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A report by Toni Pachernegg youth representative at 2014 China APEC Voices of the Future

There was an excited energy as the youth delegates from 16 represented economies met for the first time over dinner at Minzuyuan Holiday Inn Express. With mutual interests, discussion flowed freely as all attempts were made to prove how cultured we were using chopsticks. An orientation and briefing on the week’s events was conducted by the APEC voices leadership council and the China working committee. They went through the conduct of the week and what to be expected. Each nation introduced its members to the rest and by the end, all I could think was this was going to be one heck of a week.

Day two set the pace for the rest. First up was the APEC Voices of the Future opening ceremony and youth forum. Opening addresses were made by Mr Yu Ping, Vice Chairman of CCPIT, Mr Noel Gould, Chairman of VTM international Foundation and Founder of Voices of the Future. Group photo. The youth forum was centred on what issues does the APEC region face regarding education and unemployment in the future and how can the APEC youth get more involved? One representative from each economy spoke for no more than four minutes on the topic. Kathryn St John was our representative and spoke of the issues faced by Australia and the Asia-Pacific as a whole and the importance of a united vision in cooperation. The topic was opened up to the floor and more ideas and opinions were thrown into the mix. Discussion was extremely organised and respectful and showed just how difficult it can be finding a solution for countries at differing stages of economic progress. The evening concluded with a tour of the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace, which is now the worlds most visited museum.

The next day involved a visit to Birjing Haidian Experimental middle school, group photo, a walk along the Great Wall, group photo, dinner at the Beijing Bianyifang Flagship restaurant and concluded with the Aussie delegation sitting in on an exclusive interview between Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Julie Bishop, and premier political correspondent, Kieran Gilbert of Sky News.

Day four began with a tour of Beijing’s 751 D Park; a converted industrial area with scattered orderly industrial plants, crisscross pipelines and slogans of different eras on the walls together making a fascinating museum of art history and reality. Group photo. We toured the steampunk exhibition and experienced 3D digital technology. Group photo. On our way back to the hotel, one of the Australian delegates received a call from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Officials were really impressed with our conduct while meeting with the Hon. Julie Bishop and would like to organise a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Group photo. The evening was just as spectacular with the APEC business leaders’ night welcome reception and performance hosted by the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality and the chance to mingle with some of the region’s most influential CEO’s.

We were now to the business end of the deal. The APEC CEO Summit. Unbelievable. The sky was blue, the air crisp, security tight and the roads free of any traffic as CEO’s and economic leaders gathered at the China National Convention Centre for two days of economic debate. Discussions were opened by the President of the Peoples Republic of China, Xi Jinping. Panel session after panel session was held by prominent world leaders addressing topics such Economic integration and the global multilateral system, opportunities for growth and cooperation, sustainability, and how business and government can better work together. Most notable speeches were Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the question, “what does the Ausia pacific mean to Russia?” and United States of America President Barack Obama’s speech on “Strengthening Asia Pacific Prosperity: What are the economic priorities?”. Group photo.

On the morning of the final day of the APEC CEO Summit, we were picked up by the Australian embassy and escorted to the hotel of Prime Minister Tony Abbott for our meeting and photo opportunity.

“So tell me Toni, how did you end up as one of the delegates representing Australian Youth at APEC?”

“We are all a part of the Duke of Edinburgh Alumni”

“Yes, the Duke of Edinburgh award is a fantastic program, what was your highlight?” “Definitely when I completed my Gold expedition”

The final night was bitter sweet. We had gotten to know so many wonderful and bright youth from across the region in such a short space of time. Each country performed a song or dance or in our case, an Australian slang quiz, to showcase a part of their culture. It was a brilliant end to an amazing week, one that will not be forgotten too quickly. I have no doubt we will all see each other again one day as the CEO’s and world leaders of our respective nations.