The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


JULY 2014
Echoes of the Past
Samuel Kidder

This year the board of governors will be spending a lot of time looking to the future. As long as we’re working on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, it also seems a good time to work on ACCJ 2020.

To get a better grip on what the future might hold for our institution, let’s take a brief look at where we have been.

Twenty-five years ago the ACCJ Journal ran an article by Dr. Deborah Allen Hewitt, who was the president of Claremont Economics Institute at the time. If Wikipedia can be trusted, the same Dr. Hewitt is now the assistant dean for MBA programs at William and Mary College.

In her article she put forth the argument that “a trans-Pacific trade zone between the world’s two largest economies” would not only reduce the bilateral trade friction—which was at its peak then—but would also, in her view, provide the best way to meet the looming challenge of the emerging European trade bloc.

This is not too far off from where we are now, only Japan is no longer the world’s second-largest economy and China has replaced the EU as the looming competitor.

But the solution to present challenges is a familiar one: the best design for trade architects to follow is one that centers on the US–Japan bilateral relationship.

How about 50 years ago?

In the summer of 1965 (not exactly 50 years, but close enough), the Journal reprinted an article in The Japan Times by Jean Pearce entitled, “Japan’s College Girls Face Employment Barriers.”

Pearce, who some of our readers will remember well and fondly, reported that “… each day brings new stories of shortages in the labor market, of jobs left unfilled for lack of trained personnel. Yet placement bureaus at universities quote statistics which show that of girl graduates wishing to work after graduation, less than half are placed in the positions of their choice.”

The environment Pearce describes was desolate for the ambitious woman. The examples of career success mentioned are noteworthy for their rarity. One area where she observed some light is entrepreneurialism.

The echoes of Dr. Hewitt’s article 25 years ago and Pearce’s observation a half-century ago were still audible at our Women in Business Summit on May 27, 2014, only some things have changed since then.

Girls are now referred to as women; the Japanese and US economies are much more closely integrated than they were 25 years ago; and women’s position in the Japanese business environment has improved over the past 50 years.

But there is a long way to go on both trade policies and greater inclusion of women, and the ACCJ will continue to push forward on these issues. •



Samuel Kidder