Biweekly Update: News on Japan & the Netherlands – Week 9 & 10, 2022
This newsletter was shared with Dujat members on 15-3-2022. The next newsletter was sent out today.
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Update on Japan
The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to captivate the world, including Japan. Due to the many news updates, we have compiled a summary of recent developments in Japan regarding this topic:
- Japan’s Trade and Industry Minister Hagiuda Koichi says the country will work with other Group of Seven nations to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, striving to diversify their energy sources, including renewables and nuclear power. They will aim to secure alternative power sources through liquefied-natural-gas and other projects outside Russia. (Link to full article + Video report)
- Japanese companies are continuing to suspend business in Russia, as the country faces growing sanctions. An expert says the move is pushing economic relations between Japan and Russia into a new ice age. (Link to full article + Video report)
- The Japanese government plans to offer Ukrainian evacuees who come to Japan the option of obtaining a one-year visa that enables them to work. (Link to full article + Video report)
- Last week, a Japanese Self-Defense Force aircraft went to deliver bullet-proof vests and helmets to help Ukraine as the country tries to defend itself against Russian forces, providing non-lethal supplies in response to a request from Ukraine. (Link to full article + Video report)
- Last week, it was reported that all staff members of the Japanese Embassy in Ukraine will temporarily move out of the country, the government said Monday, citing security reasons as Russia’s invasion intensified. (Link to full article)
- Japanese companies are expanding support for Ukrainians who have been affected by Russia’s invasion. (Link to full article and video report)
Japan is considering lifting the COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency for 18 prefectures upon its expiration next week as the number of infections in those areas has been decreasing, a government source said Monday 15 March.
Prime Minister Kishida’s government plans to make a final decision Wednesday on the possible lifting ahead of the emergency’s expiration on 21 March, the source said.
Officials hope the downward trend of daily coronavirus infection tallies will be enough for Tokyo, Osaka and 16 other prefectures to meet the government’s criteria for lifting the emergency. However, the government will keep a close eye on the number of infections in such areas as some authorities might ask for an extension.
On Monday, a total of 32,471 new infections were reported in Japan, a drop of around 4,600 from a week earlier. Of those, the Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed 4,836, falling below 5,000 for the first time since 17 January.
The Kishida government eased the criteria last week, citing an increase in the number of vaccinated people, the low risk posed by the Omicron variant of causing severe illness and the need for fully resuming economic activities to boost the economy. The new criteria will allow the government to lift the emergency if the burden on health care seems poised to decrease despite new infections remaining at high levels.
Kishida said Monday at a ruling Liberal Democratic Party meeting the number of infected people in the 18 prefectures “has decreased significantly” and that the government “would like to move the economy and society forward as much as possible.”
The quasi-emergency, in place in 18 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, puts restrictions on the business hours of restaurants and bars and requests that the public refrain from nonessential travel between prefectures. Besides Tokyo and Osaka, Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Kagawa and Kumamoto are among the 18 affected regions.
On Tuesday 15 March, The Tokyo Metropolitan Government told the central government that it would not seek an extension of its COVID quasi-state of emergency beyond 21 March. Tokyo said in a letter to ministers that it did not need to extend the period, and requested the prompt supply of oral medicines and for the government to consider offering a fourth dose of vaccine.
Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko told reporters the utilization rate of hospital beds for COVID patients is below 50%, which is a reason why she did not see the need to extend containment measures. Still, she warned that the government must remain vigilant as the situation could change quickly.
Japan should end coronavirus border restrictions and approach COVID-19 as an endemic disease now that vaccines and treatments are available, the country’s top business lobby proposed Monday.
“We would like the government to declare [the coronavirus as] endemic as soon as possible,” the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, said in a statement.
The proposal, Keidanren’s fifth on the country’s coronavirus response since Sumitomo Chemical Chairman Tokura Masakazu became the group’s chairman last year, calls on Tokyo to craft a concrete exit strategy and prepare to live with the virus.
Japan is easing border measures in phases, letting 5,000 people enter the country daily as of 1 March from 3,500 people previously. The limit rises to 7,000 on 14 March. This entry cap, which is increasingly criticized by other countries, should be completely removed, Keidanren said. “We must not lose fans of Japan” due to the border controls, Tokura told reporters Monday. “We want the government to ease the stringent entry restrictions as soon as possible.”
To prepare for permitting a large number of travelers into the country, the government should start accepting digital copies of documents for entry requirements and simplify testing at airports, the business lobby said.
Keidanren wants the government to create a central database that tracks vaccine records, using the country’s My Number identification system. Vaccine records are currently handled at the local level. Linking health care information with the My Number system will let Japan quickly identify those who should receive vaccines first, the lobby said.
Keidanren also emphasized the need to prepare for another wave of infections. Following the confusion among hospitals caused by a shortage of testing kits during the last wave, the business lobby urged the government to stockpile such kits.
Japan hopes to kick-start overseas orders for infrastructure projects by expanding financial support for startups and other smaller companies with expertise in such areas as telemedicine and drones.
