Tuesday, September 11, 2007

And now it’s Time to Say Goodbye…

Well the end has finally come to our 9 day stint in Sydney, Australia. We are currently sitting in the Atlanta airport after 32 hours in transit. Needless to say we are exhausted and dirty (especially Pete), but we are taking advantage of our three hour layover to evaluate our experience.

One of the foremost questions we had going into the trip was how an organization that lacks enforcement mechanisms can achieve anything of note. Although we didn’t necessarily see it all, there was a great deal of high-level, high-quality dialogue that took place among business and political leaders at ABAC and APEC. That dialogue has an intrinsic value; however, the only true measurable gains that APEC can produce come with issues of trade facilitation (i.e. lowering transaction costs). That might be something of a controversial statement given the achievements of falling tariffs, raising millions out of poverty, and prioritizing climate change for which APEC regularly credits itself. Nevertheless, it’s hard to discern whether or not in these cases APEC is the cause or merely one independent variable among others.

What this APEC will be remembered for the most is the Sydney Declaration which was decided upon consensus by the leaders of the 21 member economies at close of business Saturday. The non-binding agreement set forth plans to slow, stop, and regress the effects of global warming and climate change. This effort was heavily pushed forward by the United States, and Australia. Though most consider this a modest agreement, it is a step in the right direction. It sets goals for reforestation and the reduction of energy-intensity. It also called upon the United Nations to handle climate-change negotiations while leaders are working to find an acceptable replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.

What we will particularly remember is the extreme level of security that Sydney was under during APEC. Although there was the presence of businessman, political leaders, and media from the 21 member economies, the city felt like a ghost town when walking around because of the large amount of barricades. The average person visiting Sydney would not have known that APEC was the biggest event to be held there since the 2000 Olympics. Many businesses were affected and many Sydney-siders left town for the week, leaving the Australian police as the one of the only . The Australian police were an ever-present force during our time.

The greatest benefit that we are bringing home to the United States is the interaction we had with university students from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. It will be fascinating to see what roles these students will play in their country and throughout the region as they begin to use their Voices.

We would like to especially thank the Riley Institute and the John I. Smith Foundation for making this experience possible. We would also like to thank Dr. Don Gordon for taking time out of his schedule to accompany us to Australia and serve as our mentor and educator while we were there.

G’day Mates!
Alli, Anna, Elizabeth & Pete

Monday, September 10, 2007

APEC Business Summit

Some people are good, and some people are lucky. The rest of the group assures me that I am only the later, and on Friday, they may have been right. I had the good fortune of being randomly selected to attend the APEC Business Summit at the Sydney Opera House. My group was ushered through layer after layer of security, past the 10 foot tall chain-link fence erected around the central business district, past the watchful eyes of police and soldiers, and into the historic opera house.

Stephen Harper spoke in English and French about Canada’s efforts to combat global warning. The Prime Minister emphasized the need to strike a balance between environmental stewardship and economic growth. He laid out some concrete targets for emissions reductions within Canada over the next three years and expressed support for the 50% world emission reduction proposed by Japan for 2050. Prime Minister Harper was extremely impressive.

The panel that followed offered a less optimistic view. The panelists including the CEOs of CNOOC and Chevron agreed: coal is king (it’s the cheapest and most abundant energy source available) and it is here to stay (large reserves in China and the U.S. are one reason why coal consumption is expected to double by 2050). I was slightly disheartened to hear the chairman of BHP Billion largely discount alternative energy sources as too costly to interest the market. The discussion focused on the need for technology to enable the cleaner burning of coal. Another surprising bit of information offered: deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia will account for 15 – 20% of global emissions over the next several years.

A second panel which included the Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello, discussed the state of the regional economy ten years on from the Asian financial crisis. All concurred that another meltdown was unlikely; however, they want to see reform in China and the IMF and World Bank. The discourse was a bit heady to say the least. A former head of the IMF traded observations with the current head of the Asian Development Bank on foreign exchange reserves, capital flows, and the American sub-prime mortgage market. I soaked up what I could and wrote down the rest.

President Garcia of Peru closed the session by offering a vision for next year’s APEC meeting in Lima. He promised that issues important to developing economies will be front and center.

We almost had more trouble getting out of the secured zone than we did getting in. Did I mention the security was overkill? Nevertheless, it was an incredible opportunity.


So Long, Farewell…I need to say goodbye

Last night we had our farewell dinner at Miramare Gardens. Our dinner was delicious, and we all enjoyed the chance to say our goodbyes and exchange contact information. After dinner, it was time for our “cultural presentations.”

