The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

This is a special month for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) as August 24 marks the 70th anniversary of our founding.

Since 1948, the ACCJ has pursued its mission to promote the interests of US companies and members, advance bilateral commercial ties, and improve the international business environment in Japan.

From its origins as a coalition of 40 US businesses in post-war Japan, the ACCJ has grown to become the largest and most influential foreign business association in the world’s third-largest economy. Many of our 1,000 member companies—large and small—have been doing business here for decades, bringing investment, tens of thousands of jobs to Japan, and contributing to economic growth back home.

The bilateral relationship was characterized by trade friction through the 1970s and 1980s, but large-scale Japanese investment in the United States—together with improvement in market-access issues for US companies—helped ease tensions and bring about the deeper economic partnership our two countries enjoy.

ACCJ advocacy has helped lay the foundation for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strategy to boost productivity and revive the economy, and the chamber has become a leading voice on female empowerment. Both examples highlight how US companies can provide solutions to critical issues facing Japan’s economy and society.

LOOKING FORWARD
Today, US companies in Japan once again face a changing environ­­ment and an evolving US–Japan partnership. In response, the ACCJ is making several important changes to modernize our operations, enhance member value, and advance our mission.

For the ACCJ, advocacy is about effecting change in policy and practices at the government, business, and individual levels through information sharing, dialogue, and development of policy proposals. We are making changes to bring sharper focus and urgency to our activities and to enhance our position as the preeminent voice for US business in Japan.

Because many of the opportunities and challenges, such as an aging society, that ACCJ members face today cut across traditional industry lines, the chamber has begun to prioritize its advocacy around five cross-cutting themes that further Japan’s growth potential:

• US–Japan Economic Partnership
• Digital Economy
• Health & Retirement
• Tourism, Sports & Hospitality
• Workforce Productivity

Additionally, we launched three new councils to strengthen engagement with key member groups and better align the top-down/bottom-up aspects of our activities: The Committee Excellence Advisory Council (CEAC) helps leaders of the more than 60 ACCJ committees be more effective in their important work, while the Small Company and F500 CEO Advisory Councils were established to give leaders of member companies of all sizes a way to ensure their business priorities are represented in the chamber’s agenda.

The Small Company CEO Advisory Council is already fast at work, collaborating closely with the Taxation Committee regarding US tax rules that unfairly disadvantage US citizens who own small businesses overseas. These efforts underscore the importance of advocacy for all member companies—not just large multinationals.

ENHANCING MEMBER VALUE
It’s not just the external environment that is changing: Over the past several years, ACCJ membership has grown and become more diverse. We have a record number of Corporate Sustaining Members, more Japanese members, more women, and more young professionals.

We now face a gap between the type of communication and information members want and what the chamber provides. The Membership Value Project (MVP) team is finalizing its recommendations for more closely aligning the ACCJ value proposition to the needs of our growing and diverse membership. As a part of this, the board of governors agreed on the key components of a high-level plan to improve how the chamber engages members and shares information, with digital communication set to become a key part of how we operate.

We can be proud of how far the ACCJ has come over the past 70 years, but, to achieve our mission for another 70, we need to continue to evolve in response to the external environment and the commercial needs of our members.

I wish you all an enjoyable and restful summer, and look forward to working with you in the second half of 2018 as we continue to pursue the ACCJ’s important mission. Please contact me if you have questions or comments at sshah@accj.or.jp.

Sachin N. Shah is ACCJ President.