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VOICES 2014: Text

Five delegates from New Zealand attended the 2014 APEC CEO Voices summit in Beijing, China. The young leaders attending the Voices programme were  Matiu Fletcher from University of Auckland, David Purdue of AUT University, Nathan Tse of Victoria University of Wellington, Emily Swan from NZTE and James Jung of the Financial Markets Authority.

VOICES 2014: Image


The APEC Voices of the Future (VOTF) is annual program that allows a small number of privileged youth delegates from each APEC member economy attend the APEC CEO Summit and participate in their own APEC VOTF Forum. 

It was the New Zealand youth delegates’ great fortune that this year’s APEC CEO Summit was held in Beijing, China. Not only is China culturally rich, with a lot to offer from a tourism perspective, it is also home to the fastest growing economy in the world. There is no economy so dynamic in the world at present, so to attend a summit concerning economic change, in China, was fitting. 

VOICES 2014: List

Trip outline

Day one

Following a long 16 hour trip from Auckland to Guangzhou and then to Beijing, the New Zealand delegates finally arrived at their hotel, Minzuyuan Holiday inn Express, at which the other VOTF youth delegates were also staying. Together there were youth delegates from 16 of the 21 APEC member economies, ranging from Malaysia to Russia. That evening the delegates participated in an introductory VOF dinner. This was then followed by an orientation and briefing, conducted by the APEC Voices Leadership.

Day two

The second day started with an amazing APEC VOF 2014 Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Inner Mongolia Hotel. The delegates enjoyed a cultural performance featuring a fusion of both traditional and pop music. Once the opening came to a conclusion, it was time for the APEC Voices 2014 Youth Forum. Here one delegate representing each economy conveyed their respective economy’s view on the issues of employment and education affecting youth in the Asia-Pacific region. The New Zealand delegation had prepared a discussion revolving around five distinct challenges:

  1. Overcoming cultural and language divisions between APEC economies.

  2. Improving financial literacy.

  3. Emphasis on education in the innovative sectors of technology, engineering and mathematics.

  4. The teaching of self-reliance and independence – necessary for entrepreneurship and self-employment.

  5. Overcoming the mismatch between what tertiary education provides and the needs of the workforce.

It was refreshing and insightful to hear the different perspectives of challenges that the youth face from varying economies. Prominent issues ranged from practical ideas such as the need for an APEC Youth Travel Card (to streamline procedures for young leaders/academics studying or working abroad), to psychological matters such as becoming risk-takers and showing a fighting spirit. The open dialogue provoked a perceptive discussion of challenges that are faced by the youth – and exemplified the high calibre of young adults attending the VOTF program. Following the conclusion of the Youth Forum, the delegates departed for the Forbidden City. Tour guides led groups around the palace. The share stature and magnitude of city was astounding. The juxtaposition between the vast size of the infrastructure and the intricate detail on the roofing made it all the more amazing.The New Zealand delegates ended the day with an outing to Capital M, one of Beijing’s top restaurants. The restaurant overlooked Tiananmen Square, which was beautifully lit up. The delicious meal and beautiful view capped off an eventful day for the NZ team.

Day three

The third day was full of cultural experiences. The Voices were given the opportunity to experience school education at the highest level, at Beijing Haidian Experimental/Middle School. The students treated the delegates to an immaculately presented performance involving both orchestral arrangements and traditional Chinese dances. The delegates were then given the chance to participate in a range of traditional activities, from kite painting to dumpling making. Next on the agenda was the tour of the Great Wall. The scale of which the wall was built was mind-blowing, whilst the view at the top was well worth the steep climb. The view of the surrounding landscapes was equally as impressive as the grandeur of the wall. A couple of the NZ delegates initiated an impromptu Haka at the top of the wall, impressing passers-by and the other youth delegates. The day concluded with dinner at Bianyifang, where the Voices indulged in Peking Duck, a traditional Chinese delicacy. The very procedure of cutting the duck meat was done with immaculate precision. The meal was delicious, and for those who had never tried Peking Duck before, it was a meal to remember.

