yet2’s Thoughts on The Japan Society of Boston’s Business Forum
Earlier in June I attended a Business Forum sponsored by the Japan Society of Boston titled: The Changing Landscape: Mergers, Acquisitions, and the Future of US/Japan Trade. The Japan Society of Boston organizes events to promote cultural and economic ties and active interchange between Japanese and Americans for mutual understanding, benefit and enjoyment. Keynote speakers were Jason Stevens, President and CEO of Mitsubishi International Corporation and Ambassador Ira Shapiro, former Chief U.S. Trade Negotiator with Japan and Canada. In the audience was Professor Ezra Vogel, the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard, and well-known expert on Japan.
Stevens spoke about the history of Mitsubishi, and how the company’s evolving attitude towards world trade reflects very closely the country of Japan’s trade initiatives. As organic growth stagnates, Mitsubishi finds growth opportunities in new lines of business worldwide. Mitsubishi, and many other Japanese corporations, have made, and continue to make, significant investments in the U.S.
Before the talk attendees mingled over a light lunch. Many of the participants had either spent time living in Japan, had done business with Japanese companies, or desired to do business with Japanese companies. It was a lively mix of native Japanese, ex-pats and American Japanophiles. Job roles were a mix of Global Business Development, VC Investment Advisor, Charitable Fund Grant Advisor, Political Scientist, Aerospace Industry Exporter, and Cross-cultural Marketing Expert. And there were many folks I didn’t have a chance to meet!
Some interesting tidbits I learned during the event:
- The Mitsubishi zaibatsu, a unified company founded in 1870, was broken up during the occupation of Japan after WWII. While they share the logo and name, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (include automobile business) and Mitsubishi Corp are all independent companies.
- 75% of Japanese branded cars sold in the U.S. are manufactured in North America.
- Ambassador Shapiro likened the current trade climate as similar to navigating the Drake Passage, the rough, unpredictable, and sometimes treacherous passage between the tip of Chile and Antarctica.
- Mitsubishi is seeking ways to diversify its portfolio in order to stimulate growth. Target areas are Communications & Data Assets, Mobility Services & Urban Development, Logistics & Leasing, Distributed Power Generation, e-Commerce & Internet Services and Retail.
I’m very excited to continue communication with the very interesting people I was fortunate to meet and hope to attend more events from The Japan Society in the future.