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2014年4月 7日 (月)

水循環法成立 外資の森林買収に目光らせよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 07, 2014
Beware of purchases of forestland in reservoir areas by foreign capital
水循環法成立 外資の森林買収に目光らせよ

The large-scale purchase of forestland—which includes an abundance of forests in reservoir areas—by foreign capital and foreign business proxies must be prevented. A law has just been enacted as the first step toward protecting the nation’s vitally precious land.
 水源地を含む森林が外国資本などに大規模に買収される事態を看過できない。貴重な国土を守る第一歩とすべきだ。

Sponsored by a suprapartisan group of Diet members, including those from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan, the so-called basic law on water circulation is aimed at conserving water resources. It won unanimous approval in the Diet.
 自民、公明、民主各党など超党派議員が提出し、水資源の保全を目的とした「水循環基本法」が、全会一致で成立した。

The basic law has defined water resources as a “highly valuable common public asset” and stipulates that both the central government and local entities must act responsibly to conserve them.
 基本法は水を「国民共有の貴重な財産」と位置づけ、政府や自治体に保全の責任があると明記した。

Also incorporated into the law is the creation of a “water circulation policy headquarters” headed by the prime minister and a stipulation calling for the government to work out basic plans for conserving water resources.
首相を本部長とする「水循環政策本部」の設置と、水保全の基本計画の策定も盛り込んだ。

It is noteworthy that the basic law has been enacted at the initiative of politicians, not bureaucrats, to clarify the stance of protecting the country’s water resources comprehensively.
 政治主導で基本法を作り、水資源を包括的に守る姿勢を明示したのは評価できよう。

Serving as one of the triggers for enacting the basic law is the fact that foreign purchases of forests, including those in headwater areas, have taken place one after another.
 基本法制定のきっかけとなったのは、外資による水源地などの森林買収が相次いだことである。

According to a survey by the Forestry Agency, during a period from 2006 to 2012 the number of forestland purchases by foreign capital stood at 68, with a combined area of about 800 hectares.
 林野庁の調査によると、外資による森林の買収は2006年から12年にかけて全国で計68件、約800ヘクタールに及んだ。

For example, it has been learned that Chinese and Hong Kong businesses have purchased forestland in Hokkaido and elsewhere.
中国や香港の外資が北海道などで森林を買収した事例が明らかになっている。

In some transactions, foreign businesses purchased forestland using Japanese firms as proxies. As the situation remains far from clear, the known instances of forestland purchases by foreign concerns should be deemed just the tip of the iceberg.
 日本企業の名義で外国企業が買収する取引もある。実態は不透明で、表面化した買収例は氷山の一角と見るべきだろう。

Ordinances insufficient

More and more local governments throughout the country are enacting ordinances to designate specially important reservoir zones and make it obligatory for potential purchasers of forestland to report in advance on the transactions. However, analysts have warned that the effectiveness of this step is limited.
 全国の自治体では、重要な水源地をあらかじめ指定し、買収の事前届け出を義務づける条例を作る動きが広がっているが、実効性には限界が指摘されている。

One major reason for this is that even though local governments can detect possible problematic forestland transactions involving either foreign or domestic businesses, it is difficult for local authorities to stop the transactions in a binding way.
 外国企業に限らず、国内企業も含めて問題がありそうな取引を察知できても、取引の中止を強制することが難しいのが一因だ。

Even in such cases where there is a risk of an excessive intake of groundwater and water contamination in forestland acquired by foreign capital, administrative guidance by authorities concerned may be ineffective. If forestland is bought by foreign capital in the vicinity of defense installations, national security could be jeopardized.
 外資が買収した森林で地下水の過剰取水や水質汚染といった事態が起きても、行政指導が及びにくい事態も懸念される。防衛施設の周辺地などが買収されれば、安全保障上の問題も起きかねない。

It is reasonable for the suprapartisan group of legislators, who showed increasing anxiety over the prevailing situation, to come up with the legislation to clarify the central government’s role in dealing with the matter.
 超党派で危機感を強め、国の方針を明確にしたのは妥当だ。

However, the basic law simply notes the need to protect water resources and falls short of reining in forestland purchases by foreign capital. This is not good enough.
 ただ、基本法が資源保護の必要性を定めただけにとどまり、外資買収に対する歯止め策までは示せなかったのは物足りない。

The central government, first of all, should promptly embark on fact-finding investigations in tandem with local governments regarding land acquisitions in headwater areas by foreign capital. The government should map out a set of rules similar to those in such countries as the United States and South Korea, which have restricted land acquisitions by foreign capital from the viewpoint of national security.
 政府はまず、自治体と連携し、外資による買収の実態把握を急ぐ必要がある。安全保障の観点から外資の土地取得を制限する米国や韓国などを参考に、具体的なルール作りを図ってもらいたい。

Naturally it is not appropriate to uniformly restrict land transactions merely because they involve foreign capital. In addition to determining which forestland should be conserved as reservoir areas and for related purposes, restrictions on land deals should be strictly limited to exceptional cases in which land acquisition is considered improper.
 もちろん、外資というだけで、土地取引を一律に制限するのは適当ではない。水源地など守るべき土地を明確化するとともに、買収目的が不適切と判断される場合、あくまで特例として取引を規制することが求められよう。

The central government should also consider extending assistance to help fund local governments’ plans to purchase tracts of land in reservoir areas to guard against their purchases by foreign capital.
 外資の買収に備え、水源地の買い取りを進める自治体を国が資金支援することも検討に値する。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2014)

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