Guest post: Better work stories

by | Feb 24, 2017 | Trade Working Blog

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Guest post from Katherine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council and a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

How to develop a more compelling narrative about trade and globalisation was top-of-mind for senior business leaders from around the Asia-Pacific meeting in Bangkok over the last week.

 
I have been meeting with colleagues on the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) over the last week for the first of our four gatherings for this year. One of our major preoccupations has been the importance of ensuring that ‘inclusive and sustainable growth’ is more than just a catch-phrase, and telling that story well.

Trade has lifted billions out of poverty and continues to raise living standards. In these challenging times, however, trade has – unjustly – been vilified as the cause of job losses and economic displacement when in fact technological change and the deep ripples of the Global Financial Crisis have had a far greater impact.

ABAC colleague Richard Cantor of Moody’s and USC Marshall School Professor (and fellow Kiwi!) Carl Voigt will do some further work this year on the impacts of globalisation, in Carl’s case the research involving interviews with business from around the region, including in New Zealand (watch this space).

We also talked at length about the vital importance of pressing ahead with trade liberalisation. We need to create a more level playing field and the best-possible environment for the global value chains that help to drive productivity growth. I have been leading work on non-tariff barriers, seeking to ‘remove the grit from the machinery of trade’. Last year we looked at NTBs in food trade, and it is now time to look at other sectors (such as forest products and other manufacturing) to reinforce ABAC’s trade-friendly ‘cross-cutting principles’ for NTBs.

I also took part in some excellent and lively discussions on global data standards, the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement – which finally made it over the ratification line while I was in Bangkok! – and services trade. I took part in a fascinating session organised by DHgate’s Diane Wang, on the ‘CBET Network’, an exciting initiative to open up opportunities for SMEs through cross-border e-commerce – which of course make up the lion’s share of New Zealand’s economy as well as many others’.   (New Zealand Post is a founding member of CBET.) Diane made the insightful observation that in five years we probably won’t be talking about “e-commerce” or the “digital economy” any more – they will simply be the norm.

Overall, it was an excellent start to this year’s work to support economic integration and prosperity in our Asia-Pacific backyard – and, of course, it was made all the more enjoyable thanks to the warm hospitality, fantastic food and fascinating culture of Bangkok.

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