Overview

The APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit is Asia Pacific’s premier business event, and in 2012 was held in Vladivostok, Russia with a theme of “addressing challenges, expanding possibilities”. The Voices of the Future programme provides a high-level and stimulating opportunity for future leaders from each economy within the Asia-Pacific to learn and network with global leaders and the region’s leading CEOs. The delegates chosen this year to represent New Zealand as part of the Voices of the Future programme were Tim McCready, Sarah Fagan, and Emily Swan, who fully took advantage of the opportunity to learn from and build connections with current and future leaders. With the annual summit held in the Russian Far East, delegates to the conference were shown an impressive country with bold ambitions – many embedded in the Asia-Pacific, that dispelled myths and stereotypes.

There were three components to the Voices of the Future programme this year:

  • the APEC CEO Summit, which brings together regional and global business community leaders for a candid and multifaceted debate on the objectives, opportunities, constraints, and policy choices we face today

  • the ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) meetings, where senior business leaders from the 21 economies present recommendations to APEC leaders in an annual dialogue and advise APEC officials on business sector priorities and concerns

  • the APEC Youth Forum, where delegates from the APEC economies debated topical issues within the Asia-Pacific to form a declaration for leaders.

 

Highlights

Political Leaders

 

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. Sarah Fagan noted that “Secretary Clinton’s support for women in business and the promotion of green growth was poignant and very inspirational”.

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”, notes Tim McCready. “Russia has finally joined the World Trade Organisation after an 18 year wait, and having Vladivostok chosen as the APEC venue marks an exciting time as Russia becomes more integrated into the global economy.”

 
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.

 

Business Leaders

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. “This session was challenging as a New Zealander, given our focus on primary products and adding value through high quality exports of food”, noted Emily Swan. “It also shone a light into the urgency to improve efficiencies in food production, and the role New Zealand could have in sharing our knowledge and methods in this field.”

Has capitalism lost its compass? Panelists on both sides debated our current economic system’s definition and flaws, while considering its future and whether it can still be revived. Jim Rogers and Artyom Volynets defended capitalism while Chandran Nair (founder of the Global Institute for Tomorrow) and Frank-Jurgen Richter argued that it has lost its compass. “This session sparked an interest in me as a development studies student, particularly as I am aware of the clear disparities our current system has created”, commented Sarah Fagan, “Chandran Nair supported that capitalism has indeed lost its ‘moral’ compass, as  its reliance on promoting relentless consumption is degrading the values vital to preserving people and planet. I agreed with this notion and look forward to further research into alternate models.”

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”, recalls Tim McCready. “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 APEC Business Advisory Council

The New Zealand Voices of the Future delegation met with New Zealand’s ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) representatives Tony Nowell, Fiona Cooper-Clarke, Maxine Simmons, Wayne Boyd and Stephen Jacobi. They invited us to attend several ABAC meetings on board the Legend of the Seas cruise ship in Vladivostok sea terminal, where we heard ABAC representatives discuss how to augment ABAC’s policy leverage into the APEC officials’ decision-making process.We also attended the ABAC SME seminar, where we heard from several representatives about current issues affecting the growth and internationalisation of SMEs – many factors the same as those we had been discussing as part of the Voices of the Future programme. New Zealand ABAC representative Maxine Simmons gave a fascinating presentation on the importance of women at the executive and board level of SMEs, which generated a lot of thought-provoking discussion following the meeting.

 

Networking opportunities

It was an incredible privilege to meet and learn from this gathering of  distinguished business people and global leaders at the various APEC events. We were humbled by the generosity of time delegates, leaders, and the New Zealand ABAC members showed us, which displayed the power of the APEC platform to integrate not only members, but industries, ages and cultures.

“Having more than 700 business executives as well as most of the region’s political leaders in Vladivostok for the APEC summit meant that opportunities for meaningful discussion, debate and networking were plentiful, said Tim McCready. “With every conversation I felt privileged to be in a room, on a bus, or sitting at a dinner table with such influential people from the Asia-Pacific.”

 

The Russian Federation

The Russian Federation was the host of the APEC Summit this year, and it would be fair to say that although the Voices of the Future delegation knew of the increasing scale and importance of Russia as one of the world’s key emerging economies, details on Russia’s culture and business environment was largely unknown.

APEC brought people together in Vladivostok, which besides being the terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway, is a region of Russia not often experienced by tourists, but is particularly valuable for the Asia-Pacific – with the Russian Far East facing Asia, and Vladivostok bordering China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan. Throughout Russia, Vladivostok itself is known for its hospitable people and recent transformation from a port town, to the ‘face of Russia’ at APEC with $21 billion of infrastructure developments, such as the largest suspension bridge in the world, and the new 50,000 student Federated Far Eastern University (where APEC Summit was held).

 

Voices of the Future delegates joined the Youth Forum, whose participants were selected from around Russia to represent their country. They came with a generosity of spirit to share their culture and learn from our perspectives. This created an atmosphere to make new friends and outside the workshops, extended to fascinating city tours and memorable experiences of local specialities. Overall the program was organised to allow plenty of opportunity to discuss life in Russia from the perspective of a young person in a country with a diverse history, and a very exciting future.“It was an amazing opportunity to interact with youth from all over the Asia-Pacific”, says Sarah Fagan. “There is so much to learn through these cross cultural relationships including awareness, empathy and understanding – all of which I have brought back and will use to enhance discussions within my own community.”

 

Concluding comments

“Attending APEC’s Youth Summit and CEO Summit 2012 has truly opened my eyes up to the interconnectedness of our Asia-Pacific Region, and how this is only going to increase in the future. It is vital for us as New Zealanders to value our relationships with these neighbouring economies and continue building stronger ties within the region. I’m looking forward to sharing what I have learnt, and promoting that any future trade deals are of quality and will be mutually beneficial to all involved, ensuring that all in our wonderfully dynamic region can prosper equally in future economic developments.” – Sarah Fagan

“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.” – Tim McCready

“When we first arrived at the APEC Summit, a delegate told us that many people come to APEC with a local perspective, and leave with a regional perspective. I saw this for myself and left Russia with a new level of enthusiasm and passion to integrate a wider view into my work, and to play an active role in the ongoing development of APEC. This was an amazing opportunity that I am enormously grateful for and am certain I’ll look back on this as a pivotal point in shaping my future career.”  - Emily Swan

 

Finally, we would like to extend our thanks to James Soh, Aileen Yap, David Ward, the VTM-Trust, and others behind the organisation of the Voices of the Future programme. It is safe to say that this year’s delegation has been the most challenging administratively and we are very aware and grateful at how hard the organisers worked to make sure it happened. A special thank you also must go to the New Zealand ABAC delegation for their support and inclusion in Vladivostok.

We would also like to thank the organisers of the APEC Youth Festival, for including the Voices of the Future delegation in their event, and for showing us all such a great time around the wonderful city of Vladivostok.

Tim McCready would like to extend a big thank you to Melanie Crawford for her help with logistics, and to the Asia New Zealand Foundation for supporting his participation in the APEC Summit.Emily Swan would like to extend appreciation to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, for their support with leave to be able to take part in the Voices of the Future program.

APEC Voices 2012 - Vladivostok, Russia

Young leaders from New Zealand attended the APEC 2012 Voices of the Future from 2 – 8 September in Vladivostok, Russia.The delegates selected to attend the Voices programme included Tim McCready, Sarah Fagan and Emily Swan.