[SCMP Column] APEC and trusted international travel

May 23, 2020
Take the TDC’s Fashion Week, which is planned for July and last year attracted 14,000 participants. Or the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, which have been postponed to October, and last year attracted 40,000 spectators a day. Or the Singapore Grand Prix in September. With almost all airlines grounded worldwide at present, with no plans for a return to the skies; with a global patchwork of lockdown rules which would impose on any traveller four sterilised weeks of quarantine; and with no agreed rules for deciding whether travellers from particular countries can be regarded as “safe”, the blunt reality is that these events stand no chance whatever of going ahead. Even Japan’s postponed Olympics, now planned for July 2021, may be a stretch. [ Read More ]

[SCMP Column] ABAC and flygskam

February 29, 2020
As it warns that British families are going to need to live without air travel (instead travelling more by train), without fossil-fuel powered cars (using bikes and public transport) and without meat from methane-belching cows, it raises acutely awkward questions for places like Hong Kong. Apart from the Mainland and Macau, there is nowhere we can travel except by air (and surely many families would go slowly stir-crazy without the chance to fly out once or twice a year). As the key business headquarter hub for Asia (even after the recent horrors of street violence and Covid-19) a severe clamp-down on air travel would be unacceptably punishing to some of the main pillars of the economy. [ Read More ]

[SCMP Column] APEC's post 2020 vision

July 29, 2019
While APEC’s work on its post-2020 vision is now well advanced, with draft documents in circulation for the past 15 months still lack the one thing it absolutely needs: a vision. As yet, no-one has distilled a successor to the “free and open trade and investment” vision of the Bogor Goals. That Bogor vision may have lacked detail, but it succeeded in motivating region-wide liberalisation for a generation. [ Read More ]

[SCMP Column] APEC's Business Travel Card

March 11, 2019
For anyone travelling regularly on business, the time saved in not having to apply for visas ahead of every journey is huge. And the cash savings in visa-linked fees can be considerable. As someone who travels perhaps 15 to 20 times a year across the APEC region, I have tried to calculate the savings, and arrive at a number close to US$1,000 a year. But the arcane complexity of visa rules and fees make accurate calculation challenging. Do you want a single-entry or multiple-entry visa? Do you want for 6 months, or a year, or 10 years? The US has 19 different types of visa depending on your status (a student?) or purpose of visit.
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[SCMP Column] PNG's APEC coming out party

November 17, 2018
So there is a sense in Port Moresby this weekend that the APEC Leaders’ meeting is something of a coming-out party. For many of APEC’s developing member economies, the organisation has for more than two decades played a major role in channelling growth and development – and there is confidence that this will continue into 2019 as Chile takes up chairmanship. Hopefully it will not include Maseratis and Bentleys.

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[SCMP Column] Trump's Bathtime Blues

November 11, 2017

APEC discussions are all about deepening regional integration, fostering globalisation and the net benefits of free and open trade and investment, and reducing inequalities across one of the most economically diverse regions in the world. These are concepts that stick deep in the craw of an “America first” president.

The refusal of the other 20 APEC leaders to give priority to bilateral trade balances must surely test his patience. Efforts in Danang to finalise a TPP11 – a stripped-down version of the original Trans-Pacific Partnership that was sabotaged by Trump’s US withdrawal 10 months ago – must be an open and very public slap in his face.

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[SCMP Column] Same Same But Different

July 29, 2017

When you learn that Toronto is North America’s second largest financial services hub, overshadowed only by New York, and that it is North America’s fourth technology hub, behind California, New York and Boston, then parallels with Hong Kong as a finance and services hub are not unreasonable. So too when you learn that more than half of Toronto’s population are immigrants – lagging only Miami – underpinning one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse cities in North America.

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[SCMP Column] Testing times for Apec

February 13, 2017

For the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), this is even more starkly true. As the region’s businesses face an unprecedented assault from an “America First” President flirting with trade war, so their mettle will be tested on  how clearly and persuasively they can challenge the chilling localist and protectionist winds that have been strongly stirred in the US.

