It’s more fun in the Philippines!

The Philippines was the exuberant host for this year’s series of APEC meetings in Manila.

The political backdrop was all about terrorism in Europe and the Middle East, growing concern about security in the South China Sea and rising concerns about the impact of dangerous climate change. All this would have given food for thought for the 21 Leaders including President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping as they sat down for their retreat on 19 November.

Earlier in the week the economic issues were to the fore as Trade Ministers concluded their discussions and the region’s business leaders gathered at the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and then at the APEC CEO Summit. The focus was squarely on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and how it could be used once signed and ratified to build a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) amongst the 21 member economies of APEC.

ABAC’s last meeting for 2015 was notable for the production of three reports – a study about new business issues that could be included in FTAAP, a detailed investigation about barriers to SMEs accessing e-commerce and an a analysis of the region’s most liveable cities in which Auckland ranks 6th out of 28 (but with some very low scores about affordability and connectivity). These reports will be posted to www.abaconline.org.

ABAC welcomed the conclusion of TPP but not without considerable debate –with those who think TPP falls short of the high quality agreement it was meant to be and with those who contend it sets standards that are too high for others in the region to follow. The NZ team made it clear that while TPP does not achieve all we hoped it would especially for dairy the deal overall is a very good one for us and for the region.

When ABAC Members (including Tony Nowell, Katherine Rich and Stephen Jacobi) sat down for Dialogue with Leaders, the emphasis was squarely on trade in both goods and services, the digital economy and the concerns of SMEs. It is particularly powerful way for business leaders to present these concerns directly to those responsible for the directing the course of the region’s economy.

The news has now broken that New Zealand has offered to host a signing ceremony for TPP. This reflects New Zealand’s role in initiating TPP in the first place and hopefully can show that when it comes to trade things can be fun in New Zealand too.

This post was prepared by Stephen Jacobi, an Alternate Member for the APEC Business Advisory Council.