The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) found a receptive audience when our delegation arrived in Washington, DC, on April 1 for this year’s DC Doorknock, and I was extraordinarily proud to lead our largest and most senior delegation yet. I am grateful to the 14 people—among them 10 chief executive officers of Japan-based US Fortune 500 companies—who accompanied me. Our primary mission was to stress the critical need for a comprehensive, high-quality US–Japan Trade Agreement.

Over the course of four days, we held meetings with senior officials from key US government agencies, including the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, the Office of the US Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, and the Department of the Treasury. We also met with more than two dozen congressional leaders.

I am extremely pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of meetings were well received, and the delegation remains highly optimistic of a positive result.

JAPAN IN SIGHT
Although trade talks with China are yet to come to a conclusion at the time of writing—and trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico is also top of mind for many in Washington —there was a strong sense of engagement for a trade agreement with Japan from all those whom we met.

President Donald Trump is due to visit Japan this month and in June, and there was strong understanding that Japan is a cri­tical market for US companies in a wide range of industries.

With the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—also known as the TPP11—and the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement increasing competitive pressures, there is clear recognition that strong economic relations—as a core pillar for the overall partnership between our two countries—is needed.

There is also increasing recognition of the strategic challenges in the region and the need for a strong partnership with Japan to meet them. For such a partnership to be created, there must be continual dialogue between both governments and their respective private sectors.

ROADMAP
From these discussions, we put forth to US negotiators the ACCJ’s four guiding principles as the basis for that partnership:

  1. A comprehensive and high-standard US–Japan trade agreement that reduces or eliminates tariff and non-tariff measures across goods and services in all major sectors. This includes intellectual property, customs and trade facilitation, regulatory transparency, competition policy, and procurement.
  2. Prioritization of innovative areas with the greatest growth potential—especially life sciences, digital trade, and services.
  3. Emphasis on cooperative, bilateral alignment in setting high standards that will support US–Japan leadership and longer-term interests as well as cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
  4. Reinforcement and advancement of ongoing domestic reforms and trends in Japan that ensure the continued strength of the country as a key strategic partner and a major global market for US companies.

While the pursuit of a trade agreement dominated the agenda, there were also opportunities to follow up on our efforts to change the global intangible low-taxed income—or GILTI—provision of the 2017 US tax reform. Frank Packard, who was part of a mini-Doorknock last September, again met with Treasury officials and is continuing to have their attention on this critical issue.

TEAMWORK
After an intense few days, I can safely say that I have never been part of a greater ACCJ team. This group of consummate professionals delivered. Throughout a demanding daily schedule, my colleagues carried out meetings flawlessly and with great impact. I thank them for their superb commitment on behalf of all members and our great advisory team, without whom we would not have had such an opportunity. Our work together shows how much our members and staff matter in ensuring the voice of our advocacy is heard, loud and clear, as one ACCJ!

I always appreciate hearing from members. If you have something to share with me, please email me with your comments at pjennings@accj.or.jp

There was a strong sense of engagement for a trade agreement with Japan from all those whom we met.