The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As we enter the year of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) took a moment at the annual shinnenkai on January 29 to look back at a busy Year of the Boar and welcome the mouse, which will guide us through upcoming opportunities.

In 2019, the ACCJ continued fruitful discussions with US and Japanese lawmakers through the DC and Diet Doorknocks—allowing the ACCJ to play an important role in the development and signing of the first phase of the US–Japan trade agreement—and the chamber remained a sought-after voice on US business in Japan and the region.

To start the evening at the Imperial Hotel, ACCJ Vice President Eric Sedlak gave opening remarks to some 300 attendees. ACCJ President Peter Fitzgerald then spoke of the successes of the chamber last year and the promise of 2020.

“In the spirit of a shinnenkai, this is a time to celebrate—to look back and consider how far we have come. It’s also a time to reflect on the challenges ahead and how the ACCJ will continue to represent member needs going forward,” he began.

One of the biggest events of 2019 was the signing of the first round of a US–Japan Trade Agreement and the US–Japan Digital Trade Agreement—an enormous achievement for the US–Japan economic partnership. The new pact will raise standards for digital trade and services, as well as address long-standing issues in agriculture and industrial goods.

Speaking of a second agreement signed by the two nations, Fitzgerald said, “The digital trade agreement signed in 2019 sets a strong framework for essential cooperation between the US and Japan, and the ACCJ will work to ensure that the highest global standards are implemented.”

The second round of trade negotiations are set to start in the coming months, and he promised that the ACCJ will make certain that the voices of its member companies are well represented in Washington DC and Japan.

He also spoke of taking on the challenge of leading the chamber during this important time. “It is a particular honor to be elected ACCJ President as Japan prepares to be in the global spotlight with the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as several other global events,” he said.

“I firmly believe the time is now for Japan. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Japan to show the world what makes it great, and to showcase a new wave of innovation for the coming decade.”

Fitzgerald said he has no doubt this will be a year of impact.

“Together with Japan—and across the ACCJ’s three chapters—the global business community has a tremendous opportunity to contribute its capabilities and innovate for the future.

“For more than 70 years, the tremendous efforts of ACCJ members alongside key Japanese partners have contributed to growth in Japan,” he said.

“Critical to our ability to do this are the many Japanese stakeholders with whom we have developed strong partnerships over the years. Your willingness to work with the ACCJ to strengthen the economic partnership is deeply appreciated and I look forward to furthering our efforts in 2020.”

Next, US Charge d’Affaires Joseph M. Young spoke about the important relationship between the ACCJ and the Embassy of the United States, Tokyo. And Japanese Vice Minister for International Affairs Shigehiro Tanaka shared the thoughts of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on its relationship with the chamber.

The importance of community service and corporate social responsibility (CSR) continued to grow in 2019, and Community became one of the ACCJ’s official pillars. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Community Service Advisory Council, our members and sponsors, and all those who volunteer their time to events such as the ACCJ Charity Ball, the Chubu/NIS Walkathon, and the Chubu Champagne Ball, the chamber was able to give more than ¥7 million to ACCJ-supported charities last year.

These only scratch the surface of an eventful year, and all work to strengthen the chamber’s strong position as key voice in supporting US business in Japan.

Following the kagami-biraki—the ceremonial cracking open of a sake barrel—members and guests enjoyed drinks, food, and a wonderful evening of conversation and networking. It was the perfect start of what promises to be another remarkable year for the chamber.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.