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Japan seeks deregulated 'sandbox' to free up innovation

Initiative to play part in Abenomics growth strategy

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is looking to clear a path through the thicket of regulations for trials of new services in such emerging fields as financial technology and the sharing economy.

A proposal calling for a "regulatory sandbox" for such activities will be presented when a government panel on promoting innovation meets Friday. The plan will form a pillar of a new economic growth strategy to be compiled next month.

The sandbox could be in place as soon as next fiscal year. Within this framework, corporations seeking the freedom to experiment would submit their proposals to relevant government agencies, which would then grant limited-time authorizations. During that period, the trial businesses would not have to worry about running afoul of existing procedural requirements and standards.   

The results of these test runs will inform future rule creation policymaking. Successful trials could lead to some regulations being eliminated entirely.

In the fintech sector, for instance, startups could find it easier to enter the banking industry. That could promote the spread of financial services utilizing smartphones or artificial intelligence.

In the sharing economy, business operators could use crowdsourcing to collect vacation itineraries drawn up by individuals and then make them available to others. Japanese law currently does not allow private individuals to be compensated for creating vacation plans.

Waiting for full-fledged deregulation to catch up with the rapid advances in fintech and other areas could leave Japanese companies behind the rest of the world in the race for market share.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has designated special zones to serve as beachheads for deregulation. With the sandbox, business trials could be conducted nationwide.


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