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VOICES 2011: Text

Young leaders from New Zealand attended the 2011 APEC Voices summit in Hawaii, USA. The four delegates selected to attend the Voices programme at the annual CEO summit were Melody Cooper, Nick Barry, Arena Williams and Sudhvir Singh.

VOICES 2011: Image


All of the New Zealand APEC Voices team members had no doubt done their research on the key focus areas of discussions at APEC 2011 before we left. But the proverb ‘it is better to see something once than to hear about it 100 times’ comes to mind. Being able to witness first-hand the difficult process undertaken to achieve economic cooperation and cohesion was crucial to furthering our understanding of the challenges facing APEC and the way in which they are being addressed. We had a truly amazing experience at APEC and would like to say a huge mahalo to Victoria University of Wellington, Auckland University of Technology, Asia:NZ Foundation, Te Puni Kokiri and VTM-NZ Trust for making this possible.


We had the privilege of being hosted by some of the incredibly hospitable students and staff of Kamehameha School.  They organised a host of activities for the Voices delegates in order that we would get a real insight into the culture and history of the Hawaiian people. We were struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the group, and enjoyed learning about the similarities between New Zealand Maori and Hawaiian culture. The activities they arranged included a cultural performance by the Kamehameha students, an address from one of Hawaii’s master navigators, a paddle on a traditional Hawaiian waka, learning about and participating in traditional agricultural practices, a guided tour of the Bishop Museum, a Luau, and a closing ceremony in which each member economy was given time to share their culture through song, dance, and the exchanging of gifts.  These activities highlighted to us the way in which the Hawaiian people are reclaiming their history and culture with pride, and gave many delegates hope that their indigenous cultures can one day do the same. We valued the opportunity to gain insight into the broader effects of globalisation before the start of the APEC CEO Summit.

HIGHLIGHTS: Distinguished Speakers

In addition to attending ABAC and APEC meetings, the Voices team arranged for the youth delegation to hear from a number of distinguished speakers. During these times we were encouraged to share our opinions and ask questions of them during the Q & A time at the conclusion of each session.

The first speaker was Admiral Patrick Walsh, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet.  We went to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies where he addressed us on the topic of “Security in the Pacific Rim”, explaining that security is the ‘oxygen’ to trade. Issues covered in the Q & A time were Humanitarian Assistance, Maritime Security and Aggression Deterrence. The importance of security in the Asia-Pacific region was a key theme for the summit and Admiral Walsh explained the costs and benefits of armed defence in the region and the expanding role of the US in this strategic part of the world. He was able to offer a nuanced perspective on the matter as an academic and Naval Admiral.

The second speaker was Dr Maya Soetoro-Ng, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, consultant at the East-West Centre and President Obama’s half-sister. We went to the East-West Center to hear her speak about “Peace Education and Conflict Resolution”. Dr Maya spoke about the need for us to be people who engage in conflict transformation and collaborate on a global level to share solutions for common problems. In the Q & A time, Melody asked for some suggestions as to how we as young leaders can ensure our voices are heard regarding the changes we want to see in the world.

The third speaker was Professor Manfred Steger from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Prof. Steger’s main research interests are globalisation, political ideologies, and comparative (mostly East-West) political theory. He addressed us on the topic of “Globalisation: The ideological struggle of the 21st century”, speaking specifically about ‘market globalisation’ and ‘justice globalisation’.

The fourth speaker was Francisco Sanchez, US Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.  Mr Sanchez spent half an hour with us, and implored us to be the voices that our world needs to hear today, not just in the future. During the Q & A, one of the Voices delegates raised the issue of the environmental impacts businesses are having on our climate.  In response Mr Sanchez said, “investing in a sustainable planet is not a burden, rather an opportunity and a necessity”.


There were many incredible opportunities to hear from both world leaders and CEO’s during the CEO Summit.  Here are some of our highlights:

  • The first session of the APEC CEO summit was aptly named “The future. Redefined”. Here Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, and two CEO’s discussed how dramatic regional and global developments in technology, politics and the natural world change the way in which we prepare for the futures of our societies.  Participants had the chance to engage with these leaders through the Q & A time, which provided a great forum for more discussion.

  • We attended a session titled the “21st Century Workforce” seminar with Australia Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, ABAC Chair and Asia Pacific Group President of Procter & Gamble, Deb Henretta & the Managing Director of The World Bank, Sri Mulyani. The main points discussed were jobless growth, labour mobility, providing ongoing training for employees and the need for investment in higher education.

  • We attended a very interesting session called “Redefining health: An economic asset and competitive advantage”. The panellists were key leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and The Cleveland Clinic.  Together they discussed ways in which they are attempting to curb the extent to which health issues are affecting the working population. A statement made during this panel in favour of businesses supporting their employees to improve their health and wellbeing was that “every $1 spent on prevention, will save you $3 in looking after them”.  The panellists also suggested ways in which companies can provide health education and programmes in the workplace.  Some other suggestions included: providing financial incentives for employees that make improvements in their health status and offering healthy food at meetings as a substitution to junk food.  This session was very informative and in a way unexpected at a forum like APEC.

  • Hillary Clinton (USA) made a last minute appearance, in which she stated “reducing barriers to women’s participation in the economy will increase GDP in the US by 9% and Japan by 16%” amongst other insightful discussion points.

