The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


January 2014

ACCJ: Goodbye and Thanks
The best year of my professional life has come to an end
Larry Bates @ACCJPresident

I am pleased—though also a little sad—to write this last ACCJ Journal message on the completion of my year as ACCJ president, and on retirement from GE after 22 years.

While I don’t know what the future holds, I say without reservation that this has been the most outstanding year of my professional life, thanks first and foremost to the amazing people I have worked with throughout the ACCJ.

At the same time, I feel humbled—and lucky—to have led the ACCJ in playing a role in shaping some of the most momentous economic events in Japan’s post-war history, and in the Japan–US economic relationship, including promoting Japan’s formal entry into the negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership, the fine-tuning of a robust third arrow of Abenomics for a long-term sustainable growth strategy, and Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

I have been truly privileged to work with two of the finest Americans as US Ambassador: John V. Roos, who departed in August and was recognized with his wife Susie Roos as ACCJ Persons of the Year; and Caroline Kennedy, whom we had the pleasure of welcoming to Tokyo in November with a gala luncheon at which she presented her first major policy address in Japan.

But more on the ACCJ, and the results of our recent election. We are very fortunate to have returning as vice presidents, Jeff Bernier and Andy Conrad, and Jack Bird as treasurer. They will continue with incumbent vice presidents Vicki Beyer, Michel Weenick, and Jim Weisser, to provide continuity on last year’s initiatives.

Reinforcing this is the re-election of two incumbent vice presidents: Kiran Sethi in Kansai, and Steve Burson in Chubu. With their leadership teams, their roles across the ACCJ are increasingly important.

We also are blessed with the continuing contributions of Presidents Emeriti Mike Alfant, Debbie Howard, Charles Lake, Allan Smith, and Tom Whitson.

These leaders, who make up the Executive Committee, have been a source of guidance and inspiration to me and, on behalf of the ACCJ, led key 2013 initiatives, with demonstrated success.

Reflecting the theme of continuity, we anticipate new energy on the Board of Governors with the election of Tim Brett, Tom Clark, Rebecca Green, Junichi Maruyama, Eric Sedlak, Hiroyoshi Watanabe, and Kansai Governor Herman Ehrlich.

They join incumbent Governors Larry Greenwood, Jon Kushner, George Maffeo, Andrew Silberman, Yoshitaka Sugihara, William Swinton, and Chubu Governor Chris Zarodkiewicz, for a board that represents broad business and functional expertise.

Most importantly, I wish to congratulate, and ask everyone to support, Jay Ponazecki, who succeeds me as president. She brings new energy and continuity, and has more than 20 years’ dedicated engagement with Japan and the ACCJ, having filled many ACCJ leadership roles.

Through years of working with her, I know that everything she touches is accomplished with meticulous attention to quality. I have no doubt that, under her leadership, the ACCJ will live up to, and greatly enhance, the power of its brand.

I wish to thank Special Advisors to the Board Peter Eliot of Citi, and Yoshiaki Fujimori of LIXIL. Behind the scenes, they have been instrumental in opening doors with external stakeholders, and have provided a sounding board for working through tough issues.

The importance of CEO engagement is critical to our success. In this regard, I wish to thank Monika Merz and Harry Hill, who co-chaired the CEO Forum. They revitalized it and provided the impetus that increased our Corporate Sustaining Membership base from 48 to 62 in one year—the highest number ever.

Second, I am mindful of the depth and breadth of our leadership at committee level, where the real work of the ACCJ gets done, guaranteeing first-class board leadership for years to come.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the great support that the elected leadership and appointed committee leaders receive every day from Executive Director Sam Kidder and Deputy Executive Director Laura Younger, and even more so from their dedicated, talented staff in the ACCJ office.

So a big thanks to them—and all of you—and best wishes for the most successful ACCJ year to come!