It was a pleasure to represent Australia as Educator for our delegation at this year's APEC CEO Summit and Voices of the Future youth summit in Port Moresby. The delegates were curious, intelligent, and willing to learn from this unique experience. It was a bit surreal at times, especially the day that we were on full security lock down on a cruise ship with some of the world's most powerful political and business leaders!
We made full use of the week by engaging with the other economies' representatives and contributing thoughtful insights to the discussions on inclusion, diversity, geopolitics, digital disruption, and what this all means for the future of work, trade and joint prosperity for our common region. We are the generation that will see the effects of the 4th Industrial Revolution so it's important for us to discuss these issues, and understand the perspectives and challenges of our neighbouring economies.
This was my first time in PNG and first time at APEC so I thank DEAS and NYAA for the opportunity to attend alongside such a high calibre of future leaders and influencers.
I also got the chance to visit some villages in Central Province, which were a stark contrast to the city despite only being an hour away. It's humbling to see
the resilience and passion of healthcare workers and teachers who work in tough conditions, usually with no electricity or running water in their
facilities. It reminded me how lucky Australians are to have a government that provides and maintains infrastructure like roads and telecommunications networks so that both urban and rural areas can thrive.
The CEO Summit Day 2 (Saturday 17th November)
It was fascinating to hear from world leaders at the APEC CEO Summit on Saturday. Most of the leaders spoke about free trade and education, and sustainable growth in the face of digital disruption.
Malaysia's PM Mahathir emphasised the win-win adage, "Prosper thy neighbour, not beggar thy neighbour", and commented that developed nations should not prescribe their own "medicine" to currently developing nations, in reference to policy advice given to his own country in the past.
HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam promoted STEM education and family-friendly policies to increase women's labour participation rates, especially in the healthcare sector. She also emphasised student-centric education starting from preschool, and that it's more important to foster thinking skills, rather than the acquisition of content-based knowledge, as a tool for the future workplace.
Australian PM ScoMo's talk also focused on the importance of free trade. He advocates for creating a regulatory ecosystem where data can flow across borders to facilitate online trade, while protecting the privacy of consumers.
Russia's PM Medvedev highlighted the need for transport infrastructure and logistics chains to cover the vast distances of our region, and pointed out that the fundamental role of APEC is to promote joint prosperity regardless of geopolitical climate.
China's President Xi delivered a measured speech full of gravitas and unity, referencing lessons of history and surmising that economic globalisation is a sure way to human development. He expressed his belief that eliminating poverty is a moral responsibility of the international community, so we need to "forge equally balanced global development partnerships". Xi emphasised that BRI has no hidden geopolitical agenda and that it is not an exclusive club.
Xi also stated that the global trade community is now at a crossroads, where we can choose between cooperation or confrontation. He emphasised the need for rules-based international governance, rather than "might is right" (without implicating any particular economy or current dispute). I quite liked his closing extended metaphor, on how we must work together to steer the ship of the global economy into a brighter future, adapting to the surging tide of scientific and technological revolution.
It was a stark contrast when US VP Pence closed the proceedings in an adversarial manner, noting that the US could impose further trade barriers on Chinese export unless "China changes its ways”. He repeated
Trump's comments that the US will make bilateral trade agreements with any economy in the Indo-Pacific region, “that wants to be our partner and that will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade” (people in the audience audibly laughed at this point). Pence announced a regional transparency initiative aimed to combat corruption, and warned developing nations not to be drawn into trade agreements and policies that may impose on their sovereignty.
Overall, it was an extremely rewarding experience and I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend the CEO Summit and participate in a youth summit with 93 representatives from 14 of the member economies. I look forward to maintaining these new connections and seeing what everyone does next. I also look forward to participating in alumni events and supporting VOF delegates in future years.