Already enjoying a close relationship, Japan and the United States continue to expand investments in a wider range of industries. Southern California already has one of the highest concentrations of Japanese companies operating outside Japan. The many factors that attract investment from Japan include the long history of Japanese businesses in the area, the sizeable population of Japanese Americans, geographical proximity to Japan and the pleasant weather all year.
Several Japanese organizations based in California focus on strengthening business and cultural ties, among them the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) LA, a non-profit government agency that supports trade and investment between Japan and other countries.
“Our mission is to promote mutual trade and investment. Hopefully, the Prime Minister will have a good discussion and agreement about getting to a new level of mutual relationship, not only about exports or imports but also investment and employment,” explained JETRO Chief Executive Director Keiichi Nishimoto.
Meanwhile, the Japan Business Association (JBA) in Southern California works on improving the business environment for Japanese companies that wish to expand to this part of the United States. The JBA informs Japanese companies, through its marketing materials, about the attractiveness of California as an ideal investment location. Also engaged in charities and social projects, it also educates the U.S. market on Japanese companies’ contributions to society.
"We continue with our mission, charity efforts and social activities to show the regional American community that the Japanese are not solely focused on profit but also contributes back to society,” said JBA President Satoshi Okawa.
Then, there is the Japan America Society of Southern California (JASSC), which offers Southern Californians, especially those with an interest in Japan, an opportunity to learn about the Asian country’s culture through various activities and charity projects.
“We organize educational programs and provide opportunities for Japanese Americans to build meaningful relationships, mostly business relationships, that benefit society,” said JASSC President Doug Erber.
Overseeing the largest Japanese expat community, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles serves as the main bridge between Southern California and Japan, both in business and in other fields. In fact, Japan is the largest source of foreign direct investments in Southern California.
“Japan has taken for granted the positive image of Japan. We need to keep on telling Americans how Japan has contributed to their society in terms of creating jobs and investments,” said Consul General Akira Chiba.
These four organizations see the most potential and interest from the environmental sector, food industry, manufacturing, automotive and entertainment or movie sector. They also see predict a growth in investment from small and medium-sized Japanese enterprises.
“The growth of the Chinese market is slower. Now, Japan is shifting and recognizing the importance of the U.S. market. The United States is similar to the Japanese market. People here have a very sophisticated business mind,” said Nishimoto.