The aim is to increase offshore infrastructure orders by 40% or so from 2020 to 34 trillion yen (€262 billion) by 2025. The government missed its previous goal of 30 trillion yen by 2020.
Digital and energy projects taken on by large corporations accounted for much of the estimated 25 trillion yen in overseas infrastructure orders in 2020. This time around, the government will further smooth the way for small and midsized companies to accept offshore projects.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry subsidizes up to half of the expenses generated by the information gathering, surveys and analysis that are conducted before taking offshore infrastructure orders. This aid applies to companies of all sizes.
Starting in fiscal 2022, METI will increase the maximum subsidies for small to midsized businesses to two-thirds of the costs of the necessary advance work for a bid. Such searches can take as long as five to 10 years for big projects, and smaller companies typically cannot afford them.
Japanese companies have increasingly lost out to Chinese and other rivals in infrastructure bids. A company must quickly perform on-site preliminary research and present offers that match the demands of the offshore market.
The government will also expand support to sectors tied to digitalization and decarbonization. Relevant applications will include inspections of wind farms by drones, remote medicine, and distance learning.
METI has received 17.5 trillion yen in the draft fiscal 2022 budget for infrastructure export projects. It will publish details of the initiative in early April and start recruiting candidates in May.
Japanese paper companies are coming out with more products to replace those made of disposable plastic. This comes as a new law is set to take effect in April requiring businesses to cut single-use plastic items.
Nippon Paper Industries has developed a special milk carton for school lunches, which is easy to open, even for small children, so they can drink from it without using a straw. They say the carton will be used in about 170 municipalities by the end of April. That should cut plastic waste by around 200 million straws a year, or about 100 tons.
Meanwhile, Daio Paper is stepping up sales of paper hangers and spoons that are resistant to oil and water. The company also has a stir stick made of paper. It’s being used by a major chain of coffee shops with outlets nationwide.
Major Japanese convenience-store chain FamilyMart also announced they are going to stop providing plastic forks to customers who purchase food items. It’s part of a nationwide effort to cut down on waste. Instead, its outlets will offer bamboo chopsticks.
The convenience-store operator will try out the measure at 10 stores in Tokyo starting Thursday. It will check customer reaction and analyze the impact on sales, before introducing the measure across the country.
Update on the Netherlands
The capacity of Dutch municipalities has increased to more than 21,000 places for the more than three million refugees who have now fled Ukraine.
More than 7,200 Ukrainian refugees are currently being accommodated in the Netherlands. According to the latest figures, a total of 21,250 places are available for them, the Ministry of Justice and Security reports. Since Monday, 500 refugees and 4,250 reception places have been added.
In reality, it is probably more people. Not all refugees have registered, because they are received in people’s homes. Moreover, they are not obliged to register. State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Migration) has previously again called for registration.
Municipalities have been asked to have a total of 25,000 reception places available by the end of this week. In the subsequent period, that number should be increased to 50,000. The cabinet is not yet able to estimate how many people will flee to the Netherlands in the near future.
The number of Ukrainian refugees is expected to increase rapidly in the coming period. This is because Ukraine’s neighboring countries, where most people are currently sheltered, are reaching the limits of their reception capacity.
The Dutch government has decided to further scale down the corona measures, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers announced on Tuesday 15 March. The mask obligation in public transport will disappear next Wednesday. The advice to work from home is also cancelled.
The only rule that remains intact is the isolation for people who have tested positive for corona. The basic advice, such as washing hands and sneezing into your elbow, also still remain.
The cabinet is easing further than the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) recommended. The OMT advised the cabinet to maintain the mask obligation in public transport, but the cabinet is making it an advice. The OMT also thought it wise not to adjust the current home working advice.
Kuipers considers the announced relaxations to be justified, he says on Tuesday. The number of infections is stable and the number of IC admissions remains as expected. Most people who are now getting sick from the virus are over 50 years old. The corona vaccinations and the boosters still offer sufficient protection, Kuipers emphasizes.
As a result of the more contagious BA.2 subvariant of the omikron variant and the earlier relaxations, the number of infections has picked up again. This is not expected to lead to an increase in hospital figures, but the OMT emphasizes that it is not yet clear whether the peak has already been reached.
As long as the number of infections remains high, the OMT still believes that face masks in public transport have an “added value”. However, the government believes that advice is sufficient.
Workers are still advised to work from home half of the time and the other half at the work location. The cabinet is therefore letting go of the advice on working from home.
Office workers are partly continuing to work from home now that the corona measures have been abolished, and as a result there is a lot of ‘hidden vacancy’ in offices. This is office space that has been rented out, but is not used. According to real estate advisor Colliers, this concerns about 3.3 million square meters in the Netherlands. That is almost 6% of all office space.
This hidden vacancy comes on top of the official vacancy rate for office space of more than 7%. According to Colliers, a hybrid work week of three days in the office and two days at home is becoming the norm.
|TYPE OF VACANCY||SURFACE (M2)||PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL OFFICE SPACE|
If hybrid working stays the norm, businesses may start looking into getting rid of redundant office space. But that will depend on whether companies can spread the days on which their employees come in over the entire week. For example, if all employees come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all the space is still needed.