Each delegation had planned a presentation for the group. The Japanese students made every delegation a banner with their country’s name written in Japanese calligraphy. The Indonesian and Vietnamese delegations wore traditional clothing from their countries and demonstrated ceremonial dances. Then the Mexican delegation danced and sang and danced and sang. (They were definitely the most energetic delegation in the program). Finally, Pete, Elizabeth, Anna, and I rapped about the USA to the beat of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Pete prefaced the rap by saying that because the United States always gets a bad rap, we wanted to give our country a good rap.

As we did some last minute exploring in Sydney today, we shared stories about our interactions this week. I never thought that I would form such close relationships with so many of the students. One of our new Vietnamese friends, Trung, spent a lot of time with us this week, and he has decided that he wants to come to Furman to study.

I also enjoyed hearing the perspectives of my new Australian friend, Cassie. She and I discussed a wide range of issues this week from Iraq to global warming. While we had different perspectives, we found that we certainly had common ground on which to stand. As I reflected upon our discussions, I realized the importance of organizations like APEC. It is only when we come together in one place to discuss the issues, to eat meals together, and to laugh together, that we can truly began to work together toward a common goal. If we want to be a global community and not simply a group of globalized nations, then we must continue to engage one another and most importantly we must continue to listen to every voice.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

The ABAC Experience

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to interview several ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council) delegates.We arrived at the Hilton Hotel early in the morning where we were shown to a waiting area. At first things were slow, but with short notice we were informed to prepare for our first meeting with the entire ABAC Japanese delegation.

The three delegates representing Japan are: Yukio Shotuku, CEO, Panasonic; Yoshirro Watamabe, CEO, Mitsubishi; and Yoshio Ishizaka, CEO, Toyota. They explained their different working groups and their roles within them. The challenging thing about our interviews was that they required us to think on our feet because we were given little information about these men prior. Since two of the delegates represented major automakers and the other chaired the climate change working group, the men’s perspective into business’ role in environmental issues was one of the main focuses of our discussion. Mr. Shotuku explained that developed nations are responsible within the APEC region to “take the lion’s share” when concerning the environment, because developing nations need time to develop. Being that Japan is the most developed country in Asia, their perception demonstrated great leadership in undertaking environmental issues.

Next we were told to stay seated, because we would be interviewing the former Chairman of ABAC when it was held in South Korea in 2005. Jae-Hyun Hyun was the owner and chairman of the Tony Yang Group, one of the most successful businesses in South Korea. His company had truly diversified over the years – evolving from a manufacturer of cement to a company that also encompassed investments, and finance. He also used his business as an example of how businesses must be flexible and always willing to change their product in order to meet the demand of the consumers. Mr. Hyun also offered many life lessons to our group, the most important of which was, “to have a real goal and dream, and if you really work hard, then no dreams will be unrealized.” When asked about the essence of compromise in the ABAC process, Mr Hyun reminded the group that, “nothing is full of only good things; you just have to learn how to maximize the pluses and minimize the minuses.”

After our meeting with Mr. Hyun, we were taken to meet with Sergio Toro from Chile. Mr. Toro is a trained international lawyer with experience in the Foreign Service. His first involvement with ABAC was in 2004, when it was hosted in his home economy of Chile. He emphasized how ABAC is a vehicle through which business and government leaders can have working relationships. It is essential that trade is opened in developing countries so that they may grow and develop their economies within the region.

After our meeting with Mr. Toro, we were informed that we needed to hurry down to lunch. To our pleasant surprise, we had been invited to the ABAC Annual National Center Luncheon. While we were wined and dined, we heard a British journalist give his provocative opinion regarding China’s economic boom. Following his speech, we heard from a Peruvian businesswoman, who educated ABAC members about Peru’s economy – the host for next year’s APEC Business Summit.

Anna & Elizabeth

Thursday, September 6, 2007

**"Happy Feet: What are you really burning?"

The past two days have been great. Yesterday my Voices group went to Dee Why Beach and Freshwater High School to view firsthand the reality of Australia’s water shortage and the implications of water pollution. We discussed ways for Australia to “recycle, reduce, and reuse.”
This morning I attended an ABAC forum entitled Stopping Fakes: Building Awareness – A Dialogue on IP Public Education Campaigns. There were two panel discussions and the members involved demonstrated a commitment to protecting intellectual property. The panelists discussed the need to engage both the consumer as well as the employers and employees within the private sector to make them aware of the IP laws and the economic and social consequences of purchasing counterfeit goods or using pirated software. For example, many companies use child labor to make counterfeit goods. Wendy Pye, a New Zealand ABAC member, recommended a change within the customs policies of APEC countries to ensure that counterfeit goods are not going out of or coming into the country.

