The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Since coming to Japan a year-and-a-half ago, I have been deeply impressed by the scope and depth of the partnership between the aerospace industries of Japan and the United States. And I have been impressed, too, by the many ways in which the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) supports that partnership.

These impressions were shaped by Boeing’s work in Japan, which dates back more than 60 years. That presence has grown from modest beginnings—a one-person office in Tokyo that opened in 1953, the dawn of the Jet Age—to become our largest international partnership. During that time, Boeing has sold about 1,000 airplanes to Japan’s world-renowned airlines. Today, there are more 787 Dreamliners in service in Japan than in any other country. Japan is also Boeing’s largest supplier outside the United States—we work with more than 150 excellent suppliers across the country.

Boeing’s example is illustrative of the broader partnership between the aerospace industries of the United States and Japan—and I know that several other ACCJ member companies can tell stories of their rich histories and meaningful relationships here, too. Aggregate financial figures never provide the full picture, but they at least give a sense of the scope of this partnership. Last year, commercial aircraft accounted for $12.4 billion in trade of goods between the United States and Japan—and it was the sector producing one of the most significant trade surpluses for the United States with Japan. But these numbers only scratch the surface. They do not, for example, account for: the value Japanese companies provide in helping US enterprises build superior aerospace products that compete around the world; the major investments Japanese partners have made in the United States; or the vital role that US aerospace companies have played in supporting Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The future is promising for both the aerospace industry and the US–Japan partnership. Boeing forecasts that, in the next 20 years, the global fleet of commercial planes will nearly double, driving demand for 41,000 new aircraft. It has not escaped notice that this will create opportunities for growth and collaboration for US companies in Japan. I was in Nagoya—Japan’s aerospace manufacturing heartland—in September to give a presentation sponsored by the ACCJ’s Chubu chapter, and was encouraged by the number of small and mid-sized companies that came to listen. During the same week, there was a major aerospace supplier conference—also in Nagoya—and its organizers reported that twice as many companies participated this time compared with the last conference, held in 2014.

The ACCJ has long been an important contributor to the success of US companies in Japan. The ACCJ and its committees—Aerospace and Defense; Transportation and Logistics; and Tourism Industry, for example—have provided great opportunities for dialogue and connectivity among the ACCJ’s members, and have also provided a key platform for highlighting the importance of aviation and aerospace to Japan. This year, the ACCJ has sponsored terrific events featuring the president and CEO of ANA Holdings, and the director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, the world’s leading airline trade organization, to mention just two.

Under the superb leadership of Christopher LaFleur, the ACCJ’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the US business community in Japan have been effective and focused. For US aerospace companies, these efforts have included not only ensuring that the industry’s interests are effectively presented to Japanese and US policymakers through issue-specific advocacy and doorknocks, but also through the promotion of broader policy priorities that improve Japan’s business climate and enhance economic growth. Just one prominent example is the excellent work the ACCJ has done to promote policies to encourage international tourism in Japan—an increasingly important driver of Japan’s economic growth that is, of course, of considerable importance to expansion in aviation and aerospace.

The United States and Japan have a unique legacy of partnership in aerospace and, as the industry grows, there are considerable opportunities ahead. And, as always, the ACCJ will be ready to help.

Brett Gerry is ACCJ governor–Tokyo and president, Boeing Japan K.K.