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Corporate farms among new ideas for Japanese economic zones

TOKYO -- Letting corporations take controlling interests in farms and easing restrictions on foreign doctors are among 13 new measures proposed Tuesday by a task force on the country's planned deregulation zones.

     Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to boost the economy by loosening strict regulations on the agricultural and medical sectors, among others, initially within these National Strategic Special Zones and later nationwide.

     The government will now move to ease regulations so that corporations can take a majority interest in agricultural cooperatives and other qualifying farms. The current 25% cap greatly limits businesses' influence over these land-owning entities.

     Many farmers hesitate to let companies take ownership of more land. The agriculture ministry and opposition parties will likely fight the measure as well.

     "If ministries cannot go along with regulatory reforms, they must explain why they cannot meet the needs of these changing times," said Shigeru Ishiba, the minister in charge of the special zones.

     The meeting also touched on creating a system to ease the consolidation of farmland with unknown owners, as well as a framework that gives fishing co-ops and corporations an equal shot at obtaining fishing licenses.

     The task force puts forth several reforms for the medical and welfare sectors. It proposes allowing doctors with certifications from other countries to treat Japanese patients within the zones and letting foreign beauticians work in Japan.

     Relevant ministries are apparently on board with permitting testing of drugs using artificial organs created from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, as well as lifting the ban on child care facilities in public parks.


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