Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan

Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan Wilf Wakely, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan

TOKYO —

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan has been growing rapidly over the past few months, and is particularly attracting many Japanese organizations interested in Canadian resources. In addition, Canada and Japan are in the midst of free trade discussions, and the CCCJ is supporting this in partnership with its Japanese equivalents such as the Keidanren and Keizai Doyukai.

Founded in 1975, the CCCJ currently represents some 33 business sectors, with over 300 members from Canada, Japan and other countries. Members include Canadian companies operating in Japan, Japanese companies and individuals with ties to Canada, small business owners and Canadians working in Japan.

The chamber holds speaker series, seminars and networking events, provides relevant information through its website and quarterly magazine The Canadian, offers business promotion opportunities and information on launching and operating a business in Japan, meets with key Japanese policymakers on issues of importance to the Canadian business community, and maintains close ties with other chambers of commerce in Japan.

The current president of the CCCJ is Wilf Wakely who has been in Japan for 35 years. Born and raised in Vancouver, Wakely developed a strong interest in Japan when here as a student in 1965. He is fluent in Japanese and holds law degree from the University of British Columbia. From 1984-1987, he was seconded to the Department of External Affairs and posted to Japan as First Secretary, serving first as head of public affairs, and then press officer. Later, he was legal officer during the planning for the re-development of the Canadian Embassy. Finally, from 1993-1997, he was Commissioner, Trade and Investment for the government of British Columbia, in Kobe.

Currently, Wakely acts as Principal at Wakely Foreign Law Office. His focus is on corporate and business law advisory regarding international commercial transactions, such as licenses, distribution agreements and representation - including as resident director and statutory auditor. He also advises regarding government relations, encompassing regulatory negotiations and advice on sovereign developments, spanning the re-development of the Canadian Embassy, the European Union Delegation and other foreign missions in Tokyo.

In 2006, Wakely Foreign Law Office launched a qualified joint venture with TMI Associates, one of Japan’s “big 5” law firms. Through this, Wakely Foreign Law Office offers a wide range of Japanese legal services and enhanced scope through TMI’s network of offices across Asia.

Wakely actively provides his services pro bono to support the community on issues relating to the rights of children (including parental child abduction).

Japan Today editor Chris Betros catches up with Wakely to hear more.

How do you manage your law office and chamber business?

It’s challenging and engaging work. I probably spend maybe 3-4 hours each day on chamber business. We have a board of governors and we also have committee chairs and co-chairs. It takes a lot of energy on the part of a lot of persons to do all the various activities. 

What is your membership like?

We have about 300 members, 40% of whom are Japanese. And that number is increasing because a lot of Canadian firms are represented by Japanese.

What are the main economic issues between Canada and Japan?

Canada announced in March that it would start negotiating a bilateral trade agreement or Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Japan. Bilateral trade negotiations start on the premise that two business communities need to be frank with each other about what issues need to be addressed, for example, breaking non-tariff barriers. The estimated benefit to our two economies is that an increase in GDP for Canada could be between $5-9 billion. For Japan, it is more like $4 billion.

What Canadian industries are doing well in Japan?

Insurance, mining companies, timber and natural resources are well represented. There is also a huge community in the software creator category.

Does the chamber have access to policymakers in the Japanese government?

We’ve incorporated an honorary board of 12 advisers and they connect us on a sectoral basis. It is important that we get to know the working-level guys in the Japanese government. It is a government relations exercise between the foreign business community and the Japanese government about how to make Japan a more user-friendly place to invest.

How do you disseminate information on the chamber’s activities?

We recently launched a new website. Before, nobody quite understood the impact of Facebook, Twitter and SEO. The new website is much more interactive. Videos are also included. We feature interviews with visiting Canadian ministers as part of a series called Conversations.

What charity work is the chamber involved in?

A lot of our people joined in the Tohoku relief effort. In February, when we held our annual Maple Leaf Ball, we invited Tohoku vendors to sell their wares. We also announced an effort over a decade in which chamber members will contribute their skills and raise funds to provide business opportunities to help people in the Tohoku get back on their feet. That’s a lesson I learned from my experience after the Kobe quake in 1995 – for the first year, victims get help from everywhere but it is more like a decade that they need to rebuild their businesses and local economies.

What is happening with the parental child abduction issue?

There is this belief in Japan that a lot of Japanese women bring their kids back here because they are often victims of domestic violence abroad where they are living, and therefore they must be protected. If you look at Canada, the U.S. or Australia, there are laws to deal with domestic abusers and those laws have teeth. There is absolutely no reason for any woman who fears violence to leave those jurisdictions.

The Canadian chamber has produced a press release which stated our position that Japan joining The Hague Convention per se is marvellous but unless you change the underlying Japanese law, it is kind of meaningless. Japanese law does not admit to joint custodial arrangements by parents, and that’s the problem. We have also made representations to the Ministry of Justice. I think a unified effort between chambers would have a greater impact.

For more information on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan, visit https://www.cccj.or.jp/en

  • 0

    malfupete

    What is happening with the parental child abduction issue? - Nothing is happening. the J-gov dragging it's feet. But I guess at the moment, the issues with China and Taiwan are front and center so who cares about John Smith, whose wife Takako took their kids back to Japan. Its not an abduction because the kids were always Japanese Citizens and just returning home... in the eyes of gov over there

  • 0

    JeffLee

    We have about 300 members, 40% of whom are Japanese

    I expected the ratio to be higher. The CCCJ certainly DOES NOT represent the interests of Canadians here.

    The pension agreement, which the CCCJ gleefully promoted, is a case in point. It only gives credit to people in Canada who have NEVER been on CPP or don't qualify for OAS residency requirements, according to the Service Canada materials. And who would that be? Certainly not the vast majority of repatriated working Canadians. Newly arrived Japanese, would be my guess.

