The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

December provides an opportunity to reflect on the year that is almost behind us, and to slow down and prepare for the one ahead. While the United States and Japan continue to strengthen their bilateral relationship in the political and security realms, there is still progress to be made on the economic front. At the first bilateral trade talks between the two countries in decades—set to start early next year—the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has a historic opportunity to play a role in the growth of commercial ties and to expand business opportunities for member companies. This will, ultimately, strengthen both countries and solidify their positions among the world’s top three economies.

To seize this opportunity at a critical juncture in the US–Japan relationship, the ACCJ has made significant progress during the past 12 months in each of our strategic focus areas:

  • Member centricity
  • Relevant and strong advocacy
  • Operational excellence

With member centricity as our foundation, the Board of Governors approved on October 16 a proposal that represents an important first step toward ensuring that the chamber is well-positioned for long-term growth. The proposal enhances the member value proposition and provides for new digital capabilities that will empower leaders, committees, and members. Through greater use of social media and video, our communi­ca­tions will be significantly improved and made more transparent.

We also established the F500 CEO Council and SME CEO Advisory Council to ensure that the ACCJ benefits from the experience and perspectives of those who lead our member companies. These forums better connect the bottom-up work of our committees with top-down input from our CEOs.

Under the theme “Unlocking Japan’s Growth Potential,” each of our five advocacy pillars has been pursuing key reform and growth opportunities for US businesses.

For example, the Healthcare and Retirement pillar generated new ideas on how the private sector can be a partner with Japan to solve important societal challenges. By engaging F500 CEOs in this discussion, the Healthcare and Retirement pillar is developing an innovative cross-industry proposal for structural reforms in key sectors.

In addition, the Workforce Productivity pillar is working with the F500 CEOs to ensure progress following the passage of labor market reform legislation by the Diet in June.

This strategic framework positions the chamber to deliver strong and relevant advocacy to both the Japanese and US governments. Through efforts such as the Diet Doorknock, which took place November 13–21, we are able to reinforce our value to Japanese policymakers who see the ACCJ as a key resource for understanding the United States and the issues facing global business in Japan.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone, we are strengthening our foundation through our modernization program and have placed the ACCJ on a sustainable growth trajectory that focuses on member value. As the United States and Japan prepare to enter bilateral trade talks, the chamber is now better positioned to represent the interests of member companies, advance shared commercial and economic interests, and improve Japan’s overall global-business environment.

Thank you for all of your contributions. The work you do for the chamber every day—giving your knowledge and time through our forums, committees, and activities—is invaluable. You are the ACCJ! I wish you all a wonderful holiday.

Should you choose to spend some of your time or thoughts with me, please write to me at

Sachin N. Shah is ACCJ President.
The ACCJ has made significant progress during the past 12 months in each of our strategic focus areas.