Table Speech

The Role of Business in the US-Japan Trade Dialog

August 1, 2018

Mr. Christopher J. LaFleur
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan

 The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) was founded in 1948 by representatives of 40 American companies and celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. With offices located in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, ACCJ today has its largest membership ever with 3,500 members from over 1,000 companies which reflects the huge growth of US investment in Japan. ACCJ works to maintain close collaboration with policymakers and economic communities in Japan and the U.S.A., further economic growth, promote the interests of US companies and members as well as improve the international business environment in Japan. There are 60 committees related to specific industries such as finance, healthcare, IT and defense, which develop position papers and make policy proposals. They also organize about 500 events and seminars on political and economic issues and promote CSR and ESG initiatives of member companies.

 ACCJ has a diversified membership base. Nationalities of member companies stand at 55% from the U.S.A., 30% from Japan and 15% from other countries while individual members constitute of 30% Americans, 50% Japanese and 20% others. ACCJ also advocates for gender diversity and inclusion. Currently female members account for 30% of the total membership and 27% of leaders of industry committees.

 Japan is the world’s third largest economy and a critical market for US companies. Being the 4th largest trade partner for key industries including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, financial services, aircraft equipment and Internet related business, the success of US businesses in the Japanese market will further boost job creation, exports of goods and services as well as foreign direct investment into the U.S.A.

 Having said that, we are entering a critical phase for US-Japan economic relations. While Japan is an indispensable security and economic partner for the U.S.A., President Trump has challenged many economic partners, including Japan, to make trade with the U.S.A. more free, fair and reciprocal. This is because a significant number of American workers in traditional manufacturing were pushed out of the job market due to rapid technological innovation and globalization of supply chains. There is no simple solution to this problem, yet expanding US exports of goods and services will surely have a positive impact.

 Let me highlight that US-Japan trade dialog should be conducted in a cooperative and constructive spirit. While a number of key issues remain to be resolved to ensure long-term growth in Japan, recent reforms by the Abe administration have further improved the business climate for US companies. To enhance the bilateral trade dialog, it is important to generate domestic allies who can help overcome protectionist interests and not to jeopardize Japan’s recent growth and reform trajectory. Unfortunately, the progress in the US-Japan economic dialog announced last year has been slow. There must be an active, ongoing and comprehensive trade and economic dialog with the private sector playing an instrumental role, regardless of whether our countries engage in bilateral or multilateral talks in the future. I can assure you, ACCJ and major Japanese business organizations can facilitate and navigate the talks and seek solutions to outstanding issues to expand business opportunities in respective industries. The Internet Economy Dialog task force has proved to be a good example of public-private collaboration. In partnership with the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations, ACCJ has spearheaded dialog to identify key regulatory challenges and to exchange industry trends and best practices with the regulators through annual conferences. I believe our countries can maximize growth and provide better services to our consumers by sharing common industry standards.

 We must also work together to engage other key partners in setting trade and investment standards across the Asia-Pacific region. Not a few ACCJ member companies operate on a global scale and drive jobs and investment in the U.S.A. through their businesses in the region. Close collaboration among the U.S.A., Japan and other key partners must be sought so that there will be no vacuum created in the region to be filled by other bilateral and multilateral discussions. I must emphasize that multilateral agreements often include bilateral negotiations that serve as a catalyst for the U.S.A. to achieve multiple objectives.

 As we look ahead to the next steps, the upcoming dialog between Ambassador Lighthizer and Minister Motegi next month will add a new chapter to our bilateral talks. We hope these talks will accelerate progress toward resolution of some outstanding issues, including TPP negotiations in deadlock, and lead to a more free, fair and reciprocal trade partnerships between our countries. Japan has entered into economic partnership agreements with Australia and more recently with the European Union. I would like to highlight that alliance and partnership between the U.S.A. and Japan are of vital importance and a robust trade relationship based on flexible and constructive dialog is imperative. ACCJ will continue to expand economic cooperation from which both U.S. and Japanese business can benefit.