The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

When US business speaks, governments around the world listen. And the collective voice of US business in this region was loud and clear at the 2015 APCAC Business Summit, hosted by the Asia–Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore on March 11–13.

With a membership spanning 29 US chambers across 27 countries, APCAC wields increasing clout and credibility in light of the US government’s rebalance to Asia and negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP).

Collectively, APCAC represents the interests of over 15,000 businesses that employ in excess of 10 million people, including more than 50,000 overseas US workers.

APCAC members manage annual trade volumes exceeding $400 billion and direct investments of nearly $300 billion. More than 480 US business leaders and senior government officials gathered to glean insights into the latest political and economic trends under the summit theme, “The United States and Asia—New Opportunities in the Pacific Century.”

“APCAC is about you. It exists because of, and to serve, the interests of you and your companies,” said APCAC Chairman George M. Drysdale. He went on to describe the four policy priorities of the organization as the four Ts:

Trade policy support for the conclusion of TPP negotiations, and granting of Trade Promotion Authority by Congress

Taxation policy that promotes a level playing field for US companies and businesspeople in Asia

Travel and tourism promotion through support for the Global Entry program and the APEC Business Travel Card to help people to gain streamlined entry at airports across the region

Transparency of rules and regulations and shining a light on things such as corruption and non-tariff trade barriers, to ensure a level playing field for all businesses

Attendees also had the opportunity to consult with dozens of U.S. Commercial Service officers from around the region on market entry strategies.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) was represented by a strong delegation from Tokyo, including ACCJ President Jay Ponazecki, Executive Director Laura Younger, Vice Presidents Marie Kissel and Jonathan Kushner, Governor Tom Clark, and Healthcare Committee Vice Chair Bruce Ellsworth.

TPP and APEC
U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar and Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang opened the summit with keynote addresses focused on US investment in the region.

Ambassador Wagar emphasized the importance of the engagement of US government and businesses in Asia through increased economic cooperation, to help the region reach its economic goals, create jobs, improve infrastructure, and enable new domestic enterprises to develop.

The outlook for the conclusion of the TPP was another focus. “We see economic diplomacy as a key part of our foreign policy. I feel optimistic about the prospects for successfully completing the TPP negotiations,” Wagar said.

The TPP is likely to have a positive impact on trade and investment, even beyond the 12 member countries. Capital investments will flow to countries where intellectual property rights are protected, and the agreement will likely encourage non-member countries to up their game, too.

Tami Overby, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that Japan’s joining gave real weight to the TPP, which now represents 40 percent of global GDP. Not only is Japan an attractive export market for many TPP member countries, but Tokyo has become a strategic ally in the negotiations.

“Before Japan joined the TPP negotiations, the United States was the only country asking for high standards on things like intellectual property rights. After Japan joined, it was both the United States and Japan asking,” Overby explained.

A successful TPP agreement will also give shape to the structural reform that the Japanese economy desperately needs and which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised. In addition to reducing agricultural tariffs, Japan has committed to resolving non-tariff barriers in 10 sectors, such as autos and insurance.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s merits were also emphasized during the APCAC summit. Robert Wang, US senior official for APEC, said, “APEC looks beyond trade liberalization.

It looks at ethics, health, leadership by women, the environment, and a variety of other things that are necessary for long-term, sustainable growth. Things like corruption, pollution, and inequality can undermine sustainable economic growth. APEC looks not only at the quantity of economic growth, but also the quality of growth.”

Tom Clark, ACCJ governor and APCAC vice chair, added, “APEC has really been the incubator for many of the good ideas going into TPP,” thanks to strong dialogue and partnership with the private sector.

Policy Advocacy
APCAC plays the important role of communicating the collective voice of US business in Asia to US government leaders through its annual policy report and Washington, D.C. Doorknock.

The yearly report covers the four Ts mentioned above and a variety of industry-specific policy proposals, ranging from financial services and healthcare to information technology and energy. Created as a collective effort among APCAC members, the detailed report provides the kind of insight that can only come from business leaders on the ground in countries across Asia.

This year’s APCAC D.C. Doorknock will take place on June 22–25. Participants will hold dozens of meetings with members of Congress and senior US government officials, to share first-hand accounts of how trade and investment policy can boost exports, create jobs, and sustain growth.

“A key message from the 2015 APCAC Business Summit is the importance of companies telling the TPP story in Washington, D.C.,” Clark said.

The APCAC board also hopes to strengthen the role of the organization in helping US chambers more effectively bring policy messages to Asia’s capital cities.

“APCAC is perfectly positioned to work jointly with national AmChams to reinforce key advocacy messages. The APCAC brand as a credible advocacy voice has dramatically strengthened in recent years, and I would encourage more ACCJ members to become involved,” said ACCJ President Jay Ponazecki.

The APCAC Board elected Jackson Cox, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia, as its new chairman for 2015–16.

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Bruce J. Ellsworth is vice chair of the ACCJ Healthcare Committee.

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APCAC represents the interests of over 15,000 businesses that employ in excess of 10 million people.