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[SCMP Column] APEC's Day of Reckoning

January 07, 2017

Imagine the US officials’ plight as they arrive in Nha Trang. The new Trump team will have been in office for just a month. Trade strategy will still be unclear. But all signals to negotiators will have been negative: kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership; prepare for sanctions targeted at China; block any initiative aimed at making it easier for US companies to invest in (and therefore divert jobs to) Asia’s economies.

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[SCMP Column] Hope for the future

November 19, 2016

Asia now accounts for around a quarter of Peru’s trade, compared with just 18% in 2000. Despite Peru’s “resource curse” – the global collapse of commodity prices and demand has hurt the economy hard – commitment to globalization and open trade remains unflinching. The selection of President Kuczynski was an encouraging and symbolic reaffirmation of this commitment – in stark contrast with the moods in the US and the UK that have conceived Trumpism and Brexit.

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[SCMP Column] Painful progress

September 24, 2016

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), which contributes to our problem of winning proper attention for the challenges of managing the international movement of labour by muddling its statistics, says that 150m of the 330m migrants worldwide are simply international workers living outside their home countries. Around 30m of these are in the Asia Pacific.

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[SCMP Column] Why We Need APEC

August 29, 2016

As the voices of protectionism and xenophobia have risen, perhaps APEC’s work is more important than ever. For those of us that through the past 30 years of experience are confidently convinced that openness and globalization are on balance a very good thing, these paranoid voices need to be addressed – and no place better than APEC. Perhaps those mind-numbing plane journeys are worthwhile after all.

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[SCMP Column] Pointless Trade Rhetoric

May 23, 2016

Trade has stagnated since 2011, and actually fallen since 2014. From trade growth averaging 16% a year between 2003 and 2008, it has slowed to annual growth of just 1.5% since 2010. Confidence in the benefits of free trade has been rocked as politicians across the world have wrestled with the awful consequences of the 2008 crash, and the recession that has followed. And putting to one side the bigoted and ill-informed rhetoric of aspiring leaders like Donald Trump, sympathy for protection against foreigners’ “unfair” trade practices has begun to take root.

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[SCMP Column] Banking on Change

February 29, 2016

Already it is clear that the “FinTech” revolution is being driven by two very different populations: radical new start-up disrupters who are using the potential of new technologies to develop fundamentally new ways of living our financial lives; and incumbent behemoths that have on the one hand recognized that unstoppable forces have been unleashed, and on the other have seen economies and efficiencies embedded in the new technologies that can save them big money, improve services to customers, and help them retain their hard-fought competitive leadership.

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[SCMP Column] Tough Year for APEC

February 01, 2016

Peru is also keen to introduce us all formally to the Pacific Alliance, the new and significant trade block that includes Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. For me, in a continent populated by “bad guys” like Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, these are the “good guys” – committed liberalisers keen to build stronger links across the Pacific. While the Pacific Alliance is (sensitively) dominated by Mexico, which accounts for almost two thirds of its GDP, the Pacific Alliance as an integrated region of over 200m people would make the world’s 8th largest economy. China’s President Xi Jinping may not have included them in his “One Belt, One Road” vision (with 64 other economies embraced by One Belt One Road, I puzzle why not), but they deserve keen attention from our part of the world. And what Peru is kick-starting in 2016, Chile will continue in 2019 – when it in turn becomes chair of APEC.

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[SCMP Column] Meeting of Minds

November 16, 2015

For me, the most fascinating breakthrough here is the now-widespread recognition that service sector liberalization – in particular in finance, IT and logistics – is critical for competitiveness across all parts of our economies. Inefficient or expensive services destroy the competitiveness of manufacturers and service providers alike. Three years ago, there was an almost willful neglect of services in APEC liberalization discussions. Practical agreements on the behind-the-border liberalization or harmonization of standards and regulations may still be a long way off, but it is encouraging to see the leaders and top officials recognise how important services liberalization is for future competitiveness.

