Guest post: Singapore slings and regional economic integration

by | Feb 22, 2017 | Trade Working Blog


Guest post from Katherine Rich, CEO of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council and a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council.

 How to keep connecting Asia-Pacific economies in the face of challenges such as rising anti-trade feeling and disruptive new technologies was a central question at an Executive Roundtable I attended in Singapore, hosted by the US National Center for APEC.

The powerhouse APEC region is of course central to New Zealand’s prosperity, with a market of more than three billion people taking over half of our exports and supplying much of our foreign investment. We had some useful discussions in Singapore on the importance of breaking down blockages in food trade, including non-tariff barriers, and the nexus between food, trade and health – a topic that doesn’t normally get much attention but makes an important contribution to both “food security” and broader social goals.

Not surprisingly, the future of TPP and the attitude of the new US Administration to trade cast a long shadow, with several commenting that economic and geo-strategic uncertainties were already prompting greater business caution on investment. Across the board, however, speakers (including Tami Overby of the US Chamber of Commerce) stressed the imperative of greater regional integration.   Vu Tien Loc of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (and Chairman of this year’s APEC CEO Summit in November) commented that it would not be possible to stop globalisation, even if some wanted to – “We need more connectivity, not less, and we need sustainable and inclusive integration.”   In keeping with that theme, APEC Executive Director (and Kiwi) Alan Bollard reminded participants about the huge importance of the services sector, but cautioned that APEC had a long way to go to equal the scale and sophistication of services trade in Europe and elsewhere.   Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, highlighted the value of international education, which is of course a sector of keen interest to New Zealand.

Many speakers also emphasised the huge potential of Asia – a “vast pool of untapped consumption”.   Author and academic Parag Khanna, noting that “Who rules the supply chain, rules the world,” emphasised the continued dominance of the Asia region particularly as a result of cross-regional value chains, citing China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative.

Finally the potential for new technologies to disrupt trade and economic models was also discussed at length.   Maria Ressa, CEO of online media outlet Rappler, highlighted the evolution of social media and its significant impacts on long-established models of public debate and political discourse.     Scott Price of Walmart talked about the potential for ‘curated online experiences’ for retail. Others emphasied the huge growth in e-Commerce in the region. All in all, it was an excellent two days of discussions – appropriately signed off with a thirst-quenching Singapore Sling!


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.

Latest News


Perhaps a cyclone was after all a fitting backdrop for the meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) which was held in Auckland on 12-14 February – the global environment against which the meeting took place is decidedly stormy.  In the event the wind...


As I write this end of year dispatch, NZIBF is preparing to host the first meeting for 2023 of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).  We are looking forward to welcoming the 200 or so business leaders and senior officials from APEC member economies across the...

NZ Herald: Time to lift our game in India

Following his recent visit to India our Executive Director Stephen Jacobi penned this article advocating a more strategic approach to the further development of the relationship. The article was published by the NZ Herald on 9 December.

APEC Rolls out Priorities for 2023

Issued by the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting - Honolulu, The United States, 13 December 2022 Aiming to provide tailwinds for member economies to strengthen recovery and resilience, as well as advance broad-based economic growth, the United States rolled out its...

NZIBF 2022 Chair Report

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2022 CHAIR’S REPORT I am pleased to present my second report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business Forum (NZIBF) for 2022-23, our fifteenth year of operations.  At the outset I would like to thank Members for...


New Zealand business will be represented at the APEC Leaders’ Week in Bangkok, commencing 13 November, by members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). New Zealand’s three members – Rachel Taulelei, Malcolm Johns and Anna Curzon – supported by Stephen Jacobi...

Submission to MFAT for CPTPP Review

30 September 2022 Phil Mellor Economic Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington (By email) Dear Phil, Thank you for your email of 1 September, seeking our comments on the three year review of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans...