February Events Focus on Security and Economic Affairs in U.S.-Japan Relations

Video from Kosuge Productions. Please see below for photos and links to galleries.

PLANO, March 6, 2023 – The Japan-America Society was honored to present two events that helped its audiences explore the state of security in East Asia and the growing economic connections between the U.S. and Japan. The first program, titled Geostrategy in the Grassroots: The Role of China on U.S.-Japan Relations and the Russia-Ukraine War, took place on February 2 at The Highland Dallas Hotel. The second event was the 2023 Japan Currents Symposium: The Effect of SMEs in U.S.-Japan Economic Exchange and Trade and occurred on February 17 at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center.

Please see additional February 2 photos at https://jasdfw.smugmug.com/Website/n-FMJr7C/20230202-Geostrategy-in-the-Grassroots. If you would like to see a full gallery for this event, please contact us at info@jasdfw.org. Photos courtesy of Robin Mallon and JASDFW staff.

In the first event, speakers included Eric Heginbotham, Principal Research Scientist at the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); and Shinji Yamaguchi, Principal Senior Research Fellow in Regional Studies at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Japan’s Ministry of Defense. Hiroki Takeuchi, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia in the Tower Center, served as the moderator.

The two keynote speakers focused on Japan’s strategic and operational adjustments after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Heginbotham maintained that many of the upcoming Japanese defense changes were underway before the Russia-Ukraine conflict and that a larger military budget will enable the acquisition of new capabilities. Both shared that Japan is continuously watching its Chinese neighbors, which have tripled their defense spending in the last 15 years. It remains unclear if China would still invade Taiwan because, as Yamaguchi mentioned, an amphibious campaign and island-controlling operations are difficult, although we must be open to the unexpected because Xi Jinping sees the U.S. and Japanese commitment to Taiwan as a “paper tiger.” Japan has also explored security partnerships beyond its U.S. alliance, namely with Australia and India within the Quad, as part of a counterweight against Chinese interests in the region.

The February 17 program was the 10th annual Japan Currents Symposium, the Japan-America Society’s largest business-focused luncheon of the year. Luncheon keynote speakers were Richard Katz, publisher of Japan Economy Watch, correspondent with Weekly Toyo Keizai, and Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; and Iichiro Uesugi, Professor in the Research Division of Economic Institutions and Policy at the Hitotsubashi University Institute of Economic Research.

Please see additional February 17 photos at https://jasdfw.smugmug.com/Website/n-FMJr7C/20230217-Japan-Currents. If you would like to see a full gallery for this event, please contact us at info@jasdfw.org. Photos courtesy of Robin Mallon and JASDFW staff.

Katz presented a promising evaluation of Japan’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), sharing that moving to a start-up company was once seen as too risky for young workers, whereas now it is increasingly accepted and with better job prospects. He maintained, though, that the Japanese government continues to support large, slow-to-innovate large firms (elephants), as opposed to fast-growing and entrepreneur-led SMEs (gazelles). Uesugi shared that, contrary to belief, there are more SMEs in Japan than in the U.S., as a share of the total economy. He was more optimistic than Katz in his assessment of how the Japanese government is financially backing SMEs, although this can create on overreliance from public funding and result in “zombie firms,” which need to be restructured or close.

The afternoon panel included Jason Galui, Professor of Practice at SMU’s Cox School of Business; Jessica Gordon, Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service Dallas-Fort Worth Office; and Hiroyuki Watanabe, Director of the Texas Japan Office. SMU’s Hiroki Takeuchi served as a conversant for the luncheon speakers and the moderator for the afternoon panel.

Gordon presented a picture of the many resources that the U.S. government offers to support SMEs, focusing on American companies wanting to expand into new markets abroad, such as Japan. Watanabe looked at Japanese SMEs’ move to the U.S. as a natural method to grow their business, given that the Japanese market is limited and the population is decreasing. Galui championed the entrepreneurial spirit of SMEs in the U.S. and the prospects for Japanese firms in North Texas, namely in the high-growth northern Dallas suburbs.

Special guests for the programs included The Honorable John Muns, Mayor of Plano; Peter Kelley, President of the National Association of Japan-America Societies; Masaya Sagawa, Deputy Consul General of Japan in Houston; The Honorable Hisashi “Sam” Shichijo; Honorary Consul of Japan in Dallas; Masahiro “Mark” Ikeno, JASDFW advisory council member and President and CEO of NEC Corporation of America; Hideto Nishitani, JASDFW advisory council member and recipient of the 2022 Bridges-to-Friendship Award; and John Stich, JASDFW advisory council member, former Honorary Consul-General of Japan in Dallas, and recipient of the Japanese government’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Both events were in partnership with the SMU Tower Center on Public Policy and International Affairs. The World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth served as an additional partner for the February 2 geostrategy program. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS) were sponsors for the Geostrategy in the Grassroots program, whereas the Embassy of Japan (Washington, DC) and NAJAS were the lead sponsors for the 2023 Japan Currents Symposium. Additional support was graciously provided by the City of Plano, through its Office of Economic Development, and American Airlines as the airline sponsor.


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