February 2, 2017 1:50 am JST

Japan's pension megafund to invest in US infrastructure

Tokyo proposal steps up bilateral jobs initiative

The Government Pension Investment Fund would invest in high speed rail projects in Texas and California.

TOKYO -- Infrastructure investments in the U.S. by Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund will feature heavily in the economic cooperation package to be discussed at next week's summit in Washington between the two countries' leaders.

The goal is to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs, in keeping with U.S. President Donald Trump's agenda, and deepen ties between the two countries.

New cabinet-level talks discussing trade policies and economic cooperation agreements are also on the table. Japan's contingent would likely include Finance Minister Taro Aso, Economic Minister Hiroshige Seko, and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The U.S. is expected to send incoming Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and incoming U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to that meeting. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump will aim for agreement on that framework during their Feb. 10 meeting.

"I wish to discuss [Japanese] contributions toward improved productivity and competitiveness in the entire U.S. industrial sector, or a large framework that includes aid for infrastructure development," Abe told members of the lower house Wednesday. His government has started to lay out a comprehensive initiative addressing job growth.

The draft proposal will feature infrastructure investments in the U.S. by Japan, joint robotics and artificial intelligence research by the two sides, and countermeasures against cyberattacks.

The GPIF will purchase debt issued by American corporations to finance infrastructure projects. Up to 5% of the roughly 130 trillion yen ($1.14 trillion) in assets controlled by the megafund can go toward overseas infrastructure projects. Currently, only tens of billions of yen are invested in that asset class, leaving room for expansion. Long-term financing for high-speed rail projects in Texas and California would be provided through such avenues as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

In the area of research and development, Japan aims for joint development of medical and nursing care robots. Robots will also help boost efficiency in inspections of America's aging infrastructure. Japan is considering joint research in decommissioning nuclear reactors.

(Nikkei)

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