    A lose-lose situation for Canadians in Japan to be sure; hit by Japan's ludicrous 25 year eligibility rule and then denied recognition for contributions by Ottawa, which opts instead to recognize the very same contributions paid by foreigners.

    You have to wonder in whose interests the Canadian "negotiators" were working. Maybe 40% of them also weren't Canadian.

  • 0

    malfupete

    wait... so that means I'm not entitled to a pension in Japan if I haven't been there for at least 25 years???? and my CPP payments while working in Canada are meaningless? what the hell..

  • 0

    JeffLee

    malfupete: If you're aiming for a Japanese pension, you can try to use your CPP years to fulfill the 25 year rule. That's up to the Japanese authorities.

    But I'm talking about the case where Canadians return home after paying several years of Japanese pension and trying to claim credit toward their OAS or CPP. The only people who can do that are people who DON'T qualify for OAS (because they haven't lived in Canada for very long) or have never, ever paid CPP (usually because they've never worked in Canada). Safe to assume that the vast majority of those people will not be Canadian.

    Clearly, the CCCJ, which advocated this agreement, and Ottawa should have pushed for totalization: ability to transfer credits from one program into the other of one's choice, regardless of how long you've been on the plans.

  • 0

    malfupete

    Jeff: wow.. that doesn't seem.. fair.

    So for example, If I work for a firm in Canada for 20 years (pay into CPP and EI and all that stuff) then accept a position in Japan, working for say 10 years, paying into their pension system and whatnot, I won't be able to get credit for those deductions if I move back to Canada during my retirement? I thought that Japan and Canada had some cross agreement on these things (apparently not from what I am reading from you)

    live and work in Canada now but there may come a time when I'll be 'forced' to go back to Japan i.e. the wife.

    where can I read more about this?

  • 0

    JeffLee

    @malfupete: That's right, in your case, you couldn't use those 10 years for either CPP or OAS. So, from a working Canadian's perspective, what's the point of having such an agreement?!?

    As an aside, though, you could claim a cash refund worth three years of payments from the Japanese gov't once you decide to leave Japan for good. But that rule existed before and separately from the agreement, and it robs you of 7 years' of contributions.

    Both situations are state-sponsored rip-offs aimed at depriving working people of the financial contributions they make.

    Here is an infosheet. It reads nicely, but note the phrases "if you don't qualify" (IE, If you're a working Canadian citizen/resident, tough luck, you get no credit.)

    http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/isp/pub/ibfa/japan-i.shtml

  • 0

    HowardStern

    @JeffLee, while I agree the CPP/OAS agreement is a raw deal for many (most?) I think you are attributing the CCCJ with way more power and influence than they actually have. They have ZERO government jurisdiction and are not involved in any government policy making. They can advocate all they want but to think they have any influence over government policy is misguided.

  • 0

    HowardStern

    The CCCJ is a group of businessmen looking to expand their business. They meet for networking events, support charities etc. They are no different than any other club or organization such as the Tokyo Canadian Club or even the Tokyo Canadians Hockey Club.

    Why the author asked the question regarding the abduction issue is puzzling. The CCCJ has nothing to do with it.

  • 0

    JeffLee

    @HowardStern

    Advocacy, not hockey, is the major activity of all the foreign business chambers. If it weren't for advocacy, they probably wouldn't exist, or least they'd become little more than friendship clubs. Their members have regular meetings with gov't officials or the Keidanren to convey their interests and concerns, and they collect membership dues to fund these activities.

    The CCCJ was a pension accord advocate, and before the agreement was announced, the CCCJ was the only source of info that at least I could find.

    The chamber was very upbeat about the accord as it was being negotiated, so I assumed it would reflect the interests of Canadians....and not be a one-side deal that favors foreigners (newcomers to Canada)! Had I known this beforehand, I myself would have tried to have formed a group to advocate for a fair deal: pension totalization. Because Ottawa ignored the thousands of us working Canadians, while the CCCJ misled us.

  • 0

    HowardStern

    My point is unchanged. They can advocate all they want. No one in Ottawa is listening to them. You are giving them way too much authority Jeff. The fact is, they ARE little more than friendship club. What makes you think they have any say in policy making? I dont think you looked hard enough to find info on the accord if the CCCJ is all you found.

  • 0

    JeffLee

    @HowardStern With all respect, Howard, I have worked directly with several chambers in Tokyo as part of my job. Their core activity is advocacy, ie "lobbying." So, yes, they are a "lobby group" for Canadian business in Japan. And no, that ain't the same as entertainment.

    The chambers publish white papers on policy, and they visit Diet members and business groups and give presentations in front of groups of officials. They also sponsor speech events and luncheons.

    The purpose of such lobbying is to push for changes in regulations or to give recommendations on policy, etc.. Politicians and civil servants listen or read this expert input prior to negotiations or while drafting policy. (This is turning into a civics lesson, isn't it.)

    I spoke directly with the then-CCCJ president a few years back, who was assuring and upbeat about the agreement. In the early days, CCCJ also claimed that it was one of the groups pushing for the agreement, despite your assertion it had nothing to do with it. I also phoned Ottawa directly, prior to the agreement coming into effect, and they had no comments to offer me.

  • 0

    tokyo_biker

    Hi Jeff, Howard,

    As far as I know, the social security agreements and benefits are totally reciprocal and same credit for J or C expats going back to respective countries. It is much much better than no agreement, and CCCJ did have the driving force to stimulate this deal to be done, which is similar to various other global bilateral ones now on the books.

    As to no impact, check the recent developments EPA and more. If you wish to be negative, OK. But doing what we can do, and not nothing. -HA

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