Day 3 at APEC, Voices of the Future

13 11 2011

Apec Voices of the Future delegates meet Ambassador Kim Beazley

Another early start took us into the heart of what APEC is all about with a role observing a 7.30 am meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council’s Regional Economic Integration working group.

The working group is one of many business-oriented groups which seeks to make doing business in the Asia-Pacific region more straightforward. It seeks to assist trade and investment “at the border”, enhancing supply chain connectivity “across the border” and improving the business environment “behind the border”.

Before continuing it’s important to mention that APEC isn’t a compliance body, rather its 21 member economies have the option of being part of the regimes and programs established. Obviously the more economies involved in a particular reform, the more likely it is to deliver its intended change (particularly if the bigger economies sign up).

Two main themes came out of the working group’s discussions. Firstly their desire to break down chokes in the system. Those are blockages which, if removed, aid businesses to freely and successfully do business across the region, and secondly the evidence which shows that the Asia-Pacific’s service sectors require significant policy attention.

The first issue, chokes in the system, was based on a study by the Marshall School of Business out of the University of Southern California. The school have studied the challenges of doing business in the Asia-Pacific region and identified where chokes can be broken down. The need to eradicate red-tape; streamline labour and employment portability across the region; develop appropriate strategic infrastructure and develop more flexible finance options were among the key elements identified. It was interesting to observe these incredibly high level discussions and feel that we were witnessing decision making in action – decisions about how these things can be overcome.

The second notable issue was the need for sustained attention to be paid to the Asia Pacific’s service sector. There was a clear sentiment that service sectors have long been ignored by regional policy makers in favour of the heavy and primary industries. However, the working group’s members argued that with service sectors now the main employers in many developed countries, we need to look at how we can drive reforms in this area as well as the traditional foci on heavy industries. Interestingly evidence shows that investment in and development of an economy’s service sector brings more women into employment and helps economies out of poverty.

In the afternoon we had the privilege of meeting with Australian Ambassador to the USA, Hon Kim Beazley, more famous to Australians as long term Labor Opposition Leader. Our time with Ambassador Beazley was extended from 20 to 40 minutes, quite a coup for us. We spent time talking to the Ambassador about Australia’s role in APEC and defence in the region, but then as we got more relaxed we chatted about US and Australian politics and the current state of play in both countries. He was frank, down-to-earth and friendly – our time with him was definitely a highlight of the week thus far.

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