The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The result of last year’s US presidential election has produced a sometimes-uncertain landscape, and one that is far from historic norms.

On September 6, APCO Worldwide Director of Global Programs Dr. Joshua Walker and Media Relations Manager Anthony DeAngelo​ spoke to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) about navigating the new Washington DC and how companies can adapt to changes being made by the administration of US President Donald Trump.

“It’s less clear than ever how companies can effectively communicate their priorities to decision-makers in Washington,” said Kenneth LeBrun, chair of the ACCJ Foreign Direct Investment Committee.

As former US government officials, Walker and DeAngelo have a deep understanding of the US political landscape. They thus sought to provide a clearer understanding of the new political norm, and how international and Japanese companies might address these changes.

“A lot of the things that we care about as a business community [such as] trade deals, the obvious international affairs, foreign policy, diplomacy—that have been working for a long time—are being changed dramatically because of politics,” Walker began. “In Washington things we thought would never happen have become the new normal.”

Walker advised companies to look beyond Washington as a guide. “We need to be thinking about how other places in the United States are feeling.”

However, he said, “that makes the environment for your guys a lot more complicated, because it means you can’t just have a government relations person that works simply on the Washington side of things. It means you need to understand the multi-stakeholder approach here and what that means moving forward.”

DeAngelo pointed out that a core part of understanding the new Washington is to accept the new norms. “If there is one takeaway that I would encourage for everyone in this room, and the companies and organizations you represent, it is: accept it.”

Recent tensions on the Korean peninsula have resulted in security risks for both the United States and Japan, and have certainly shifted attention away from other issues. Walker suggested this means, “the areas that we all think more about in the economic space, they kind of get pushed to the sidelines.”

However, the ways in which this affects companies can be controlled. “At the end of the day, if companies themselves are not thinking proactively, you can’t rely directly on [others] to do the work for you,” Walker said. “You’ve got to get out there.”

He asked what it is that each business or brand is offering, and advised companies to “be more selfish than you have ever been in the past.”

ACCJ–Tokyo Vice President Jonathan Kushner asked: “A lot of multinationals are struggling with issues—in terms of the extent to which they need to be taking public stances that distance them from the US brand; what are the decision-making factors; the metrics; and if there is some kind of process that you should go through when you are working with various US multinationals. Is this an issue you need to stand up for or not?”

Walker said companies must remember that silence can sometimes come across as complicity, and that research and data about how people interact with various aspects of a brand or business can help you decide how to respond.

“It’s more about going back to your core principals and your core values,” DeAngelo added. “When you jump into something that either does not fit where your consumers are, or doesn’t fit where your stakeholders are, that’s when you get into trouble. But, when you anchor to your core and tie yourself down to weather the storm, that’s when you succeed.”

Maxine Cheyney is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.

Maxine Cheyney is a staff writer at Custom Media for The ACCJ Journal.
A lot of the things that we care about as a business community . . . are being changed dramatically