Day four

The fourth day involved an impressive art experience at 751D-Park. 751D-Park is a remarkable design studio which showcases a fusion of modern design with the historic industrial park – which once stood at that location. It hosts product releases from major household-name brands and international fashion shows; is home to one of three worldwide Audi design studios; and holds Xiaoke Theatre.It was in Xiaoke Theatre where the youth delegates met Xiao Ke, the composer and lyricist behind the Beijing Olympics’ anthem ‘Beijing Welcomes You’. Despite limited singing ability, the delegates were then recorded in the music studio, singing the anthem’s chorus. That evening the Voices had the pleasure of attending the APEC Business Leaders’ Night. This was a privilege to attend, and was a prime opportunity for the youth delegates to network with major CEOs and diplomats from the Asia-Pacific Region. The performance showcased a history of Beijing entwined with Chinese cultural performances. There was a mixture of Chinese opera, acrobatics and popular culture to cap off an entertaining day.

Day five

The fifth day involved the first session of the APEC CEO Summit. This was what many delegates were looking forward to the most. To see and hear from some of the most powerful people in the world, whether they be heads of state or chairman of large companies, was a great honour. What they had to say was extremely interesting and captivating, as history literally unfolded on stage.

The day started with a keynote address by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. It was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of a man with such influence on a global scale. No earlier in the trip did the delegates get a sense of the scale and importance of the Summit. The day then proceeded with various dialogues on topics such as regional economic integration, growth and cooperation, economic sustainability and fragility, competitiveness and innovation. Each summit dialogue ended with the opportunity for open questions, which some youth delegates seized to ask pressing questions. The experience was insightful and stimulated a lot of thought towards steps needed to be taken by economies in the APEC region. The first day of the APEC CEO Summit ended with a tremendous Gala Dinner. 

Day six

The New Zealand delegates were lucky enough to attend a breakfast with the Rt. Hon. John Key and CEOs and chairman from New Zealand’s top companies, on the last day of the Summit. It was a privilege to speak one on one with the New Zealand Prime Minister, whilst also a great opportunity to speak and network with some of the most powerful New Zealand members of the business world.

The second day of the CEO Summit continued in the same fashion as the first, with fascinating dialogues provoking thoughts and intrigue over issues such as rising global inequality, regulation and global finance and investment infrastructure. After a networking lunch, the President of the Russian Federation, H.E. Vladimir Putin gave a charismatic talk about Russia’s role in the Asia-Pacific.

The Summit concluded with a final address by the President of the United States, the Honourable Barack Obama, on economic priorities for achieving Asia-Pacific prosperity.

This speech was simply breath-taking. The assertiveness and poise used when speaking really entranced the audience, while unlike other speakers, the President spoke with boldness and command.

To conclude an eventful trip, the Voices all participated in an APEC VOF Cultural Night, where each economy performed a cultural arrangement. Of course the New Zealand delegates performed the popular Haka, which impressed as always.

VOICES 2014: List

Meeting with NZ ABAC members and Prime Minister

We were honored to attend a breakfast meeting with our Prime Minister, New Zealand ABAC members, and New Zealand business leaders on the last day of the Summit. This was located at a private venue at a Hotel near the National Convention Centre where the Summit was held.

We had the opportunity to individually meet with our PM and have a friendly conversation with him. Our time with the Prime Minister and the ABAC members was much appreciated and most enjoyable, definitely proving to be a highlight of the week.


We would like to extend our combined appreciation for the Voices Organisers from Singapore (James Soh and Aileen Yap) and especially from the New Zealand end, David Ward, Lester Khoo, John Randal and to all of the New Zealand ABAC representatives, and especially Stephen Jacobi and Wayne Boyd for the time they took to meet with us despite their busy schedules.

