Dear ACCJ Members,
Following an intense time of U.S.-Japan trade friction that many members will recall vividly, the U.S. and Japan economic partnership in recent years has become one of the strongest U.S. bilateral partnerships. Today, we are entering uncharted waters in U.S.-Japan economic relations as the two governments focus on areas to make bilateral trade more free, fair and reciprocal.
With this as our backdrop, the Board identified relevant and strong advocacy as a strategic focus area with an emphasis on reinforcing the quality and agility of our advocacy efforts.
To better enable and accelerate our advocacy efforts, the Board also sought to ensure we gave greater voice to and connect the “bottom-up” work of our committees with the CEOs of our member companies. Alongside the CEO Forum, we established the F500 CEO Advisory Council and the Small Company CEO Advisory Council earlier this year. By bringing our committees and CEOs to work together on vital issues, we are fostering closer engagement of committee leadership and senior leadership at member companies. This is strengthening the quality and agility of our advocacy efforts.
Seat at the table
These efforts to bring together our committees and our CEOs is already showing results. Earlier this summer, the Small Company CEO Advisory Council and the Taxation Committee identified an issue that has potential to have significant consequences on our small company members: the GILTI and Transition Tax, which were included in the 2017 US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Through their collaborative efforts, the ACCJ is now one of only a few organizations around the world that has identified this issue and drafted actionable recommendations to address it.
Recognizing the need to act by presenting these recommendations to key policymakers, the Small Company CEO Advisory Council carried out its first Doorknock in Washington, D.C. September 13 and 14. In nearly 20 meetings with the US Congress and the US Department of the Treasury, Council Chair Harry Hill and Council Member Frank Packard represented Americans who own small businesses in Japan and abroad as they spoke to the reality of what these rules will mean for them and shared concrete recommendations to alleviate their impact. As a result of their efforts, the ACCJ is now working with the US Treasury to further explore a possible remedy.
This Doorknock is a superb example of Chamber advocacy acting in its best form- quickly and effectively on behalf of our members. The achievement is best explained in an interview posted on the ACCJ website and our social media channels in which Frank shares how well the ACCJ delegation was received: “There is a lot of interest in what we have to say, what our Taxation Committee has to say. We have a seat at the table.”
Work is also ongoing in our other cross-cutting advocacy themes. In response to the rise of work style reform on the Government of Japan’s agenda, the Chamber is once again playing an active role by sharing global best practices and presenting actionable recommendations on workforce productivity – a key advocacy theme across the Chamber.
On September 19, the Human Resource Management Committee published its viewpoint on the business case for marriage equality, which has gained the support of four other foreign chambers of commerce and is sparking debate through press coverage on this issue. The ACCJ F500 CEO Advisory Council is also contributing to advocacy around workforce productivity and is set to release its recommendations on how Japan can continue to build upon the momentum created by the workstyle reform legislation passed by the Japanese Diet this summer.
Thanks to the expertise of our committees and CEO Councils, the ACCJ plays a critical and informative role through various mechanisms, including with Ambassador Hagerty, with visiting US government officials and door-knocks in Washington DC, and with Diet members in Tokyo.
The strength and relevancy of our advocacy is driven by member involvement. From the nuts-and-bolts of researching and developing position papers, through extending insights and networks, to meeting with policymakers on topics of concern, you are critical to this process.
Given the various opportunities the current political and economic climate present, consider the example of our Small Company CEO Advisory Council to think what difference you can bring to the Chamber’s capabilities. I encourage you to get involved and support our efforts to be an important voice in this new era of the US-Japan economic partnership.
I welcome your feedback on this and any other matters. Please share your ideas with me at email@example.com
Sachin N. Shah
Frank Packard of the ACCJ’s Small Company CEO Advisory Council speaks about the Council's September 2018 Doorknock in DC. In nearly 20 meetings with Congress and the US Treasury, Frank and Council Chair Harry Hill brought attention to the GILTI and Transition Tax and their potentially significant impact on American-owned small businesses in Japan.