In deference to the fact that Peru will take over chairmanship of APEC in 2016, much attention is also likely to be given this week to the critical importance of strengthening links between Asia and the South American economies – in particular the four liberalizing economies grouped in the recently-formed Pacific Alliance – Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia.

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[SCMP Column] Vision Critical in City Planning as Metropolises Set to Boom

September 10, 2015

Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities – and that population is growing by 1.4 million people a week. Already cities account for 80% of global GDP.

The developing world is home to most of these cities – China alone is in the process of building more than 40 new cities of more than 1m people between now and 2030, and developing-world cities are expected to account for 93% of all future urban growth. But more than 30% of our urban residents are currently living in slums. So planning cities right is a need that presses urgently on us.

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[SCMP Column] Time to put in place ‘Earn, Learn, Return’ initiative in Hong Kong and Asia

August 12, 2015

ABAC’s first step into this issue was driven by business recognition that the international movement of workers is not a blight but a blessing. As Asia’s wealthy societies like Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore rapidly age, so skills shortages have become progressively more acute, intensifying our reliance on such international workers to keep the wheels of our own economies humming.

This is as true for the 350,000 relatively low-skilled home helpers in Hong Kong as it is for welders in the Middle East, or nurses and factory workers in Korea.

ELR aims to purge the blight that currently infects this critically important regional labour flow. It calls for employers – not workers – to pay the fees needed to get them their jobs. It calls for health and pension arrangements that provide continuity with the schemes they would have had if they had stayed working at home. It aims to ensure that workers can return home regularly to their families, to minimize the risk of family break-downs. And it calls for overseas working experience to be recognised and properly valued on return.

Such moves in combination would help to reduce the abuse that so often blights the lives of overseas workers in economies like Hong Kong – illegal underpayment, withholding of passports, insufferable working and living conditions. Other steps in Hong Kong would include allowing domestic helpers to live outside their employer’s home if they wish – a recommendation made by the judge in the Erwiana court case as she sentenced the employer to seven years in prison for her far-from-uncommon abuses.

[ Read More ]

[SCMP Column] Empowerment of women needs to start with basics

February 11, 2015

Recent debate inside Abac has made it clear to me that a further, critically important barrier to women’s full participation in the workforce is our failure to recognise the wide range of uniquely female health challenges and illnesses. Some of these unique challenges are sexual (breast cancer, cervical cancer and so on), some are hormonal (like thyroid complaints, where women are up to eight times more likely to suffer than men, and lupus, the auto-immune illness that strikes women 10 times more often than men). Some are linked with the simple medical threats linked with childbirth. Some, more tragically, are linked with what the World Bank calls “intimate partner violence” which leads to injuries, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, depression and other serious mental disorders.

[ Read More ]

[HKEJ Article] Real Value of APEC

November 17, 2014

There have been numerous other markers of progress over the course of the 80-odd days of meetings spanning 2014 that no outsider will notice or much care about, but which are significant nevertheless – making our supply chains more efficient; liberalizing our services economies; cooperating on development of the “blue economy” – shipping, fishing, seabed mining, coastal tourism and so on; running uncountable numbers of capacity building courses and best-practice learning workshops for officials to learn how to put these glamorous headline initiatives into practice.

As someone who spends almost three months a year in unglamorous APEC meetings in unglamorous cities across the region throughout the year, it is mildly irritating to be in Beijing and to recognize that for most people, the APEC party that has just come to an end, with its funny-dress photo-ops, will be regarded as the total sum of what APEC amounts to – an inconsequential talk-shop.

In truth, the real value of APEC sits elsewhere – in unsexy workshops where top officials learn from each other, and without the distraction of political theatre, help to train officials to implement the ambitious liberalization initiatives embodied in high-sounding “leaders’ declarations”. But this doesn’t make headlines. It does not get the pulse pumping in the way that putting Putin and Obama in the same room together does.

As Beijing’s Party comes to a close, attention now begins to turn to 2015, and an APEC year under Philippine leadership. Solid foundations have been laid by Beijing this year, and it is possible that Manila – with much more modest resources than China – will achieve more that we might expect from one of APEC’s less developed economies.