We had the fantastic opportunity to have a meeting with two of New Zealand’s most experienced business leaders and APEC Business Advisory Council member, Wayne Boyd and Stephen Jacobi. Stephen met with us for lunch in Auckland prior to our trip to Beijing, answering questions and providing valuable background to ABAC and New Zealand goals for APEC. We also had the wonderful opportunity to have a meeting with Wayne on the last day of the Summit in Beijing. Wayne spent over an hour speaking to us about his background and experience, and providing us with valuable advice about life and career opportunities which lies ahead of us. We are particularly grateful for everything that Lester and John put into the trip. They really went above and beyond their duties to ensure that we got the most out of the experience. Huge thanks to our educators for their generosity on the trip, the time they gave to us, supporting us, organising us and for making this trip happen. Appreciation also to MFAT for the opportunity to meet with and dialogue with the New Zealand Prime Minister, during the key New Zealand Delegation networking event. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

We would all like to acknowledge and show our huge appreciation to the respective organisations who sponsored our travels. Your sponsorship has provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity, that has widened all of our perspectives and that none of us will ever forget.

VOICES 2014: List

Matiu Fletcher - University of Auckland

Naku te rourou, nau te rourou ka hora ai te iwi!

With my basket of knowledge, and your basket of knowledge, our people will thrive! 

Being part of this year’s APEC has opened my mind to the possibilities in which our country is able to achieve our goals through communication and co-operation with the other 21 economies. Taking part in the CEO Summit was also an amazing experience, meeting new people and leaders from other economies and from our own little country too. Developing connection was a big part for me while attending APEC, especially with the other youth delegates all over the globe as we may become potential partners in the near or far future. The knowledge I have obtained, and the people I have met have made this one of the best experiences I could ever have. 

David Purdue - AUT

First off I would like to thank the sponsors for their support in allowing me to attend APEC Beijing summit I would also like to thank our educators Lester and John for helping us throughout this awesome journey. My experience throughout APEC Beijing has been a life changing experience I had many expectations before going and was looking forward to seeing and feeling the culture of China and I am happy to say that from this trip China has exceeded all expectations.

To me the highlight of the APEC summit was to hear the Big Three economic leaders share their future plans and goals for our economies this was truly an experience I will never forget.

From this event it has inspired me to work towards a future in helping Maori owned and operated companies to invest in or be invested in by the APEC economies. This event has also pushed me to improve my Chinese language skills to a level that can be effective in international trade and investing.

I have already had the opportunity since coming home from APEC to continue with this goal by volunteering for NZTE event where Xi Jing Ping visited New Zealand after the G20 I was given the opportunity again to hear him speak about the cultural and economic relationship we share and our goal as economic partners to create $30 billion dollar bilateral trade by 2020. All this has come to light because of APEC VOF and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of such an empowering event.

Nathan Tse - Victoria University of Wellington

Attending the APEC VOTF program was a huge honour for me and an unparalleled opportunity for me to get a taste for international business and diplomacy. Attending a conference of this magnitude was something completely new and out of my comfort zone, but by heading into it with an open mind and willing attitude, I was prepared to absorb as much as I could out of the experience. There were four distinct realms of which I got the most out of the trip:

1. Most importantly, for me, was the personal growth and direction I gained during the APEC VOF program. Going into the program as one of the younger youth delegates, in my first year of university, I came in with little sense of direction in terms of what I wanted to be and how to go about getting there. Being younger, I am also very impressionable. The amount of advice and mentoring I received from our NZ educators, other youth delegates, CEOs and ABAC members, offered both motivation and direction. The VOF program also makes you grow as a person. Speaking on behalf of the New Zealand delegation at the APEC VOF 2014 Youth Forum was nerve-racking, but provided a sense of fulfilment and achievement to have done it. Meeting new people at the APEC Business Leaders’ Night was something completely different for me. Naturally, you become more outgoing when in the networking environment. Both speaking at the Youth Forum and networking with CEOs left me with confidence and a better understanding of business interaction.