All that the ACCJ has been able to accomplish over the last 70 years is due to the efforts of its members: you give your time, your expertise and your relationships to enable the Chamber to achieve its important mission. Recognizing the value and impact of members’ contributions at the Chamber, the Board of Governors made operational excellence a strategic focus area to ensure member and office resources are used efficiently to advance our shared mission.
With this in mind and with careful review after input from members, the Internal Affairs Advisory Council (IAAC) has proposed amendments to the Constitution and conforming changes to the Bylaws. The proposals are intended to make the Chamber easier to do business with and continue improving our governance in line with similar organizations in Japan and around the region.
Today, the Board discussed the proposals and approved them to go forward to a membership vote at the Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) on October 23. The IAAC’s proposed amendments broadly fall into two categories: those focused on membership & operations and those focused on election & nominations procedures.
Membership & Operations
The following proposals aim to make the Chamber easier to do business with, while also ensuring fairness and parity among members:
Election & Nominations
We have already made progress around the nominations process this year in defining and sharing clear criteria, and starting the process much earlier. The following proposals are aimed at further improving this process, while also bringing the ACCJ up to a standard consistent with organizations in Japan and American chambers around the region:
Together, the IAAC’s proposals will improve the way the Chamber operates and help to maximize the ACCJ’s value for members in line with our mission. I will follow-up with you well-ahead of the OGM with the full details of the IAAC’s proposed amendments.
I look forward to your comments and questions ahead of the OGM on October 23.
Sachin N. Shah
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
At its core, the ACCJ is a member-driven organization: we are a community with a shared mission of increasing commercial opportunities and improving the business environment in Japan. As founding ACCJ President Dennis McEvoy said in his 1948 address, when we carry out this important mission we can be “an active, powerful force for the good.” That is why member centricity is one of our key strategic priorities.
Today I would like to provide an important update on a key strategic initiative under the banner of member centricity: the Membership Value Project (MVP).
The Board of Governors is considering a fact-based proposal to address feedback from members, better align our sources of revenue to our member mix, and modernize the way the ACCJ operates. The proposal:
Members will see improved value for money. In the proposal as it stands, a majority of members will see no change or reduced overall cost of membership. Importantly, the proposal does not involve any change to current member categories or the constitution.
In recent years, the number and composition of members has changed significantly. Between 2010-2017, total member numbers grew 26%, driven by a 122% increase in the number of members from Corporate Sustaining Members. This was partially offset by a decline of 28% in members from Company Memberships.
While member numbers are now at a record high, sources of membership revenues do not reflect the new membership mix. Importantly we have had consistently positive net margins, driven by good expense management but also by challenges in filling open staff positions. This has strained the Chamber’s ability to deliver services to meet the needs of a larger member and committee base.
In addition, the Chamber has not kept pace with digital technology, leaving it more exposed to competition from alternatives. This shift has happened in tandem with changes to Japan’s economy and the US-Japan relationship which present new advocacy challenges and opportunities.
The Board initiated MVP in response to these changes. The MVP project brought together legacy efforts from the last several years and initiated new research to gain a comprehensive view of our members’ priorities, including:
The research told us that our highly diverse membership has varied needs and expectations of the ACCJ:
The Board has been fully engaged in the MVP process since the start of the year, with healthy dialogue about how to ensure we provide value for all ACCJ members, reflecting the full spectrum of member businesses. In the case of small company members, we are proposing benefits to address the very specific needs of this segment and support the important role they play.
These major decisions are, naturally, of great interest to all members. Throughout the process, member centricity and input have guided all of our decisions. Right now, members are being consulted as part of the Board’s due diligence prior to approval of the proposal. You will be hearing more about these exciting changes in the near future.
Sachin N. Shah
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
We are headed into a busy fall as we prepare for an exciting run-up to the year-end, including the celebration of the Chamber’s 70th anniversary on October 16.
