Q&A on Bitcoin With Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso was asked about Bitcoin at a press conference last Friday (March 7). Here is a translation:

Question: About Bitcoin, there was a decision by the Cabinet today on an answer to questions from a Member of Parliament of the Democratic Party. Lawmakers from the coalition and from the opposition are calling for regulation. May I ask on your point of view on this?

Answer: The Cabinet decided on the answer today, but right now relevant Ministries are still in the process of gathering information on the issue. We are trying to understand the real issues right now.

Question: About Bitcoin, there have been reports that banks and securities firms will be banned from selling or brokering bitcoins. Is that one possible line of reasoning?

Answer: This is not a currency. Therefore we have the question if the Financial Services Authority or the Finance Ministry has the competence to regulate Bitcoin. There is also the opinion that since goods are moving the Ministry of Economy might be competent. It is necessary to discuss this question further with experts before I can give an answer. It may be the police who should oversee Bitcoin. I hear that there are about 1,000 Japanese citizens who became victims, and several tens of thousands of foreigners. Japanese  victims may be slightly less than one thousand. We still don’t know exactly. There are new reports coming in all the time. Therefore I would like to have a little more time for an answer.

Question: There seems to be no coordination with international standards of Bitcoin regulation yet, so this will be one of the next steps. Where is that going to happen?

Answer: We still don’t understand the situation completely. But is it okay to say that the victims have only themselves to blame? Or do we need to introduce regulation for Bitcoin? We are still not sure. Even when looking at international standards, it is clear right now that Bitcoin is not a currency with legal tender power. But it is still not clear if we need regulation. There are reports that tens of billions of yen were stolen by hackers. But there are no clear traces of these thefts, so there are some doubts if that actually happened. Those who say they were deceived, that is just a simple question of fraud. Since there was a petition for civil rehabilitation, that aspect clearly is only an individual case. So, right now we hear new reports all the time, but it is still difficult to understand what exactly is the big picture of the situation.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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