There has also been an increase in counterfeit drugs on the market. Thomas Gorrie of Johnson and Johnson explained the implications of counterfeit drug sales. “Fake” medications create the need for new products because the “fake” can cause the body to become more resistant to the real drug. Furthermore, developing nations in Africa and Latin America are often targeted by those producing these “fake” drugs.

Ultimately, both panels concluded that APEC and ABAC must facilitate private and public partnerships for effective, sustainable enforcement practices and education campaigns in order to protect IP.

**(The title of this post is actually the name of a great Ad campaign that has been launched by the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft. In collaboration with the producer of Happy Feet, they have made concerted efforts to raise public awareness about the consequences of using pirated media).


The Village

Our time is passing quickly here in Sydney with only one more day left of Voices programming. We have had so many opportunities to meet with incredible leaders and business people. It is not everyday that I get to sit and dialogue with the CEOs of Toyota, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi at the same time. Even though moments like these have been unforgettable life experiences, I would not necessarily consider them the highlight of my week.

The times that I have learned the most here at APEC have actually been the downtimes, when nothing was on the agenda. In these moments I get to have conversations with the other APEC Voices participants from the other member economies in the Asian-Pacific region. We talk about the differences and similarities in our cultures and the issues that affect us most. It has been fascinating to hear my peers’ views on things like the healthcare system in Australia, the political parties in Mexico, the Chinese one-child policy, the gun restrictions in New Zealand, and the environmental issues in Indonesia.

It has also been rewarding to be able to clear up some misconceptions about the U.S. One guy legitimately asked me if I was friends with Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton because that is who he assumed I would hang out with at my age in the United States. Although it has been hard to take the criticism from the other countries about issues in the U.S., it is interesting to hear their perspectives, so I can be more informed when forming my own judgements. I think the greatest lesson I will take from APEC Voices of the Future program is the solidarity I now feel with all of the students here. Suddenly the problems that exist in Viet Nam seem like they are happening in my own backyard. With this new outlook I will hopefully be able to lend a helping hand to my new friends if they ever need it, and I believe they would do the same for me.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

An Emerging Theme: ABAC & Corporate Social Responsibility

I have had a very busy and interesting day. I spent the morning at the Hilton interviewing ABAC members. My group had the opportunity to interview one of the three U.S representatives to ABAC, Michael Phillips. (This was apparently a big deal because U.S. representatives rarely meet with participants in VTM). Phillips is the chairman of Russell Investment Group, and he served as the chief executive officer from 1993 to 2003.

Corporate Social Responsibility is an emerging theme for the ABAC members, and Phillips offered insight into the concept. He discussed both the necessity to be environmentally responsible and to assist developing donations by helping them to build wealth by strengthening market mechanisms. He explained that Russell has endeavored to reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging telecommunicating and by its continued support of ABAC’s commitment to address the issues of global warming and climate change. Phillips explained the significance of the Bogor Goals, and he elaborated on the necessity of countries such as South Africa assisting other developing countries within Africa by serving as a role model for those countries. Realistically, Phillips noted that efforts to maintain Corporate Social Responsibility would reduce the return on shares, but he noted that wealth maximization could not be the ultimate goal of socially responsible corporation in the globalized economy.

After speaking with Michael Phillips, we then met with Mark Johnson, the Executive Director of Macquarie and the Deputy Chairman of ABAC. Pete was also a part of this meeting, and I will let him elaborate on the encounter.

After leaving the Hilton, my group toured the International Media Center which is the central location for APEC officials and over 2,200 credentialed journalists. We were able to observe a “doorstop” with Australia’s Minister of Trade, the Honorable Warren Truss. Truss welcomed us to Australia, and briefly elaborated on the necessity of trade liberalization. His advisors were keeping him to a very tight schedule, and he was whisked away before any of us had the opportunity to ask him any probing questions.

We then had the opportunity to sit in on a briefing with the Chief Economist of AusTrade, Tim Harcourt. Harcourt elaborated on a survey that AusTrade conducted in order to better understand how Australian companies perceive APEC. He explained that there were 300 companies that participated in the survey, and that the majority of these companies view APEC as their future. These companies were asked to identify the top five countries with which they hoped to trade in the future, and 93% of these countries were APEC countries. Ultimately, many of these countries were concerned that APEC and ABAC work to facilitate trade by streamlining customs and regulations throughout the region.

I am exhausted, and I have another full day tomorrow. It has been great to interact with the APEC and ABAC members, and I only wish we had more opportunities to meet with the various delegations.