The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Japan arguably has the world’s best internet infrastructure, and deployment of 5G networks is moving along steadily. Thanks to a flexible and innovation-friendly regulatory environment, many well-known US companies—from Amazon to Cisco to Google—have entered the Japanese market and achieved significant success. In parallel, Japan has produced its own digital tech­nology leaders, such as SoftBank Group Corp. and Rakuten, Inc.

But the overall pace of progress in the market during this period has been uneven, and there is growing concern that Japan—once a dominant player in the development and application of new technologies—is falling behind others in Asia and elsewhere.

US companies have an enormous stake in the continued growth and vitality of the Japanese economy, and there is a long history of technology sharing and collaboration with their Japanese counterparts to develop new markets in Japan and other Asian countries.

A little more than a decade ago, in November 2009, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) issued a white paper entitled Achieving the Full Potential of the Internet Economy in Japan. It contained more than 70 specific recommendations for how the US and Japanese governments and private sectors could work together at that time to develop and grow the internet as a platform for economic growth and social innovation.

Look back at the ACCJ’s 2009 white paper

Today, the internet is a critical part of the business world’s basic infrastructure, so the key issue is how to promote further innovation and growth. How can we help Japanese society through the emerging digital economy using technologies such as cloud-based services and artificial intelligence (AI)?

Considering the rapidly shifting environment, the ACCJ Board of Governors recently approved the formation of a new task force to research and draft a white paper to be entitled New Digital Agenda for Innovation and Growth in Japan.

We will examine new business and policy challenges around which US and Japanese companies might center their bilat­eral cooperation on Japan’s digital economy, and offer recom­mendations for areas in which international policy coordination can be strengthened. The goal is to facilitate more rapid deploy­ment and utilization of transformative digital technologies, such as cloud computing, Big Data, and AI, in key sectors of the economy, including healthcare, financial services, logistics, and transportation.

An important focus will be the development of an action-oriented agenda for the US–Japan Digital (formerly Internet) Economy Dialogue, an annual forum that brings together the governments and business communities of the two nations, represented by the ACCJ and Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation. Over the past decade, the dialogue has been alter­­nately convened in Tokyo and Washington, DC, with the most recent meeting taking place in the Japanese capital last October.

The dialogue has been successful in driving enhanced coop­eration between the ACCJ and Keidanren, in large part because it has set an agenda that reflects the broad range of common interests among US and Japanese companies rather than just the areas of friction. Exemplary of this was the US–Japan Internet Economy Private Working Group Joint Statement in 2018, which listed as shared concerns:

  • Cooperation on cybersecurity
  • Joint action against data localization regulation
  • Harmonization of data protection rules
  • US–Japan leadership in shaping the global digital environment

In May, Keidanren released a white paper calling for the digital transformation of Japan’s economy and society. This was followed in June by a report from the Cabinet Office outlining how digitalization is at the core of its Society 5.0 vision.

Much of this activity can be linked to Japan’s planned hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Innovation Governance Summit in April 2021, which is seen as an oppor­tunity to rein­force the country’s role in setting international rules for the global digital economy.

The ACCJ’s new white paper will be released in the first quarter of 2021 with an eye to staking out a role for the chamber in this ongoing discussion in Japan. It will underscore the commitment of the US business community to supporting the Japanese govern­ment’s goals of rapidly advancing the digitalization of the nation’s economy and society by:

  • Reviewing 10 years of US–Japan cooperation on the internet economy
  • Proposing new steps to accelerate the utilization of trans­formative digital tools
  • Advocating new initiatives in key sectors where progress in digitization is lagging
  • Strengthening US–Japan cooperation on a shared global digital agenda
  • Profiling top US companies taking part in the growth of Japan’s digital economy

The task force is chaired by James Miller, director for public policy at Amazon Web Services, and Jim Foster, who led the research and drafting of the 2009 white paper during his time with Microsoft Japan, will serve as a senior advisor.

The group will coordinate closely with the Digital Economy Committee, led by Netflix K.K. Director and Head of Public Policy Yoshitaka Sugihara and Caterpillar Japan LLC Executive Director Megumi Tsukamoto, as well as the many other ACCJ committees involved with digital-economy and societal issues.

We are looking for subject matter experts from inside the chamber to serve in leadership positions in a number of key functional, technology, and policy areas, such as financial services, healthcare, transportation, telecommunications, AI, robotics, cloud computing, data privacy, cybersecurity, and competition law.

ACCJ members interested in being part of the task force should visit the task force web page:

Jim Foster is senior advisor to New Digital Agenda Task Force, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan

ACCJ members interested in being part of the task force should visit the task force web page:
We will examine new business and policy challenges around which US and Japanese companies might center their bilateral cooperation on Japan’s digital economy.