The Philippine “Motto” for the year ahead makes the direction of the year clear: “Forging Resilient, Inclusive Growth: A fair deal for all”. This is solidly the agenda of a developing, not a rich economy. For APEC, which from 2007 to 2012 was chaired by successive “developed” economies ranging from Australia and Singapore to Japan and the US, policy focus has now shifted to the concerns of our developing member economies. Starting from Indonesia’s leadership in 2013, chairmanship has passed to China and now the Philippines – and after the Philippines come Peru, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Chile. There will be added developing economy momentum during 2015 as ASEAN economies focus on completing their “ASEAN Economic Community” by the end of 2015.

[ Read More ]

[SCMP Column] Give APEC credit - it's far more than just a talking shop

November 06, 2014

When China took over chairmanship of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Grouping from Indonesia at the beginning of the year, it set an ambitious three-pronged agenda worthy of the landmark anniversaries being celebrated: regional economic integration; economic reform and innovative development; and building infrastructure and regional connectivity.

From the outset, the centerpiece of the first prong – regional economic integration – was in jeopardy. China decided it wanted its main deliverable to be an APEC commitment to a Free Trade Area for the Asia Pacific – FTAAP – that would by 2025 embody the iconic “Bogor Goals” of free and open trade and investment in the region. It was a brave thing to shoot for. The US and others negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been adamant that no regional initiative should be allowed to put the TPP in jeopardy. They have blocked and tackled from day one on the FTAAP plan. Beijing’s cold dry air has literally crackled with static electricity as China and the US have arm-wrestled over the FTAAP.

Even days before the leaders meet, it is unclear what will be agreed. US hopes that a TPP deal could be cut by the time of the APEC Party have come to nothing, and hopes are not high that the US will commit to any ambitious FTAAP until the TPP is sealed. Quite how face will be saved on this issue is not clear.


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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 7

August 25, 2014

Summary of Key Issues in SOM3 Beijing
My blog reports were woefully inadequate over the last three weeks of Senior Official meetings in Beijing. Feeble as it may seem, the work pressure just to stay on top of the many important issues we were listening to, and contributing on, overwhelmed the need to write daily reports back. Here are some of the issues and initiatives that I failed to give proper attention to. Many we will need to follow up in ABAC:

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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 6

August 20, 2014

APEC Transportation Working Group (TPTWG) meetings at the Hong Kong International Airport

From the milling corridors of SOM3 in Beijing, where my ABAC colleagues are preparing input for the final meetings of Senior Officials, I have flown back down to Hong Kong – not to put feet up in my locked-and-bolted home, but to camp out at the Hong Kong International Airport where officials are huddled for the APEC Transportation Working Group meetings.

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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 5

August 18, 2014

China’s hosting Public Private Dialogue on promoting Infrastructure Investment through PPPs
We should be pleased that China agreed to host, under the auspices of the Investment Experts Group, a huge one-day Public Private Dialogue on promoting Infrastructure Investment through PPPs. After all, infrastructure development needs are acute – an estimated $50-60 trillion over the coming decade – and will need private sector engagement if sufficient funds are to be found. But I came away schizophrenic – encouraged, but concerned.

[ Read More ]

David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 4

August 16, 2014

New Forum Created: Public Private Partnership on Environmental Goods and Services (PPEGS)
Among several new fora created and inaugurated by APEC this week, the PPEGS may have an interesting role to play. But first, one has to wrestle with confusions over acronyms. This is not a PPFS or a PPSTI, or a PPWE. Let’s unscramble.
These last three are “Policy Partnerships” – on Food Security (PPFS), Science Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) and Women in the Economy (PPWE). But this new forum is a Public Private Partnership  – not a Policy Partnership - on Environmental Goods and Services. 

