In 2012 I was asked to represent New Zealand at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Vladivostok, Russia.
The summit is the Asia Pacific’s premier business event, with the Asia-Pacific’s political leaders and the regions leading CEOs in attendance. The theme this year was “addressing challenges, expanding possibilities”, and with it being held in the Russian Far East, delegates were shown an impressive country with bold ambitions – many embedded in the Asia-Pacific, that dispelled myths and stereotypes.
Video 1: APEC 2012 Overview
Video 2: Behind the scenes in Vladivostok
One of the biggest highlights of attending APEC was the opportunity to attend the plenary addresses from global leaders, as they outlined their visions, experiences and perspectives on issues of discussion. Leaders included:
- His Excellency Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, who spoke about the challenges and opportunities China has in their relations with Russia. He also outlined the measures and leadership China is aspiring to take on intellectual property, and inward and outward foreign direct investment throughout the APEC economies.
- The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America, addressed the importance APEC plays with members accounting for 54% of world GDP. She spoke about the potential of the platform for economic growth, and the responsibility we have in areas such as security, and assistance for women and minorities in small business in developing countries, so they can also reap these benefits.
- His Excellency Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, spoke of opportunities in Russia and outlined measures being taken to ease logistics through upgrades to the Trans-Siberian railway. He fielded questions into Chinese investment in Russia and the on-going negotiations into a New Zealand – Russia/Belarus/Kazakhstan Free Trade Agreement. President Putin acknowledged that developing regions will continue to grow far more quickly than traditional markets, and that the former Soviet-era port of Vladivostok is poised to become a gateway for Russian trade and investment with Asia. Russia has finally joined the World Trade Organisation after an 18 year wait, and having Vladivostok chosen as the APEC venue marked an exciting time as Russia becomes more integrated into the global economy.
I formed part of the Small and Medium Enterprises working group at APEC, and was elected by my working group to present the declaration back to the wider APEC community – which included Russian media and APEC officials.
Meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
The New Zealand Voices of the Future delegates were fortunate to have twenty minutes with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. Meeting their leader wasn’t possible for every Voices of the Future delegate, and spoke volumes to the accessibility and transparency of the New Zealand government. The meeting offered a great opportunity to hear more personally about New Zealand’s priorities at the APEC Summit, and openly discuss topics ranging from:
- New Zealand’s place at the APEC table and what is being done to ensure the voices of smaller developing nations are being heard at forums like APEC and at trade agreement negotiations such as the TPP
- recent calls for the strengthening of the Waitangi Tribunal, and where the government thinks the Treaty of Waitangi stands in New Zealand’s future.
- how to best harness business opportunities in Russia, given New Zealand’s limited capacity of SMEs and the current focus on opportunities in China, India and other parts of Asia
- the Prime Ministers upcoming meeting with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, and the status of the New Zealand – Russia free trade agreement.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Tim McCready
As well as leaders from the APEC economies, the Summit had addresses and panel discussions into many critical areas of focus for the Asia-Pacific from prominent CEOs and business leaders throughout the region. These sessions included:
- Food: Feeding seven billion people. Speakers including Sergey Polyakov (General Director of United Grain company) and Samuel Allen (Chairman, John Deere & Co), who discussed the challenges we have with a growing global population and depleting resources.
- Health is wealth. Panelists included the CFO of Johnson & Johnson, the Chief Research and Strategy Officer of Microsoft, as well as New Zealander Ian McCrae (CEO, Orion Health). The changing landscape of healthcare was discussed, and it was noted that we have reached a time where medical knowledge has surpassed what healthcare practitioners can know, which creates a discontinuity in how medicine is practised around the world. One of the most inspiring moments was when the panel discussed how investment in health can provide a significant social and economic return to economies. The panel agreed that people should be thought of as an investment, not as a cost – because without people, you won’t have a company.
The theme of APEC this year was “addressing challenges, expanding possibilities”, and the summit did a great job of covering these topics. On a more personal level, having the opportunity to attend APEC as a Voices of the Future delegate has encouraged me to reflect on my own challenges and possibilities within the Asia-Pacific region. I have previously done business with major Asian markets, but my eyes have truly been opened to the opportunities within emerging APEC economies. Business and political leaders from those regions are excited about their potential – and they have good reason to be. That excitement has been infectious, and the experience and insights I have left Russia with will stay with me always.