The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Although the administration of US President Donald Trump has only been in office for a matter of months, we have seen several encouraging developments from the standpoint of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ). The February meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at which both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral cooperation, signals the importance of the relationship. Of particular significance was the summit’s focus on economic partnership. The ACCJ has been calling for the establishment of a channel to discuss bilateral economic issues for some time, and we applaud the launch of the new bilateral economic dialogue to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence.

The bilateral economic dialogue and its initial priorities are welcome developments for those who understand the value of the US–Japan partnership. In their joint statement released on February 10, Abe and Trump expressed their full commitment to strengthening the economic relationship “based on rules for free and fair trade.” While discussions are in the early stages, the wide-reaching goals of this framework, which include the promotion of high trade standards and economic growth, hold significant promise for the interests of the US business community in Japan.

Representing nearly 1,000 companies ranging from the most well-known US brands to innovative one-person start-ups, the ACCJ is uniquely positioned to tell the story of US businesses in Japan. Our extensive experience working with Japanese business partners to better serve Japanese customers—and with the Japanese government to improve the environment for business in Japan—enables us to provide a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities for business in the world’s third-largest economy. While the business climate in Japan has improved significantly, the ACCJ’s Core Advocacy Principles—including global best practices and a level playing field—underline our commitment to pursuing further progress. The ACCJ looks forward to contributing to the new bilateral economic dialogue by offering substantive recommendations that could further enhance the importance of the Japanese market to US companies and their workers.

To better enable that contribution, we have established a new Bilateral Economic Relations Task Force (BERTF) to develop our messaging regarding bilateral trade and to prepare a list of possible issues for the US and Japanese governments to address in forthcoming discussions. The BERTF has reached out to all committee leaders to solicit input that the ACCJ can use to report on the current state of US business in Japan and to advise on what our member companies believe to be key issues the dialogue should address.

Looking ahead, we will be actively seeking opportunities to engage with US officials. Later this month, the ACCJ will hold one of our key annual advocacy events, the spring DC Doorknock (DCDK). This Doorknock will be an especially critical opportunity to introduce leaders in Washington to our views on the bilateral economic dialogue and to reinforce the importance of the US–Japan economic partnership. To help ensure maximum impact, this DCDK team will include CEOs of member companies that are among the largest employers in the United States. We look forward to building new relationships and strengthening existing partnerships in Washington, and to ensuring that our members’ interests are fully reflected in the new bilateral dialogue going forward.

Christopher J. LaFleur is ACCJ President