Finding himself in Manila as a regional cooperation specialist with the Asian Development Bank is a bit of a surprise for 2002 alum Shigeaki Kamo.
"When I graduated from La Follette, I returned to Japan's Ministry of Finance, where I have been in charge of many international negotiations and cooperation with foreign counterparts, with the goal of realizing the optimal level of national benefits," Kamo says.
Now Kamo is charged with maximizing regional and international interests. "As the ADB is an organization serving developing countries in Asia, my current position requires me to have views both regionally and internationally," he says. "This is what I did not expect in the past when I focused mostly on the national interest."
During the three years Kamo will spend with the ADB's South East Asian Department, he will manage the funds Japan's government has invested with the bank. "Using those funds, I will conduct projects for trade facilitation in the Southeast Asia region," he says. "My mid/long-term goal is to realize the smooth flow of cargo and trade facilitation in the region, namely, the 'Asian Cargo Highway.'"
Kamo expects to return to the Ministry of Finance. As deputy director for the ministry's Customs and Tariffs Bureau, he worked on planning and enforcement of customs procedures, and on customs related negotiations such as regarding market access issues over agricultural, non-agricultural and environmental goods and services relating to the World Trade Organization.
His graduate school training and time spent in Madison have helped him in high-level international negotiations. "When I was dealing with international issues in Japan's Customs and Tariffs Bureau, my U.S. counterparts were customs officials and trade representatives, with whom I got along well, knowing the U.S. public sector academically and practically," Kamo says. "In general, every time I had one of those interactions, it reminded me of the policy implications I learned about at La Follette."
Some of these interactions revolved around intellectual property rights. "I was involved in negotiations at the G8 IPR Expert Meetings, as well as East Asian Tripartite IPR Expert Working Group and international conferences for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," Kamo says. "In those events, I facilitated solutions in cooperation with government officials of Japan and many other countries, and managed Japan's opinions in order to reach a successful conclusion."
"I also analyzed and implemented customs-related procedures at many different levels, including cross-border counter-terrorism measures in cooperation with government officials of Japan and many other countries," Kamo says, adding that he introduced a plan to deploy Japanese officials at the U.S. National Targeting Center. "I am proud that this scheme greatly contributed to facilitating information exchange of counter-terrorism measures."
Kamo will help Japan and other countries modernize their customs with greater use of information technology at the ADB. "Modernization is a very important and pressing issue in view of the improvement of the business environment through trade facilitation, by way of reduction of lead time and trade costs, and paperless trade," Kamo says. "The broad strategy is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, transparency and predictability of an administration's operations so that it can better meet the needs of the country and the international community, by facilitating trade, providing security and increasing revenue collection."
Kamo notes that his internships with the Wisconsin departments of Commerce and of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection continue to inform his international negotiations, and he expects them to help him maximize regional and international interests for the Asian Cargo Highway. "It was a valuable experience for me, as a Japanese government official, to work for foreign governmental organizations and gain knowledge on different approaches," he says.
When he decided to take a leave from the Ministry of Finance to earn a Master of International Public Affairs, Kamo chose the United States because it is the country leading in that area of study. "My goal was to gain solid knowledge and skills so that I could contribute to help our government organization operate more efficiently," he says.
When he returned to Japan, he used his La Follette training right away: "One of my responsibilities included preparation of an annual forecast on Japan's tariff revenue at the Ministry of Finance," Kamo says. "Previously, the method used for such forecasts depended greatly on the knowledge of my predecessors. The econometrical/statistical skills I learned in the La Follette helped me make the method more sophisticated and improve the precision of the forecast."