The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

For the past 22 years, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has reached out to key political leaders and senior bureaucrats in Japan. The goal is to express our views concerning the best ways in which our economies can be further integrated to bolster the global free-trade system, overcome shared challenges, and achieve sustainable growth for the benefit of regional prosperity and stability.

Each year, the ACCJ Government Relations Committee organizes this event, known as the Diet Doorknock, and formulates an agenda for our discussions. In 2017, visits were conducted over a three-day period in November, with the key themes being the US–Japan Economic Dialogue, continued structural reform, and measures to enhance the investment environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Virtually every area of interest to the ACCJ was discussed with members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, opposition parties, and several Cabinet ministers, vice-ministers, and heads of regulatory bodies. Particular emphasis was placed on health­care, Japan’s growth strategy—includ­ing corporate govern­ance, labor mobility, immi­gra­tion, global talent, and work-style reform— along with financial services and tax policy, including net operating losses, inheritance tax, and director bonuses.

Through the Doorknock, the ACCJ provides an important conduit for the exchange of critical information between the United States and Japan. The feedback received on the Doorknock is reported to the Embassy of the United States, Tokyo, and policymakers in Washington DC as a way of furthering the dialogue with industry input.

For example, Diet members expressed gratitude for the ACCJ’s support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which helped many quarters in Japan over­come initial reluctance. Many Diet mem­bers also expressed hope that TPP 11—the agree­ment reached between the original TPP countries minus the US, officially called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—will provide a framework that allows the United States to join in the future if it wishes, even though the admini­stration of US President Donald Trump is pursuing bi­­lateral arrange­ments.

The ACCJ believes that important changes in regulatory and business practices have evolved over the past few years. In May 2017, the ACCJ Structural Reform Task Force (SRTF) published a report analyzing many of the positive ways in which the economy is being transformed. The report, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the ACCJ website, concluded that more work needs to be done in certain areas, many of which were highlighted in this year’s Doorknock. For example, the government is making slow progress on work-style reform and has found it difficult to pass legislation that would increase labor mobility. Frank exchanges of views were also held on the government’s efforts to modify the system for pricing pharmaceuticals and the possible effect that changes may have on the introduction of new and innovative products.

In 2018, the ACCJ will mark the 70th anniversary of its founding. Networking, information exchange, and advocacy are the key pillars of the Chamber’s activities. We take a long view and measure the suc­cess of our efforts by the results of the inter­actions with key decision-makers and local business partners. Experience shows that the annual Diet Doorknock provides the proper forum for the chamber to speak with one clear and articulate voice as a critical member of the international business community.

Arthur M. Mitchell is chair of the ACCJ Government Relations Committee.