A letter from Tokyo: The opportunity to build stronger Canada-Japan trade ties

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Canada-Japan trade

Sometimes the most fruitful business opportunities are nurtured among long-time friends. Capitalizing on them means broadening already strong relationships and working together in creative, innovative and dynamic ways. That was one of the most powerful learnings from this week’s AGN International World Congress in Tokyo, an event that opened my eyes to the potential to enhance trade between Canada and Japan—and at the mid-sized business level, to help deepen the trade ties between Adams + Miles’ clients and clients of AGN member firms in Japan.

The World Congress—hosted by Tokyo AGN member Ohwa & Co.—brought together AGN colleagues from across the globe to discuss our organization’s latest news and developments, along with international accounting best practices and strategies to enhance service delivery at the firm level. Of course, we also took the opportunity to share ideas, build stronger connections and simply enjoy the many wonders of life in Tokyo. It’s the greater exposure to Japan’s economy and culture that has been truly transformative.

So, too, is the sheer potential to build lasting and mutually beneficial business partnerships between our two countries. The statistics bear this out.

According to Global Affairs Canada, trade between Canada and Japan is growing rapidly. Japan is Canada’s largest source of foreign direct investment from the Indo-Pacific region at $40.7 billion in 2022, and our third largest global investor overall. That trade relationship is well balanced. Canada exported approximately $18 billion in goods to Japan in 2022, while imports from Japan totalled $17.1 billion that same year. From natural resources such as minerals and propane gas to forest and agricultural products, Canada has been a key supplier to the Japanese market for decades. The same is true for Japan, which ships important goods such as vehicles, precision scientific instruments, machinery and other equipment to the Great White North. Canada also hosts dozens of Japanese companies, while our companies have established a significant presence in Japan in sectors such as automotive, IT, financial services and forestry.

Our two countries are also co-signatories of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a treaty that reduces or eliminates export tariffs on a range of goods exported from Canada to Japan.

As the web page promoting the latest Team Canada Trade Mission to Japan (which ended earlier this month) noted:

“Canada, with its significant natural resource assets and food export capacity, is well-positioned to be a strategic partner that offers reliable supplies that are vital to Japanese industry and households … Japanese companies and research institutions frequently seek international partnerships to develop new technologies, particularly in the renewable energy, ICT, biotech, and advanced manufacturing sectors, creating opportunities for collaboration, technology transfer and joint R&D. Canada’s strengths in these areas represent potential investment opportunities that may not be well known among Japanese investors.”

For the mainly small- to mid-sized companies that Adams + Miles serves, the opportunities in the Japanese market are near-limitless. But perceived barriers to trade, from language and culture to distance and time zones, can seem insurmountable. Rest assured these traditional hurdles are far less formidable than in the past.

The bridge is the AGN International network and accounting and strategic advisory firms such as ours. By leveraging our connections with Ohwa and Co. and other local firms, we can serve as a conduit to the Japanese market for our clients, helping to forge relationships and working with them to navigate the nuances of international trade—from business culture differences and tax compliance requirements to the mechanics of developing a growth-minded global business outlook and the many strategic accounting and financial considerations that need to be addressed along the way.

That includes providing referrals to key advisors whose professional services complement ours. For example, the Adams + Miles team has an extensive network of contacts in government, along with international law, HR, insurance, banking/finance and accounting firms in key centres. These contacts are essential because no matter how well-equipped a Canadian accounting firm may be to support its globally minded clients, a team approach is needed to ensure export success. The same is true for companies expanding into the Canadian market.

Adams + Miles Managing Partner Tony Sokic in Tokyo Japan at the AGN International World Congress
Adams + Miles Managing Partner Tony Sokic (second from right) meets with member firms in Tokyo Japan at the AGN International World Congress, including Ohwa & Co. CEO Masateru Sawada (second from left).

In discussions with Ohwa & Co. CEO Masateru Sawada this past week, the enthusiasm for enhancing linkages between our two countries and exploring new business opportunities was immediately obvious. His passion for helping Japanese companies grow into new markets aligns closely with our firm’s commitment to standing alongside clients on their journey to optimizing or developing new revenue streams both at home and abroad.

This visit to Tokyo has involved building new friendships and a great deal of learning, but also embracing new ideas. I came here knowing Japan as the land of the rising sun. I’ll leave recognizing it as the land of emerging business opportunity. The job now is to help our clients leverage those ties to achieve success on the global stage.

Tony Sokic, Managing Partner

For assistance with your global growth initiatives, contact a member of the Adams + Miles team today.