Abe to designate special economic zones in March

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he will designate "strategic special zones" in March where deregulation and tax cuts can be promoted exclusively in an attempt to attract more business people and investment from home and abroad.

"We will select specific areas in March and try to decide on policies region by region," Abe said during the first meeting of the Special Zone Advisory Council, which was set up to advance the project, a centerpiece of his government's economic growth strategy.

The panel, chaired by Abe, is composed of ministers such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Yoshitaka Shindo, minister in charge of the special zones, as well as five nongovernmental members including Heizo Takenaka, a Keio University professor who served as economic and fiscal policy minister.

During the meeting Tuesday, the private-sector members called on the government to reform sectors such as agriculture and health care, which are widely seen as being protected from competition by stringent regulations.