According to the real estate consultant, there is still room for new, sustainable offices in popular places. But there will be little demand for the old-fashioned business park along the highway. According to Buijs, increasing office vacancy also offers opportunities for conversion to housing. “Offices in themselves are well suited to transform, that can often be done relatively easily. And it doesn’t just have to be homes, that can also be catering or something else.”
Cultured (lab-grown) meat trials are a step closer in the Netherlands: House of Representatives wants to allow tastings.
On Tuesday 15 March, the House of Representatives will adopt a motion by VVD and D66 that wants to make tastings of cultured meat possible. This could be a breakthrough, say manufacturers who hope that cultured meat will be in the supermarket within a few years.
Just under ten years ago, it was presented to worldwide attention: the first cultured meat burger. Professor Mark Post’s Dutch invention consisted of 40 billion cells grown in a laboratory from cow stem cells.
Since then, the development of cultured meat has accelerated. In our country, two companies are currently developing this meat. Such as the start-up Meatable in Delft of founder Daan Luining. Dozens of people work there every day on the technology. “Incubated meat is meat made from animal cells. It is real meat without having to slaughter an animal,” says Luining.
“We take stem cells from a cow or pig and bring them into a safe environment. We give the cells food, such as sugars, oxygen and heat, so that they grow into muscle and fat. After a few weeks there is really meat that can be eaten. become.” The advantages are great, says Luining: “Less animal suffering, environmental degradation and CO2 emissions.”
Cultured meat is still banned in Europe. In fact, researchers are not even allowed to taste a piece. The House of Representatives wants to speed up the development. Government parties D66 and VVD are therefore submitting a motion to allow tastings for cultured meat.
The arrival of tastings is an extremely important step, says Luining. “You should not expect that we will set up a restaurant on every corner. The tastings will be made possible under strict conditions. However, consumers can come and taste a cultured sausage or burger on invitation.”
According to Luining, the taste is very close to normal meat. “We know that because we just completely research meat and know exactly what the ingredients are and what to do and add for the taste.” But the taste can always be improved, which is why those tastings are sorely needed, he continues. Luining has been working with cultured meat for years, but he hasn’t even tasted a piece yet. “But I can’t wait,” he laughs.
Only in Singapore is cultured meat now legally available in supermarkets. How long will it last in our country? It is awaiting the approval of the European watchdog EFSA. “Once we have had tastings and have the taste completely in order, we can submit an application. I hope that cultured meat will really be in the supermarket within a few years.”
The price could be one more thing. A few years ago, the first cultured hamburger cost tens of thousands of euros. “If many manufacturers start making and offering the meat, it can be done for a good price”, Luining assures. In the meantime, it is still very much necessary to convince the consumer. Because a cultured hamburger from a laboratory will take some getting used to for many people.
As of Monday 14 March, the Novavax protein-based vaccine against the coronavirus is available in the Netherlands. The vaccine is available at a number of central GGD vaccination sites. It is possible to call GGD to make an appointment.
For people who do not trust the modern mRNA technology of vaccines, there is now an alternative. The vaccine from the American biotechnology company Novavax will be available from Monday.
Novavax is a so-called protein vaccine. This is an ‘old-fashioned’ technique in which a corona protein is injected to initiate a reaction in the body. The Hepatitis B vaccine is also a protein vaccine. The new vaccine protects 60 to 90% against disease, according to the Ministry of Health.
The Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB) keeps it at 90%. In other words: in a group of unvaccinated people where a hundred people get covid, there are only ten in the Novavax group.
90% is slightly less than the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. With this new technique, an mRNA particle is created in a laboratory and equipped with the genetic code of a corona protein. When the mRNA particle is injected, the body converts the particle into the corona protein, which triggers an immune response. Vaccines such as Novavax directly inject a corona protein, which is also made in a laboratory.
Because mRNA is a modern technique, not everyone trusts its effect. For this group, the Novavax vaccine can be a godsend. The Novavax vaccine requires two shots. In the first weekend, 500 people made their appointment.
Update on Dujat & Members
Dujat members have now received the invitation to attend our webinar with Jones Day, where we will address various legal issues associated to the Russia/Ukraine crisis. The session will be chaired by Mr Rick van ’t Hullenaar, partner at Jones Day, specialized in international trade and leading Jones Day’s global sanctions team for the EU. If you did not receive the invitation, please contact us.
The Amsterdam base for the European activities of the Japanese bank MUFG is ready for growth. Almost six years after the British chose to leave the European Union, the bank’s small branch in the Netherlands has become the hub for Europe. The appointment of Dutchman Harm Bots as president and CEO of MUFG Bank Europe marks that transformation.
On 1 April, Harm Bots will officially take over from Hideaki Takase, who will return to the parent company in Japan. ‘I am the first non-Japanese in this position,’ said Bots in an interview with the FD. ‘That is a really important step for the bank.’ Japanese managers usually rotate after about three years, while with Bots they have clearly appointed a face for the longer term.
If your company has any news to share in the next biweekly newsletter, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Jinn van Gastel
Project Manager at Dujat
DUJAT (Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation)
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