Leaders January 2015

Doing business with confidence

BCCJ as platform for exchange and networking

Back to work after the New Year break, many members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) are thinking of the year ahead, and the opportunities and challenges that it may bring.

According to the Foreign Chambers in Japan Business Confidence Survey, conducted last October, respondents remain positive about the Japanese economy in 2015, although at a slightly lower level than in the previous survey in April 2014.

This sentiment is supported by a December survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun, showing that 70% of leaders from 30 major firms believe that Japan’s economy is showing moderate recovery.

Future prospects
We live, however, in a period of rapid change, in which business sentiment is buffeted by the prevailing economic and political news.

Analysis of Japanese economic data from last November by the British Embassy Tokyo highlights that real wages, inflation and industrial production continued to fall.

Japan’s new coalition government will, therefore, be keen to see brighter news as it pushes forward in 2015 with its growth strategy as well as a new economic stimulus package.

Filtering out long-term trends from short term “noise” is difficult, but post-election political stability and the size of Japan’s market should continue to provide an environment that generates opportunities for British businesses.

As John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, wrote in a recent open letter to the UK’s political parties, “A better Britain in 2015 is a nation that trades more confidently”.

We at the BCCJ see this as a call to arms: this new year we reaffirm our commitment to supporting the interests of all our members, and look forward to redoubling our efforts to provide an ever more effective platform for business exchange and networking.

Exclusive opportunity
The success of our events programme depends on the active participation of our members, and I urge you to join us on 22 January at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo for the 2015 BCCJ Shinnenkai.

This will be followed, on 29 January, with an exclusive visit to JR Central, operator of the Tokaido Shinkansen, including a tour of the driver training facility—not open to the public.

Currently operating 342 bullet train services a day, with an average delay of just 0.9 minutes per train, this operational excellence is matched by an exemplary safety record over 50 years of service. This will be a fascinating experience, and our thanks go to JR Central for providing the opportunity.

Remembering Hanshin
I hope you agree that there are grounds for optimism about the year ahead. This positivity may be tested, however, as it was 20 years ago this month when the country was reeling from the devastation of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

As we reflect on this painful anniversary, I urge you to remember that the capacity of Japan and its people for recovery, regeneration and renewal is nothing short of remarkable.