The article looks at how the practice of government relations and lobbying is applied in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. In Japan, government relations has traditionally been focused on managing the bureaucratic process of rulemaking and regulation, without proactive engagement. However, this dynamic has been changing over the years, and it is important – especially for foreign firms – to holistically engage in the policy environment and clearly communicate how issues they are advocating are for the greater good in Japan. “Advocacy is a process needed to make policy better for the entire nation of Japan,” Jakob explains. “The old days of walking around the Diet member buildings with a placard petitioning your cause are finished. While lobbying the government on one hand, the time has come to leverage the media to influence public opinion and proceed debate on an equal footing with the government.”
When it comes to Japanese companies engaging overseas, Jason Jarrell (pictured with Cindi Berry, Interel executive client director, at Interel’s downtown Washington offices) noted the importance to be much more proactive in engaging with government and policy stakeholders to protect foreign investments and the license to not only operate but innovate. Beyond the industry sectors of automotive and electronics, Japanese companies are becoming major global players in e-commerce, health, food, and professional services. To secure and grow their international markets, it is imperative for these companies to globalize their mindset when it comes to the practice of government relations. In the U.S., “having a presence in Washington, D.C. means something,” Jason tells Nikkei Business. “Japanese companies first must secure a seat at this table,” Jason says, and when it comes to new technologies, “being seen as a reliable provider of information in the lawmaking process” can be very effective across all industries.
As historical background, the article also delved into the mythology of the origin of the word “lobbying” in the U.S., which is often attributed to the time of President Ulysses Grant’s administration and the lobby of the Willard Hotel, next door to Interel’s U.S. office. It is said that President Grant sought refuge in the lobby of the hotel to enjoy a cigar away from the White House, but often he would be approached by various individuals – whom he termed “lobbyists” – seeking his input or support on their policy interests.