  • President Hu Jintao (China) spoke for half an hour with a focus on easing concerns about important issues that have arisen relating to China such as Intellectual Property Rights and Foreign Investment policies.  He also announced China’s intention to take on an increased role in promoting free trade and investment liberalisation.

  • President Barack Obama (USA) made an announcement that he had just signed a document that would allow USA businessmen to apply for the APEC travel card. At this point all the CEO’s erupted with great applause, well at least the American ones! President Obama also spoke about China relations, China currency, intellectual property, the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the Euro zone crisis.

  • Other notable speakers we heard from included President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Medvedev of Russia and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google.

HIGHLIGHTS: Meeting with NZ ABAC members and attending ABAC meetings

We met with NZ ABAC members Tony Nowell, Gary Judd, Fiona Cooper-Clarke & Stephen Jacobi for breakfast at the Sheraton hotel before their meetings commenced for the week. We discussed issues of food security, trade and liberalisation, and gained insight into the relationship between ABAC and APEC and its relevance to New Zealand.

We were impressed with the leadership shown by the New Zealand contingent within the APEC process. Tony Nowell, Chair of the ABAC Regional Economic Intergration Sub-committee, explained the ABAC negotiation process and we were able to gain a unique insight into the long term planning that goes into ABAC policy. This provided an exceptional introduction to the complexities of the intersection of global business and political negotiations and the process of building consensus among regional business leaders.

The following day Mr Nowell invited us to attend the Regional Economic Integration Working Group, in which he is the chair.  The key issues discussed were:

  • The importance of services and how this aspect of trade has been under represented in policy attention.

  • Supply chain choke points within the APEC region and suggestions for improvements to increase efficiency.

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – the lead US trade negotiator, Barbara Weisel, spoke on the progress of the TPP and its importance for the APEC region.

In a separate meeting, Tony Nowell spoke to the Voices group about the general ABAC agenda, highlighting issues of trade and investment liberalisation and the importance of working together.  During the Q & A session, Sudhvir asked how ABAC seeks to deal with climate change; ie: whether they support regionalised emissions trading schemes or whether they see that as an impediment to growth. Mr Nowell replied that the business community tries to avoid the politics around this issue and instead supports increased trade in environmental goods and services. Melody asked a question about what some of the strengths and weaknesses are of APEC being a non-binding body. Mr Nowell responded that there has been significant traction made on agreements between the member economies over the years of its existence, indicating that it’s non-binding nature has much strength.

HIGHLIGHTS: Meeting with Deputy Prime minister Bill English

Our New Zealand delegation was very fortunate to meet with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English. Mr English was very personable and was interested to hear about how we had each been selected to attend APEC Voices of the Future. In the discussion that followed, Nick queried, “What attention APEC is giving to liberalising investment flows between APEC countries? As many countries, including NZ, restrict foreign investment (e.g. Chinese buying dairy farms) for xenophobic reasons. These restrictions hurt, not benefit, the potential recipient country.” Deputy Prime-Minister English responded by saying that the xenophobia in NZ is not as bad as the media portrays it to be, using the example of a German bank recently setting up without trouble. Words seem inadequate to explain just how amazing this opportunity was for each of us, but we hope these highlights have given you a glimpse into what we experienced, learned and will be thinking about for years to come.

HIGHLIGHTS: APEC challenges and how they are being addressed

Whilst everyone had no doubt done their research on the key focus areas of discussions, the proverb “It is better to see something once than to hear about it 100 times” comes to mind. Actually being able to witness first-hand the difficult process undertaken to achieve economic cooperation and cohesion was crucial to furthering our understanding of the challenges facing APEC and the way in which they are being addressed.

The speech we heard from Professor Manfred Steger was a highlight from the trip, and also showed us an important lesson of looking at both sides of the coin. Professor Steger spoke about the topic of “Globalisation: The ideological struggle of the 21st century”. Professor Steger gave an overview of the two main ideologies of ‘market globalisation’ and ‘justice globalisation.’  He gave the arguments of both sides, and showed us how they are polarised against each other and instilled upon us the responsibility that the youth of today have to create global dialogue and find a way to balance these two ideologies and create a working solution.

US Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Francisco Sanchez, spent half an hour with us and was another very interesting speaker. He encouraged us that as much as we are the voices of the future, we need to be the voices of today. The main point that stood out was when he was asked a question around the issue of the environmental impacts businesses are having on our climate. He replied with a remark that “investing in a sustainable planet is not a burden, rather an opportunity and a necessity.”

The most important thing we took away from President Obama’s speech was to do with embracing and encouraging China to continue to grow, but to also pose a reminder that if China wants to be a part of the wider international organisations, it must follow the rules. This stood out to us, as it highlighted the difficulties of international relations and helped reveal the difficult processes that are undertaken to encourage mutually beneficial outcomes on the international stage.


APEC Voices has reinforced upon us that we should not be intimidated by titles. All of the business and political leaders we met are people like you and me who were extremely inviting and showed genuine interest in the youth and our thoughts. It was important to have the confidence to walk up to them and engage in conversation, and this is a great skill for us as young leaders to have further developed.

Equally important were the friendships we forged with young people from all around the world. We had witnessed the efforts of leaders to increase communication and cooperation, and it’s now up to us to continue to form strong ties and build upon the work done by those before us.

With the opportunities of social networking sites like Facebook available to us today, there is no excuse for us to not keep in contact and further the bonds we have made with other like-minded youth around the world.

VOICES 2011: List
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