Senior Asia-Pacific business representatives, meeting in the APEC Business Advisory Council under Chile’s dynamic leadership this year, are committed to achieving inclusive and sustainable growth. The digital economy is clearly going to be a key enabler, and Chile is developing two exciting initiatives – a start-up competition and a digital marketplace – that could help to unlock some of the potential for New Zealand SMEs.
Chile’s priorities for APEC and ABAC this year focus on “inclusive and collaborative growth in the digital era” – topics on which ABAC New Zealand members Phil O’Reilly and Tenby Powell have likewise been playing an active role in ABAC, and which will be a significant focus for the Council’s upcoming meeting in Hangzhou from 22 to 25 July, as ABAC members start to prepare for their annual “Dialogue” with APEC Economic Leaders in mid-November.
“Hosting APEC and ABAC (as New Zealand will have its own opportunity to do in 2021) provides an excellent opportunity to take forward smart ideas for the region”
Avoiding the stop signs
Finding new ways to unlock economic potential in the region, especially for small businesses and small economies, becomes all the more important as the trade war grinds on, accelerating the dismal trend towards protectionism that has emerged in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, as is compellingly detailed in this recent report. Small, outward-looking economies like Chile and New Zealand are renowned both for their commitment to open markets and for their creative thinking about how to get there, and hosting APEC and ABAC (as New Zealand will have its own opportunity to do in 2021) provides an excellent opportunity to take forward smart ideas for the region.
ABAC Chile seeking to broaden and deepen networks
Against that backdrop, ABAC Executive Director Loreto Leyton of the Chile Pacific Foundation, is in town this week to deepen connections with New Zealand. Her visit – sponsored by the Latin America Centre for Asia-Pacific Excellence – was primarily to speak at Tuesday’s ‘Building the Southern Link Conference’ (an initiative aimed at turbo-charging connectivity between China, New Zealand and South America), but also includes events in Auckland and in Wellington on Friday to brief the business, academic and policy community on ABAC Chile’s goals for this year.
A green light for SMEs in the digital economy
During her Auckland presentation, Loreto highlighted two ABAC Chile initiatives which seek to create tangible new opportunities for SMEs: an ‘APEC Start-Up Challenge’ and the ‘MondeB2B’ digital marketplace.
At the starting line…
The APEC Start-Up Challenge provides an opportunity for three or four outstanding entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to business leaders at an APEC SME Summit on 14 November in Santiago. The challenge theme is on the circular economy and digitization, but the competition is open to virtually any sector and type of business, including for example, businesses focused on sustainability and environmental goods and services, logistics, monitoring systems, and frontier technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things. More information will be posted on the www.tradeworks.org.nz website shortly.
…ready, set, go
The ‘APEC MondeB2B Platform’, on the other hand, has been designed to help solve some of the formidable challenges SMEs face in globalising (a topic on which readers may recall ABAC NZ’s Tenby Powell led a major research project in ABAC last year), including for example around visibility and networks, fragmentation of export efforts, high trade costs and issues around online trust and consumer protection. The new MondeB2B platform is intended to provide a safe, business-friendly environment for SMEs to connect and do business. The platform is at the trial phase involving a handful of South American and South-East Asian economies and does not yet include New Zealand, but work is underway to broaden it throughout the APEC region and onboard other economies.
Keep on trucking
These great initiatives offer some exciting new practical possibilities for New Zealand firms. But they also show that many in the Asia-Pacific are keen to keep the region moving forward – no road rage necessary.
This post has been prepared by NZIBF Associate Director and ABAC New Zealand policy advisor Stephanie Honey.