Keidanren to reopen D.C. office

By Kunihiko Yasue / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) plans to reopen its office in Washington on Nov. 4, about 6½ years after it withdrew from the U.S. capital in 2009.

With China and South Korea stepping up public relations activities on economic matters in the United States, Keidanren aims to raise Japan’s profile, which seems to have declined in the country of late.

Sadayuki Sakakibara, who was appointed Keidanren chairman in June, decided to reopen the office, sources said.

“With how important the United States is to Japan, it’s ridiculous Keidanren doesn’t have a base there,” he was quoted as saying.

The office’s main duties will include hosting events and providing information on Japan; gathering information on matters important to Japanese companies, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact; and forging relationships with U.S. authorities, lawmakers and experts, the sources said.

Keidanren opened its first Washington office around 2001. It held seminars and lectures on Japanese economic policies and corporate trends, essentially serving as a public relations arm for Japan.

However, it never found a strategic vision for its mission in the United States, and officials at the federation gradually lost interest in the office. It closed in March 2009.

Still, the closure had a notable impact. There was a precipitous decline in the number of Japan-related events held in Washington, home of many senior government officials and lawmakers. American experts on Japan were among those who criticized the move.

After the office closed, China and South Korea increased their public relations activities on economic issues, further contributing to Japan’s waning presence.

Atsushi Yamakoshi, who headed the original U.S. office for three years until it closed, has been tapped to lead the new endeavor.

“I want to deepen relationships with senior government officials and lawmakers who aren’t very familiar with Japan, and increase the number of people knowledgeable about Japan,” Yamakoshi said.

“I hope we can serve as an information base for Japan.”