The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Each year, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) undertakes its Diet Doorknock (DDK) advocacy initiative, during which chamber leaders meet and collaborate with Japanese govern­ment officials. Described by ACCJ Government Relations Committee Vice-Chair Mark Davidson as “the most important advocacy activity of the ACCJ, year after year,” the DDK allows the chamber to lead conversation on US–Japan relations, speaking with policy­makers and influential government officials who have the power to act on recommen­da­tions. The most recent DDK took place November 13–21.

Davidson said the ACCJ approaches these meetings as a partner of the Japanese government rather than a separate entity. All ACCJ efforts, he added, are focused on the betterment of Japan, anticipating that benefits will flow from the Japanese economy to participating US ventures.

ACCJ President Sachin N. Shah said: “Our message is one of confidence to resolve issues between the two economies today to focus on future value for both partner nations in the bilateral trade discussions. With 70 years of working with both US and Japanese administrations, we are confident to identify opportunities for business to realize significant progress in the economic partnership and strengthen this cornerstone of the US–Japan alliance.”

This win-win approach has allowed the DDK to run effectively for more than  20 years.

The November 2018 DDK marked the 23rd anniversary of the discussions, with 70 representatives of the ACCJ and 38 Diet members taking part. The agenda was guided by the ACCJ’s five advocacy pillars:

  • US–Japan Economic Partnership
  • Health and Retirement
  • Digital Economy
  • Tourism, Sports, and Hospitality
  • Workforce Productivity

As each Diet member is invested in representing the interests of their district, a wide variety of topics were covered. Given Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of 40 million inbound tourists by 2020, tourism and travel were heavily discussed areas. This goal works in the interest of the ACCJ, which is constantly pursuing efforts to strengthen the global community. Davidson recalled that politicians from out­side Tokyo—especially Osaka and Kyoto—appeared most motivated to achieve Abe’s goal.

ACCJ Government Relations Committee Chair Mari Matthews said data was also a recurring theme across all areas of dis­cussion. To strengthen overarching pillars such as Health and Retirement, she noted, data would need to be efficiently collected and analyzed.

Together, government officials and the ACCJ acknowledge the opportunity that data utilization poses for economic growth and innovation in Japan. Matthews recalled that, naturally, the preservation of privacy was of high importance.

With the G20 Summit & Ministerial Meetings being held in Osaka on June 28–29, and with Japan taking the leadership role, the ACCJ sees a great opportunity for its government partners to continue the DDK conversations and strengthen foreign affairs.

Davidson shared his hopes that, in such a position, Japan will “move closer to truly fair and free trade among the regional members.” As he sees it, the country offers the global community tremen­dous invest­ment and growth opportunities.

Lia Walsh is a writer at Custom Media, publisher of The ACCJ Journal.