Japan’s New Prime Minister: Fumio Kishida

Fumio Kishida, who was previously foreign minister in the Abe Cabinet, won the race to become Japan’s next prime minister. The 55-year-old politician will be tasked with leading the country through a time of economic stagnation and territorial disputes with China.

In Japan, the party that garners a majority in lower house elections is given the right to pick the prime minister. Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party LDP won a landslide victory last Sunday and gained a two-thirds majority in parliament. That means Kishida will have an easy task ahead all he has to do is keep things going as they are.

Incoming Prime Minister Kishida Fumio delivers a speech at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters in Tokyo December 23, 2014 REUTERS/Yuya Shino

What is important for our economic policy is to create a business environment where companies can grow and encourage entrepreneurship, so people can feel the fruits of economic growth, Kishida said in a press conference.

Besides economics, Japan’s relations with its neighbors may be another top priority topic when Kishida takes office. While he is known for his relatively dovish views when it comes to territorial disputes with China and South Korea, Kishida stressed that he will continue to defend what he believes are Japan’s interests.

Kishida has also pushed for closer ties with the US, in an attempt to maintain strong bilateral relations. He has recently criticized Abe’s pushing of a controversial new law that would allow Japanese troops to fight overseas again after 70 years of pacifism.

According to polls, voters are more concerned about the economy than security issues. Japan’s GDP this year is expected to be the worst in over two decades, with a 4 percent drop predicted. Unemployment has reached an 18-year high at 4.5 percent and exports have fallen for nine straight months.

Kishida also slammed the administration’s record on deregulation saying that it has failed to lower hurdles for Japanese companies. He promised increased target numbers in deregulation, with a special focus on the medical sector.

Kishida was initially opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement because he believed that it would hurt Japan’s agriculture. During his election campaign, however, he said that he will respect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to join the negotiations.

It remains to be seen whether Kishida’s economic policy will be similar to Abe’s, who has been criticized for his ineffective economic policies, or more pragmatic. His first test will come next year during parliamentary elections for the upper house of Japan’s Diet.