The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The fact that the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has reached its highest number of members in Chamber history is a reflection of the positive climate for global business in Japan. It is thanks to the leaders in business and government whose efforts to transition the US–Japan relationship from an atmosphere of trade friction to one of shared prosperity that we are at a peak for US–Japan relations—as well as for the ACCJ. For many ACCJ members, Japan has become a critical market built upon deeply valued partnerships with customers, communities, and other businesses.

On April 18, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and US Vice President Mike Pence opened a new chapter in US–Japan relations by launching the US–Japan Economic Dialogue in Tokyo. As the representative of US companies doing business in Japan, the ACCJ applauds prioritization of Japan by the administration of US President Donald Trump, and is pleased to see a new framework develop for furthering commerce between our two countries.

The ACCJ believes it is critical that the private sector be included in these important policy discussions. It is, therefore, encouraging that the ACCJ has already been able to meet with key members of the Trump administration and the US Congress in the weeks following the launch of the dialogue.

In a meeting hosted at the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo, on April 19, I chaired a discussion during which ACCJ members were able to share with new US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross the key issues their industries face in Japan—including the need for further progress on matters such as transparency, regulatory harmonization, and structural reform. At the same time, they underlined the point that the business climate for US companies in Japan has improved markedly and that, today, Japan offers US businesses and workers one of their most valuable overseas markets.

In a subsequent meeting with Vice President Pence, I was invited to lead a discussion among Japanese and ACCJ business leaders who reviewed both current successes and opportunities for further growth in the US–Japan economic relationship. The Vice President, very familiar from his time as Governor of Indiana with the contributions Japanese investment has made to US growth and employment, made clear that he saw the new dialogue as an opportunity to further growth in both countries, and was looking forward to the progress to be made on shared goals and interests.

Shortly after, an ACCJ delegation went to Washington for the annual ACCJ DC Doorknock. During the four-day visit, we met with a wide range of senior administration officials and Members of Congress concerned with US–Japan relations. Our delegation, led by CEOs of some of our leading member firms, described the importance of the US–Japan economic partnership to their businesses in Japan, and urged a positive, forward-looking agenda for the new dialogue. We asked policymakers to include the private sector in discussions, and offered the ACCJ as a resource moving forward.

I returned to Tokyo from these engagements with two conclusions. The first is that, while many of the specifics of the new administration’s trade policy remain to be decided, our interlocutors over these several weeks have been very interested in the “front lines” perspective of the ACCJ. The second is that senior leaders with whom we met all understand the value of the US–Japan relationship in terms of jobs, investment, and shared growth. In the months ahead, your ACCJ will be working to sustain this dialogue with key US officials to help ensure that the new economic dialogue can continue to fully reflect the interests of US business in Japan.

Christopher J. LaFleur is ACCJ President
We asked policymakers to include the private sector in discussions