It was timely that over the summer, ACCJ staff discovered in office records a copy of a speech by our founding President, Dennis McEvoy, given on August 31, 1948, prior to the opening of the Chamber’s formal business. In the speech, McEvoy recounts his first meeting with General Douglas MacArthur, “who welcomed most enthusiastically the appearance of our organization and extends to it his approbation and support . . . as the body and spirit of American business in Japan.”
The speech outlines several key lessons that are still applicable today. In it, McEvoy recounts the importance MacArthur placed on the Chamber’s mission of promoting the healthy development of the economic relationship between the United States of America and Japan, and the creation of durable commercial ties as the base for strengthening international relations. We know now how prescient MacArthur was in directing Japan’s recovery at that time, and the wisdom in his words reverberates nearly three quarters of a century later.
But as we play our roles in the Chamber, McEvoy reminded us to keep this higher goal firmly in our minds, reaffirming to MacArthur, “we would subordinate our ambitions as business men to the greater call of our primary duties as citizens of the United States” and, “that it was not the intention of this Chamber to be involved in squabbles, bickerings or quarrels and there exists no reason to suppose that we will ever engage in them.”
Concluding his address, McEvoy recognized how well positioned the Chamber would prove to be in fulfilling a core mission between the United States and Japan, saying, “if we carry out the plans of these committees the formation of this Chamber will be fully justified and we will be an active, powerful force for the good.”
We too have important matters in our time to move forwards. Our challenge as members is our obligation to carry forward this vision and the high expectations set by MacArthur. In that regard, over the coming week, I will be sharing important updates with you via e-mail and social media on key initiatives that will help set us on course for the next 70 years.
Sachin N. Shah
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan
Over the summer, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) staff discovered in office records a copy of a speech by our founding President, Dennis McEvoy, given on August 31, 1948, prior to the opening of the Chamber’s formal business. In the speech, McEvoy recounts a meeting with General Douglas MacArthur and shares some enduring lessons that help guide the Chamber even today, 70 years after he helped establish the ACCJ to promote the interests of US companies and improve the international business environment in Japan.
The full text of the speech follows …
NOTES FROM EXTEMPORANEOUS ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PRIOR TO THE OPENING OF FORMAL BUSINESS AT THE MEETING HELD AUGUST 31, 1948
I have a special announcement to make to all members of the Chamber. The other day, on behalf of our members and our board of governors, I visited General MacArthur and spent nearly an hour in conversation with him. He has authorized me to convey to the Chamber the substance of our discussions. I am sure you will all be pleased to learn that he welcomed most enthusiastically the appearance of our organization and extends to extends to it his approbation and support. But the real surprise is that he has agreed to speak, at some future date, before this Chamber, when we are fully organized and have consolidated our position as the body and spirit of American business in Japan.
I must stress emphatically, however, that no announcement of the General’s generous consent to appear before us be made to anyone prior to his appearance here. It should not go beyond the walls of this Chamber. The demands upon him are heavy in the extreme and he would be plagued unmercifully by a host of other groups or individuals.
I am sure you will realize this is a signal honor since he makes few personal appearances, the last being over a year ago, on March 17, 1947. At that time he issued a statement the reverberations of which are still being heard around the world. There is no reason to suppose that, in these critical times, he would not deliver here a message of equal importance. All will agree that now is the time for our few elder statesman to speak out and give guidance in this troubled world.
The General recalled that he has had a long experience with various Chambers of Commerce, particularly in Manila, and he said he felt that our appearance on the scene was a sign of return to normalcy. He felt we could be of aid to the occupation. Specifically, he expressed the desire to avail himself of the mature business thinking of the members of the Chamber, the gentleman here today who represent major American banking, shipping, insurance, publications and trading organizations, and he asked that we call to his attention any improvement which we believed could be instituted in the occupation. He emphasized that his door was always open to our organization and that he would welcome any and all constructive suggestions we might have to make and he would listen to whatever grievances we might feel were legitimate and required redress. These were not empty words for it is not within the General’s character to speak aimlessly or to make assurances and promises that are not kept.
