Guest post from Katherine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council and New Zealand member of the APEC Business Advisory Council
Meetings of APEC business and political leaders in Da Nang over the next ten days will focus on what kind of future we see for the Asia-Pacific at a time of unprecedented change in the region. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have her first opportunity to discuss these important issues with fellow Leaders from the US, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Russia and many others.
The Asia-Pacific region has become the dynamic ‘centre of gravity’ for the global economy: it encompasses 3 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world’s economy, trade of US$20 trillion and rates of GDP growth unparalleled elsewhere in the world. It is a core partner for New Zealand, taking over 70 percent of our exports and imports, and serving as a vital source and destination of capital, ideas, technology, inputs and skilled workers.
Next week I will be joining fellow members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), including Kiwi colleagues Phil O’Reilly, Tenby Powell and our Alternate Stephen Jacobi, for our final ABAC meeting of the year. We will have the chance to take stock of progress on important topics such as non-tariff barriers, the digital economy, food security and giving a helping hand to small business, as well as looking ahead to a future Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.
The Da Nang programme also includes our annual ABAC Dialogue with APEC Leaders, at which we will have the opportunity to showcase the business community’s priorities and concerns. I will have the privilege of meeting along with a dozen ABAC colleagues in a small group involving PM Ardern, President Xi Jinping of China, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru. Phil has been asked to moderate a similar session involving Russian President Putin of Russia, next year’s ABAC Chair PNG President Peter O’Neill and the leaders of Chile and Thailand, while Tenby is participating in a group that includes President Trump along with the Leaders of Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. The Annual APEC CEO Summit will also take place during the week. We will be joined by a small but high-quality New Zealand contingent drawn from leading firms and organisations for discussions with over 1,000 senior business colleagues and thought-leaders in this space.
A major focus during the various meetings in Da Nang will be how to make globalisation, trade liberalisation and technological change work better for our communities, to ensure that we are able to achieve truly sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Of acute interest to New Zealand, the Leaders of the “TPP-11” countries, including our Prime Minister, will of course also be getting together to explore how to take that critically important agreement forward.
Now more than ever this ‘future-casting’ of the Asia-Pacific region will help to shape the kind of ‘neighbourhood’ that will effectively deliver better living standards for New Zealanders and a prosperous economy for the years ahead. The New Zealand business community looks forward to playing its part in that critical undertaking.