2. The education I received during the trip was invaluable. It was important to go into the APEC CEO Summit with an open mind. Different opinions on the importance of both bilateral and multilateral agreements; different methods of lowering trade barriers (i.e. not just tariff reductions); the Silk Road Economic Belt; methods of economic sustainability; how to create a competitive regulatory environment; and financial integration, were just some of the few topics of which I absorbed some basic knowledge. Each discussion was really just a taste, but has fuelled me to pursue further into this area of academia.

3. The third realm is that of a spectator. To see H.E. Xi Jinping, H.E. Vladimir Putin and the Honourable Barack Obama speak in person was a personal highlight of the trip. Each had their own outstandingly, distinct speaking styles, which left many in awe. I was taken aback by the charisma of President Putin, whilst the clarity and authority of both President Xi and President Obama was amazing. This was truly an experience to write home about. But it was not just these three speakers, each dialogue had a truly amazing panel, filled by heads of state or chairmen/CEOs of top companies. To think that these people were representing such powerful entities was really amazing.

4. I also came away with a greater understanding of the cultural side of China. The performances that we were treated to, throughout the APEC VOF program gave us an insight to traditional dance, music and games. The rich history which we experienced through visits to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall was also apparent. The Great Wall itself was exceptionally impressive and emphasised the magnificence of ancient Chinese civilisation.

The APEC Voices of the Future program has been an experience that I will never forget. The friends I have gained within the Voices program and the connections I have established are truly unparalleled. The personal development that I have achieved from this experience has made me a more all-round individual. I am now more motivated and determined to go down a path that will push my boundaries and lead to the success of those I met during the program. It is honestly an unforgettable experience and one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to broaden their horizons

James Jung - Financial Markets Authority

First of all, I would like to thank the APEC VOF organisers for giving me the opportunity to attend the APEC 2014 in Beijing. It was truly a memorable and rewarding experience where I gained many positives for my personal and professional pathways. It was inspiring to hear from world and business leaders which gave me the opportunity to learn about a wide range of economic issues facing the Asia-Pacific and its legal implications. In particular, one of the key highlights for me was seeing the panel discussion session on “Securing the Future of Global Finance: How can Trust be Restored?” which included our own Prime Minister Rt. Hon. John Key as one of the speakers and Dr Alan Bollard as the panel moderator. Another key highlight of my experience was attending the breakfast meeting with our PM and New Zealand’s business leaders. The opportunity to casually converse, share my views and seek advice from New Zealand’s most influential people was definitely an enriching experience.

Emily Swan – New Zealand Trade & Enterprise / NZ-China Scholar 2014

Being already based in China (Shanghai), I was so fortunate to see China prepare for APEC, then have the unrivalled opportunity to be on the ground and experience APEC through the voices program in Beijing. The atmosphere was according to locals, was similar to that during the Olympic Games with China showcasing itself (in this context – economically), to the world. We were able to see Beijing in a (traffic-free) light, from the Forbidden City to the great wall, to experiencing true Peking Duck with a table of true Beijing locals!

As much as highlight was also learning and interacting with the international VOF delegates from around the world, and in possibly the highest level setting we could have imagined, the CEO Summit. Gathering some 1400 business leaders from around Asia Pacific for this summit, and as young leaders being empowered to meet, listen, learn and mingle – is the highest level we could have imagined.

Being a previous participant in the APEC VOF program, I know the value of these connections and soaked up every chance I could to attend seminars and meet people – from the Chairman of JP Morgan while you are getting a coffee, to sitting at a table with a full Chinese delegation of President, Vice President, CEO etc.. and getting the chance to navigate through business cards and introductions in Chinese. All were invaluable for me as I build my career marketing NZ export products in Asia, especially also the food safety and security discussion.

Great thanks to John and Lester for their commitment to organise the NZ delegation so well – we were complemented on our representation and I know that no one will forget the atmosphere in the room during the final Haka performance (not to mention the version on the great wall too). I am proud to represent NZ and also motivated more than ever to build my career and succeed doing business in APEC economies – going back into this from VOF 2014 with enhanced understanding and cultural empathy, that comes from such a brilliant opportunity like the Voices program.

VOICES 2014: List
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