In return, I pledged again, on behalf of our organization, our unqualified support of the occupation and went beyond the negative assurance that we would do nothing to obstruct the working out of our national will here in this occupied land by reaffirming that we would subordinate our ambitions as business men to the greater call of our primary duties as citizens of the United States. I said that although distinct from, we did not stand in opposition to SCAP. I felt sure that, in view of the atmosphere of willing cooperation which pervades the office of General Marquat, the occasion would rarely, if ever, arise where in we would be forced to bring major points of contention before him. The philosopher Aristotle observed that once two rational men of goodwill understand each other’s terms, there could never be any argument. It is not the intention of this Chamber to be involved in squabbles, bickerings or quarrels and there exists no reason to suppose that we will ever engage in them.
The General spoke freely on the subject of Asia as an economic unit. Basically, the Japanese had a sound idea in their “greater Asia prosperity sphere”, for Asia will stand or fall, economically, as a unit. But the Japanese went about it in the wrong way. They tried to gorge themselves, and themselves alone, on the riches of Asia and we are witnessing today the price they are paying for their errors in judgment and their false doctrines of the past.
The General said the Chamber could help him in various Asiatic countries such as the Philippines and Shanghai where there has beenconsiderable resistance to the buying of Japanese goods. This resistance is not based on a foundation of the thinking of the masses. In many cases it is simply a tired political football which grows soggier and more deflated each day through prolonged and kicking about in the field of international relations. The General feels that some of our members, carrying fat satchels full of facts and figures and blest with a certain amount of eloquence, could visit other Chambers of Commerce such as Manila and Shanghai and help SCAP a great deal throughaiding to overcome this resistance to Japanese goods. Needless to say, we would thus be helping ourselves for with the expansion of Japanese trade abroad, there will be a lessening of the tax burden which our companies and we as individuals are called upon to pay to the Treasury of the United States.
The General then spoke at some length on the international situation and gave his usually brilliant performance of analysis and exposition. Rather than run the risk of repeating that which he would not want quoted, and rather than spoil the show when the General appears before us and gives this same analysis in his own words, I trust you will bear with me if we skip this part of our conversation.
General Marquat has extended to us the same welcome and has gone so far as to say that he will give us a conference room in the Hotel Tokyo, provide catering services, and do everything in his power to help us. I spoke to him in an indirect fashion on the subject of our being beholden to the Army and that it was not the desire of any memberof this Chamber to be in a position where we would be using our status as Americans to obtain advantages denied the peoples of other nationalities. We would rather be on our own. He agreed to aid us in attaining this objective and extended us a most cordial invitation to bring to his desk specific recommendations for improvement in the ESS Section.
These, then, are the receptions which both General MacArthur and General Marquat have given our organization, and I feel we have reason to be thankful for they speak well for the future. The rest is now up to us.
In the few days since our last meeting the officers and board of governors have held several meetings. We have drawn up a working program, not up committees, defined their functions, and, in general, we have been getting things off the ground. I think if we carry out the plans of these committees the formation of this Chamber will be fully justified and we will be an active, powerful force for the good.
Japan has once again been impacted by natural disasters as Typhoon No. 21 (Jebi)—the strongest to make landfall in Japan in 25 years—struck the region on September 4 and a strong magnitude-6.7 earthquake shook Hokkaido this morning.
The historic typhoon brought disruptions to our member companies in Kansai and Chubu, and affected the community with more than 1 million homes losing power. At least 11 people were killed and hundreds injured as a result of the typhoon and infrastructure was also damaged. Meanwhile, the Hokkaido quake, which triggered landslides, has left at least seven dead, 32 missing, and hundreds more injured.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) is looking at ways to assist with relief efforts and will provide updates as plans are set. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.