priorities in the year ahead.

The stability of the previous cabinet—the longest serving in Japan’s post-war history—was welcome, but some LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] members felt excluded. So Abe has had to balance appeasing them, while choosing the advisers he wants, and boosting his public approval.

His choices for the new cabinet reflect this. He prioritized continuity, with the new key appointments being Yuko Obuchi and Yasuhisa Shiozaki to head METI [the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry] and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, respectively.

But he also reached out to centrist factions by appointing Sadakazu Tanigaki as secretary-general.

Abe is also likely to try to continue beyond the end of his term as LDP president, which ends next September. That is one reason he hobbled his strongest challenger for the party leadership, Shigeru Ishiba, with a cabinet post.

What is most significant about the proposed regulatory reforms?
Overall the reforms presented this year are appealing, and there is a sense that the leadership supports change.

In particular, the drive to streamline and lower corporate taxation is critical given that the current tax system is full of special measures for special interests.

In which industries do you foresee the most change?
Japan’s energy policy is a highlight. The country’s energy future hinges on factoring in nuclear reactor restarts and the use of other energy sources such as LNG [liquefied natural gas] and coal.

It also ties in with electricity market reform, another vital subject up for discussion.

The medical sector has also been identified as an engine of growth, a source of homegrown innovation, and a beacon for international investment. The sector is undergoing major regulatory reforms, despite the tension between fiscal constraints and the need to reward innovation.

There are a host of other bills awaiting scrutiny during the upcoming session. Which are enacted and which run out of time is a question of political maneuvering.

The outcome depends on conversations yet to take place.