14 May 2003, 16:52  Shiokawa has no plans to discuss Forex with Snow

TOKYO, May 14 - Japanese Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said on Wednesday he had no plans to discuss foreign exchange in talks with U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow on the sidelines of a Group of Seven (G7) meeting this weekend. "I don't think we will touch on foreign exchange," Shiokawa told a news conference. Worried that a stronger yen is hurting exporters, Japan spent 2.39 trillion yen ($20.5 billion at current rates) to weaken its currency in the first quarter and it may have intervened again in recent days as the yen climbed to 10-month highs against the dollar.
The foreign exchange policies of the U.S. and Japan have been the focus of attention in the past few days as speculation has arisen that the U.S. has abandoned its strong dollar policy. Snow reiterated his support for a strong dollar before a Congressional committee on Tuesday but he has alluded to the benefits of a weaker dollar recently. Shiokawa said that, rather than foreign exchange, he wanted to discuss the outlook for the U.S. economy.
"I've got questions ready," he said. Shiokawa will also have to explain to Snow and the rest of his G7 counterparts the state of Japan's economy, which is gripped by deflation and struggling to emerge from a decade of slow growth. But he said he believed domestic business conditions were "firm, while not improving". "I expect good January-March GDP data," he said. Japan's first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data are due on Friday. Shiokawa also said he was wary of some policies being suggested to help the country's ailing stock market. Lawmakers want his ministry to adopt more tax breaks for investors, but he said he saw no need for new measures now.
He was also cautious about other measures aimed simply at giving the market a lift, but added some changes might be in order. "We have to adopt policies that will be trusted. I don't think we should be doing things like PKO (price keeping operations)," he said. "But I do hope there are some partial policy changes that could be adopted to discourage selling." Shiokawa and fellow cabinet ministers were meeting late on Wednesday at Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's official residence to discuss measures to bolster the stock market. ($1=116.77 Yen)//

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