Japan: Building Long Term Sustainable Relationships

By Michael Darch

Michael Darch, the founding president of Consider Canada City Alliance 

Michael Darch, the founding president of Consider Canada City Alliance 

As nine members of the Consider Canada City Alliance begin a four city Asian investment tour, the message in Japan is clear. Japan is a country that has built its economy and social structure on tradition and sustainable relationships. It may take time to build those relationships of trust and long term respect, but when established, the results are significant.

The first thing that I learned when the meetings in Japan were being established was that there would be no “speed dating”.  If the Japanese company was interested in learning more about the investment potential in one of our member cities, it wanted to have an extended meeting to discuss specifics and get an understanding of the potential, no quick discussion and move on.

And the Japanese companies did come prepared. There was no superficial surface discussion. The meetings quickly went to detail on requirements and if we could meet those requirements. Preparing for the visit had been difficult as our Embassy in Tokyo and our Posts in Nagoya and Osaka asked for increasingly detailed information on the investment opportunities in our regions. The reasons for this quickly became obvious: the Japanese companies were serious about investment and wanted the meetings to be the beginning of an increasingly deep dialogue. As we had been advised, the first meetings would be more formal than we had experienced in China and Europe, but also would be more detailed.

Again, it became evident that globalization demands that you get out and experience it, not sit back in your office and gain your intelligence from media reports. As expected from media reports, Japan is having its economic challenges and the economy is undergoing a number of fundamental changes. What I didn’t expect, were two lessons. First, as in Europe, despite the uncertainty in the national economy, the balance sheets of companies remain strong. The investment potential is there.

Second, Japanese companies are reacting to globalization and the post financial crisis world by becoming more open. They are increasingly looking to foreign partnerships and collaboration to improve their product lines and competitiveness. They are strategically moving to increase the percentage of their revenues from exports and their foreign investments.The Japanese are naturally risk averse. Our stable government and proven financial stability have direct appeal. As Japan starts to increasingly look outward, we are in the right place at the right time.

Michael Darch is the Founding President of Consider Canada City Alliance.