Japan-U.S. Business Council meet reaffirms commitment to free bilateral and global trade

by Cory Baird

Staff Writer

Business leaders from Japan and the U.S. gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday to reaffirm their commitment to free bilateral and global trade, in a rebuke of Trump administration’s tariff policies that have taken effect over the past year.

“For us the concern on any tariff being implemented is that it has a negative impact on an otherwise strong economy on a global basis,” said Chuck Robbins, the current vice chair of the Japan-U.S. Business Council (JUBC).

JUBC, which has held an annual meeting since 1961, offers its membership of private businesses a chance to contribute policy ideas to lawmakers in both Tokyo and Washington.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Robbins — who serves as the CEO of American telecommunications giant Cisco Systems Inc. — struck an optimistic tone. Even amid growing global instability on trade, the forthcoming bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Japan is at least one step in the right direction, he noted.

“Last year we would have been quite happy if the U.S. had made a decision to move forward on TPP; however, given that did not occur we are incredibly pleased that our two countries are beginning bilateral trade talks.”

Nobuyuki Hirano, the Japanese vice chair of JUBC, said that the U.S.-Japan relationship has shown its ability to withstand trade disputes.

“Ten to 20 years ago there were times of various frictions between the U.S. and Japan but the relationship is still extremely strong,” said Hirano, who is currently president of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.

He said that other than discussing concerns about trade policies, the two-day meeting in Tokyo focused on sustainable development as well as digital issues such as cybersecurity and data privacy.

Last year’s joint statement was issued at the conclusion of a two-day conference overshadowed by concerns over North Korea security issues.

In the 1980s and ’90s, when Japan Inc. was at its zenith, JUBC was particularly influential in trying to bridge the gap between the two capitals.

In a move that revisited that past role as mediator on trade issues, the organization issued a public comment in June regarding the Trump administration’s ongoing Section 232 national security investigation on auto tariffs.

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