The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Thank you for electing me president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ). It is a pleasure and honor to represent the US business community in Japan. I plan to use this column to provide updates from myself and the Board of Governors on key chamber activities and initiatives throughout the year.

Past ACCJ presidents have set a very high bar of achieve­ment. I would like to thank Christopher J. LaFleur for his leadership over the past two years. I am honored to succeed him as president and look forward to his continued counsel as ACCJ chairman.

For 70 years, the ACCJ has worked to develop commercial ties between the United States and Japan, and to improve the local international business environment. This mission is as relevant and important today as it has been for the past seven decades. With the honor of being elected ACCJ president comes the responsibility to ensure that we continue to deliver on this mission and position the chamber for continued success in a changing environment.

KEYS TO THE FUTURE
I see three main areas of change for the ACCJ and its members.
First, the chamber itself is evolving: Over the past several years, membership has grown and become more diverse. We have a record number of Corporate Sustaining Members. We have more small companies, more Japanese members, more women, and more young professionals. This is great news. Now we need to upgrade our capabilities to deliver value to all members. This is key to ensuring that the chamber is well positioned for long-term growth.

Second, the business environment in Japan is changing: The economy is in its longest period of growth since 2001, tourists continue to visit in record numbers, and the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is an opportunity for Japan to upgrade its infrastructure and highlight its technology and culture to the world.

And third, the US–Japan partnership is changing: The relation­ship between our two countries is the strongest it has ever been; but it is also evolving. The US–Japan Economic Dialogue is a new frame­work for trade and economic discussions. While the eco­nomic partnership is strong, it can be strengthened further to benefit both economies. I look forward to leading the chamber as a constructive contributor to this end.

OPENING DOORS
Amid these developments, Japan also faces several challenges: people remain concerned about financial security, health, and wellness in an aging society. They are concerned about national security and data security. And there remain questions about how to drive change in the workplace so businesses and communities reap the benefits of diversity and global thinking.

These challenges are also an opportunity. With the right policies, I believe that Japan can unlock its growth potential and create a more vibrant and productive society. The ACCJ can play a key role in highlighting the leadership of US companies of all sizes and across all sectors—from healthcare to technology, defense to key service sectors—in providing solutions to these challenges. Greater cross-industry collaboration within the chamber will be critical to achieving this goal.

GOING FORWARD
Over its 70-year history, the ACCJ has evolved to reflect the changing US–Japan partnership and to meet the needs of its members while remaining focused on its important mission. How we respond to the changes in front of us today will set the foundation for the chamber’s continued growth and relevance, now and in the decades to come.

These are the questions that are at the forefront of my mind as I begin my term as president. I am discussing our go-forward strategy with the Board of Governors and plan to communicate more on that topic in my next column.

I look forward to working with all of you to further the chamber’s mission and lay the foundation for success over our next 70 years.

My style of communication is open, direct, and transparent. Please feel free to contact me any time to share your ideas, experience and questions. You can reach me at: sshah@accj.or.jp.

Sachin N. Shah is ACCJ President.
[Our] mission is as relevant and important today as it has been for the past seven decades.