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Japan to review strategies for energy, economy after quake

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) May 17, 2011
Japan is to launch a review of economic and energy policies in the wake of the country's March 11 natural disaster and the ongoing nuclear crisis it spawned, the cabinet said Tuesday.

The government agreed new guidelines on policy-setting that will mean a reassessment of a growth strategy that has relied heavily on the export of large-scale infrastructure systems, including nuclear power plants and high speed rail.

Before the earthquake and tsunami crippled a nuclear power plant and triggered a nuclear emergency, Japan -- battling to revive its economy -- was hoping to sell a range of high-tech goods abroad, from atomic technology and renewable energy systems to bullet trains.

But on Tuesday Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government said it "will reexamine the strategy for overseas development of packaged infrastructure systems," an official statement said.

It will also start "studying innovative energy and environmental strategies which will meet the needs for safety, stable supply, efficiency and environment," the statement said.

After the cabinet meeting, Koichiro Genba, a state minister for national policy, said that the government "will focus on new energy sources and energy saving technologies," according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Japan also said it was delaying a decision on whether or not to join negotiations for a US-backed trans-Pacific free trade pact.

The new policy guidelines included a plan to "consider comprehensively when to make a decision" on whether to enter talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

There is no reference to a specific timing in the new guideline, according to a trade ministry official.

Gemba told reporters that strengthening agricultural exports would be difficult near-term.

Kan has pushed for the country to join the pact despite vehement opposition from farmers fearing cheaper imports, saying his government aimed to make a final decision around June.

For now the TPP has just four signed-up countries -- Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand -- but five others are in talks to join the group: the United States, Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.

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