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During the second week of November 2009 I was fortunate to lead a delegation of four APEC Voices of the Future 2009 students from New Zealand to observe the APEC CEO Summit in Singapore. The group was made up of Jennifer Donnelly and Kymberley Maxwell from University of Auckland, Matt Anderson from University of Otago and Blair Paterson of University of Canterbury who was already in Singapore on a one-semester exchange to the National University.

We arrived in Singapore on Sunday. For the next eight days we were in a constant state of awe at the local ‘Voices of the Future' and the Singapore Youth Council’s ability to organise and attend to every little detail in making our stay there as comfortable as possible. This group of young people met us at the airport, whisked us speedily to a waiting mini-van and supported us throughout the programme and finally farewelled us at the airport.

On Monday we visited His Excellency, Martin Harvey at the New Zealand High Commission, where we also met with James Soh, Executive Director of the National Youth Achievement Award Council. His Excellency explained the purpose of the High Commission role in cultivating international relationships and developing New Zealand interests abroad. He also answered questions that the very knowledgeable quartet had prepared for him. These covered career pathways for youth interested in international relations and global issues such as disarmament, environment, human rights, international security and its impact, if at all, on trade. Mr Soh also gave his view on Singaporean initiatives to promote racial harmony and equal rights. Our group left the High Commissioner’s office in high spirits and felt very proud to be New Zealanders.

The next three days were involved with the ‘Voices of the Future’ programme where youth delegates from the 21 economies attending were presented with a highly stimulating agenda including speeches from CEO’s and leaders such as Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (Minister of Community Development Youth and Sports – Singapore), Ho Kwon Ping (Executive Chairman – Banyan Tree Holdings). We were also afforded the privilege of visiting His Excellency, S R Nathan, President of Singapore at Istana (palace), the Ulu Ulu Night Safari, Botanical Gardens, the Youth Olympic Games Learning Centre and Marina Barrage Resevoir to further enrich our experience of this amazing country.

During this time the ABAC (business leaders from the APEC) members were in session and various groups of delegates were chosen to listen to and interview some business leaders, including Tony Nowell and Stephen Jacobi from New Zealand, Jusuf Wanandi, Dr Charles Morrison, Dennis M Nally, Michael Elliott (Time magazine), Teng Theng Dar (ABAC Chair), George Kirkland (Chevron).

On Friday and Saturday the APEC leaders summit was in session and the opportunity to observe this event was accepted wholeheartedly by all delegates. Various APEC leaders presented speeches with the overriding theme being the ‘global economy’. Some of the leaders that we listened to were the Prime Ministers of Singapore, Malaysia and our very own John Key. Every single APEC leader including Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Indonesia), Kevin Rudd (Australia), Felipe Calderon (Mexico) and Dmitry Medvedev (Russia) had the opportunity to provide their view on the ‘global economic agenda’.

During this time the New Zealand delegation together with our United States counterparts were scheduled to have a private meeting with Prime Minister John Key. After being almost turned away by security, in spite of this event being pre-arranged, we were finally ushered into a meeting with the PM and his aides. Mr Key reported that he had talks with the various Heads of States. The main focus was to negotiate Free Trader Agreements. A special focus was the potential free trade with the USA via the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Delegates also asked him questions and he gave his views on the political situation in Fiji, Sri Lankan asylum seekers and one of the USA delegates sought his view on NZ’s nuclear free stance.

At this stage it was Saturday afternoon and the hectic pace of APEC was taking its toll on all and sundry. Our hosts then took us to a grand venue for the closing ceremony where all regions came together to share their culture. Sunday was a free day and I grabbed the chance to do some sightseeing.

I am truly grateful to David Ward (NZ voices) for giving me the opportunity to become involved in this fantastic programme and the Headmaster for allowing me to take time off school.

VOICES 2009: Text
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