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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 3

August 15, 2014

APEC Business Travel Card
One of the first meetings out of the blocks in Beijing was the Business Mobility Group – home of all things to do with the APEC Business Travel Card. Mika Takahashi from ABAC Japan gave an update on our own ABAC positioning on the Card, but our key points are really not very different from those already made: we need cards to be processed more quickly; we need the cards to stay “alive” if and when our passports change; and we want the Cards to live for five years rather than the present three. In APEC terms, in-principle agreement to this extension is a big deal for business.

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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing - Post 2

August 14, 2014

Food Security Issues in APEC

Note: This is a big week for Food Security issues in APEC, with an array of meetings from Thursday. But I am unable to attend them because of meeting conflicts. Instead, here are some thoughts on the issue that I contributed to the South China Morning Post today (August 14):

What do Mount Tambora and MH17 have in common? Since you probably don’t know anything about Mount Tambora, the question is a cruel one, but the answer is simple: they both offer big lessons on food security.

And food security is much on my mind at present, because of big APEC meetings on the subject up in Beijing this week, and some pretty serious anxieties on how business can engage most effectively to keep us on track to achieve food security in the region by 2020 – APEC’s declared aim since leaders met in Vladivostok two years ago.

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David's Blog on SOM3 Beijing- Post 1

August 11, 2014

Highlights on Beijing 

For a battle-hardened former journalist like me, it is hard to walk through the fortified portals of the Beijing Hotel, on Changan and on the north east corner of Tiananmen without some slightly querulous feelings. This classic of colonial Soviet architectural style is as close as any hotel – or set of hotels – can get to a mausoleum. It is barely changed from those far distant days of 1982 when I was here in Beijing to train journalists in the freshly-minted China Daily. Despite superficial facelifts and makeovers, it is as intimidating and un-navigable as ever, the grande dame of hotels from Mao’s hayday. The fusty carpet smells are unchanged. The air outside is as hazed as ever. You can tell I love Beijing!

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Dodwell's blog on SOM2 Qingdao - Post 5

May 24, 2014

APEC Austerity

The really bad news out of Qingdao was how the financial squeeze since the global financial crash of 2008 has exerted a massive squeeze on APEC project funding. Out of almost 130 projects in search of funding, less than 30 were successful in attracting funds. The warning from Qingdao was that funding pressures are unlikely to lift any time soon. There is likely to be an increasing reliance on self-funded projects (where, in proposing a project, an economy agrees to provided necessary funding). Since APEC’s unique contribution is in its huge programme of capacity-building activity, and many of the projects in search of funding are workshops aimed at such capacity-building, then this funding squeeze is no small matter. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM2 Qingdao - Post 4

May 23, 2014

APEC Business Travel Card

I am currently in the process of applying for my third APEC Travel Card. The process is as painful as ever. More than a month after putting in my application, still not a single APEC economy has approved me. When I last applied three years ago, the process took three months, and even then I won approval from only 15 economies. I wonder how or whether processing has improved between 2011 and 2014. What was that in the last Business Mobility Group about member economies striving to clear applications within a week? Perhaps I was dreaming. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM2 Qingdao - Post 3

May 22, 2014


I intended today to move on from FTAAP and TPP antics to other Qingdao themes, but forgive me for a couple more thoughts.
First, since yesterday’s blog, I have seen the Trade Ministerial statement, and it is telling that specific references to a deadline for creating an FTAAP, and to a Feasibility Study, have been expunged. Setback for China here, though there is a commitment for officials to tie up a deal within 2014 – so China should still be able to claim a meaningful FTAAP “deliverable” under its 20-14 chairmanship. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM2 Qingdao - Post 2

May 21, 2014

Contested pathways to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific
When in Ningbo in February China tabled its concept note for a meeting on the margins of Qingdao SOM2 on how the various Asian regional integration initiatives might be used to build towards a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, I had expected a saloon-bar fight to break out immediately. Surely the US would  never tolerate such an initiative, since it has always a) insisted that there is only one route to FTAAP, shaped by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and b) would not welcome a Chinese move that stole momentum from the TPP process.

