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