Guest post: Trade, the digital economy, empowering women and small business: Asia-Pacific priorities

by | Jan 31, 2018 | Trade Working Blog


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


What better time to be talking Asia Pacific business than the week after CPTPP has been concluded and what better place to do it than New Zealand?  I am thrilled to joining my Kiwi colleagues on the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Tenby Powell and Phil O’Reilly, and our exec team Stephen Jacobi and Stephanie Honey, in welcoming 200 business leaders from around the region to Auckland 1-4 February.

This will be the first of four ABAC gatherings this year. The Auckland meeting is a great chance to showcase the dynamic and multicultural best of our biggest city. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff will give the keynote address at our Welcome Function. Papua New Guinea is in the Chair, so it is appropriate that we try to put the ‘Pacific’ into ‘Asia-Pacific’ for our visitors!

We are grateful for the support of the New Zealand Government and will be joined by the Minister of Trade and Export Growth Hon David Parker as well as Parliamentary Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will also be sharing some insights via video.

The meeting is a timely opportunity to address some of the key challenges facing our region.   Priority topics include trade agreements, non-tariff barriers, services trade, the digital economy, food trade and food security, and small business. We will be having a formal dialogue with senior officials and looking to develop recommendations to APEC’s Economic Leaders on all these issues.

ABAC New Zealand will be leading on how to build on CPTPP as an important pathway towards a region-wide integrated economy, the so-called ‘Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific’. We will also be framing our vision for the region beyond 2020 – a discussion which is particularly relevant given that New Zealand will itself be Chairing APEC in 2021.

As economic growth in our region picks up, we need to make it more inclusive. ABAC has just completed a major study on ‘smarter globalisation’ (see a copy here). We will review our recommendations from that study as well as some new research, which Phil O’Reilly is leading, on the way firms and households benefit from trade liberalisation. Separately, Tenby Powell is presenting on how trade agreements can help SMEs leap into new markets – building on outcome of the SME LEAP Summit on 31 January.

ABAC wants to help women entrepreneurs to thrive in the modern digital economy. Fonterra is generously hosting the ‘ABAC Women’s Lunch’ and I will be joined for a panel discussion by two impressive colleagues, Komal Mistry of Fonterra Ventures (and last year’s Deloitte Top 200 Young Executive of the Year) and Vic Crone of Callaghan. Empowering women to participate equally in the global economy could add $28 trillion to GDP growth by 2025, so trying to get this right really is a no-brainer.

We could not hold the ABAC meeting in Auckland without the generous support of business sponsors. Business New Zealand is acting as the host organisation, and the lead sponsor is ANZ. Other sponsors are Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), Douglas Pharmaceuticals and the Bank of China (NZ) Ltd. Support is also being provided by the NZ International Business Forum and Fonterra.

The Auckland meeting kicks off the ABAC work programme for 2018: it’s our chance to put a Kiwi stamp on the APEC agenda as we move towards New Zealand’s year as APEC Chair in 2021.


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