The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Arguably the largest domestic advocacy initiative for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), the Diet Doorknock took place December 8–10, 2015. It was the 20th year of the event, which brought together 65 ACCJ leaders and members, to meet with about 40 Japanese government officials.

To commemorate the event, a conference was held on December 8 featuring panel discussions with government and business leaders. Experts from three industries, described as “bright spots in the Japanese economy,” spoke at the conference.

Tokyo as a Financial Center
The first seminar highlighted Tokyo’s potential to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), with Japan’s recent round of corporate governance reforms a key factor in luring FDI.

Panelist and ACCJ President Emeritus Charles D. Lake II applauded Japan’s recent financial and regulatory reforms and highlighted, among other things, its implementation of comprehensive corporate governance reforms.

Reflecting on Japan’s experience as a “sempai” (forerunner) in recovering from past financial crises, Lake noted that Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) is “poised to exercise even more leadership in the global arena.” He called for enhanced cooperation on global financial regulation between Japan and the United States.

The issue of changing allocations for pension funds in Japan was also raised. Moderator Christopher LaFleur emphasized how portability of pensions will be very important to encourage labor mobility, in addition to increasing the amounts individuals can contribute to pension accounts.

Cybersecurity, a lack of qualified Japanese financial services professionals, and burdensome set-up costs were cited as potential challenges for Tokyo as a financial center.

FSA Vice Commissioner for International Affairs Ryozo Himino introduced key FSA priorities and highlighted the importance of principles-based regulation for ensuring financial stability, while creating an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth. He noted lessons learned from past financial crises and welcomed enhanced industry–regulator dialogue to ensure a balanced regulatory environment.

Cross-border Data Flow, Privacy, and Security
In the next session, Diet member Takuya Hirai stressed that Japan needs to strike a balance between personal data protection and data utilization, including the concept of the “sharing economy.”

He also emphasized the importance of clarifying and enforcing regulations regarding personal data protection among government agencies, as this is seen as one reason Japan’s personal data protection is considered less than sufficient vis-à-vis that of the European Union.

This will be discussed in the next ordinary Diet session, he said, adding that he has prepared a bill regarding data utilization in the public and private sectors.

In terms of cross-border data flow, he said that he does not intend to restrict business activities. He noted that this will be discussed in due course, most likely in 2017, as rules and regulations are developed.

Hirai also mentioned the importance of creating new services and improving productivity, which are key to achieving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of ¥600 trillion in GDP by 2020.

Currently, the government offers subsidies to service-based companies, but many of the smaller ones—often those located in the countryside—cannot accept the funds because they are unfamiliar with the application process and lack detailed plans for consideration. Only one-tenth of available subsidies are being used.

The second session closed with a robust Q&A session centered on the widely misunderstood My Number system.

Lengthening Healthy Lifespans to Boost Economic Growth
The final panel discussion showed how Japan’s aging population presents big opportunities for innovation.

Moderator William Bishop summarized the likely paradigm shift to improved productivity and lower costs, with functionality as a determinant in pricing parameters.

Panelist Dr. Hiromichi Kimura gave a presentation on other shifts taking place in Japan’s healthcare environment. In the future, he said, we should see more IT utilization, home care, self-medication and monitoring, and nanotechnology tied to remote medical care.

Overall, the panel showed how we should be inspired by the domestic wins taking place, instead of focusing on things yet to be done.

. . . portability of pensions will be very important to encourage labor mobility . . .