The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As my second term as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) comes to an end, I want to offer a brief review of what we—working together—have been able to accomplish these past two years. This period has been both exciting and challenging, but I believe that we have emerged with our Chamber substantially strengthened. I am pleased to report that we have:

  • Contributed to the substantial progress of structural reform in Japan through multiple advocacy recommendations (including on financial services, healthcare, women’s health, and structural reform), and enhanced advocacy activities
  • Helped play a constructive role in launching the new US–Japan Bilateral Economic Dialogue
  • Strengthened our advocacy impact in Washington by raising the level of our delegations and engaging professional support
  • Improved governance and communication by realigning our Board of Governors, Executive Committee, and Leadership Forum meetings, and by launching Town Hall and the Presidents Council meetings, a gathering of presidents emeriti.
  • Accelerated growth of women’s leadership by adopting our “30% by 2020” goal for the Chamber’s women leaders, and mandating every possible committee to promote at least one woman to a leadership position
  • Ensured our smaller and medium-sized member firms are benefitting more fully from our advocacy program by establishing the Venture Company Task Force
  • Strengthened our communications by modernizing our information systems and website, and by rebranding our magazine
  • Established clear and transparent policies to manage our reserve funds
  • Launched the initiative put forth by the Membership Relations Advisory Council Working Group to better serve our increasingly diverse membership and to ensure our long-term financial stability
  • Expanded our programs engaging the most senior executives of our member companies to bolster our advocacy and member commitment
  • Adopted new guidelines for additional services to enhance participation by our Japanese members
  • Secured progress on key tax issues important to sustaining the commitment of foreign businesses to Japan
  • Initiated a ground-breaking internship program
  • Supported major events by our chapters, notably the great success of last year’s ACCJ/NIS Chubu Walkathon and Kansai tourism roundtables

Our efforts to strengthen our Chamber have been recognized and rewarded in the best possible way: rising membership. We achieved the highest membership in our history—3,430—and an all-time high of 92 Corporate Sustaining Member companies.

While much has been accomplished, clearly there is more we can do to ensure that our Chamber fulfills its mission to be the most influential and respected voice for international business in Japan. Going forward, we need to:

  • Maintain our strong advocacy on behalf of a constructive, forward-looking US–Japan economic relationship that expands business opportunities for both countries, strengthens our two-way partnership, and raises standards across the Indo-Pacific region
  • Encourage the Japanese government’s leadership on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the other 10 partners while urging that US companies operating from those countries enjoy equal treatment
  • Move forward on the outstanding recommendations from our Membership Relations Advisory Committee and its working groups to ensure that we can meet the increasingly varied expectations of our growing membership and strengthen our financial base
  • Enhance the engagement in Chamber work of major member CEOs—the great value they bring to our advocacy, networking and member engagement is clear
  • Continue expanding US company membership not only in our three chapter cities, but across Japan
  • As the US Government continues to encourage greater Japanese investment at home, encourage more of those same Japanese companies to also become ACCJ members and work even more closely with major Japanese business organizations on shared concerns

If we continue advancing in these areas, I believe our Chamber can further expand its impact on business conditions in Japan, enhance the opportunities for our members’ businesses, and help reinforce the strong US–Japan relationship. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your president these past two years, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to make our Chamber even stronger.

Christopher J. LaFleur is ACCJ President