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Dodwell's blog on SOM2 Qingdao - Post 1

May 20, 2014

Meeting issues

Forgive the recent blog silence. A couple of issues have muddied the waters. First, since ABAC no longer has an Action Plan and Advocacy Working Group, of which Anthony Nightingale was chair and I the lead staffer, I no longer have “standing” to attend and report back on Senior Official meetings. I now attend, but really only out of habit and nosiness.

Second – and more material – terrible calendar clashes between our ABAC2 meetings in Santiago Chile, and the first ten days of Senior Official cluster meetings meant that none of us ABACers were able to get to Qingdao for the SOM2 cluster until close to the end of the cluster. Awkward and frustrating to have missed so much, and to be so rushed at the end of the cluster to catch up. It was also challenging for us to fly 30-35 hours back from Santiago to Qingdao without our brains being somewhat numbed.
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Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 7

February 27, 2014
APEC officials seem at last to have got excited about services. It would be nice to think that this is a result of ABAC’s persistent nagging over the ubiquity of services in all parts of our economies, and the importance of efficiently delivered services in enhancing productivity and improving competitiveness. But we may have an inflated idea of our influence. Clearly important was the unexpected entry into the fray of Chatib Basri, Indonesia’s Finance Minister, in Surabaya last year, when he chided local industrialists that they would for ever be uncompetitive and vulnerable to outside competitors as long as they paid over the odds for services – in particular telecoms, financial services and logistics costs. Chatib Basri is a powerful and influential ally in an economy that has traditionally been highly suspicious about opening up its services economy.
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[SCMP Column] The Card to Travel

February 27, 2014

The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) is perhaps the one reliable thing that any business person knows about APEC, and one of a tiny number of achievements over APEC’s 25 year life that really do seem to have made a difference. It took the APEC Business Advisory Council many years to get APEC officials to buy into the idea that regular business travelers should be given high speed access through immigration queues, and easier visa access to the region’s economies.

 For those that have the card (and there are fewer than 500,000 in active use at the moment) it is up there with the gold Marco Polo card that gives you access to Cathay Pacific executive lounges.

But for all the passionate support the card gets, most conversations are animated by complaints and grim stories of travel adversity and angst.


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Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 6

February 26, 2014
Ningbo has not been only about services, supply chains and services in supply chains…. There have been some interesting developments too on the health agenda that was “mainstreamed” early last year by Indonesia, only to peter out for unclear reasons. A year ago, ABAC too was finding it hard to accept the health issue as a priority, but in recent months, driven by keen attention from our US colleagues, we are at last taking the issue seriously. The importance of the health issue for business is of course self evident: literally billions of productive working hours are lost or impaired every year through ill health – whether it is contagious illness like dengi fever or malaria, or a non-communicable illness like heart disease, diabetes or simple obesity. Better late than never that we engage. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 5

February 25, 2014
Our Chinese APEC chair has the most surprising talent for springing surprises. Today, for example, as we meandered to the close of a rather content-light Market Access Group, the Malaysian MAG chair passed over to the Chinese official present for the final agenda item – Date of next meeting. Hardly climactic material. Most of us were half listening as we packed our papers away. But then I could hardly believe my ears: “The next MAG will be in September at a date we have yet to finalise during SOM3. We will tell you the place when we know it.”
With chair’s permission, I flicked on the microphone: “Do you mean you don’t know whether the meeting is in Harbin or not? Or that you don’t know the hotel?” [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 4

February 24, 2014
Given that the Government-Business Dialogue on Food Security in Ningbo yesterday was China’s opening statement as PPFS 2014 Chair, under the leadership of the State Administration of Grain, there probably should have been no surprise when we were carpet bombed by a full day of 10 minute presentations on every aspect of China’s impressive grain industry.
Of course, grain was not the only issue tabled, but a dialogue it was not. Perhaps understandable given China’s need to set a clear direction for the year clearly had to show allegiance to the largest and probably most complex component of its vast food economy.
All was not lost however. As always, the real business gets done over food. The many mealtime conversations with Chinese officials, Chinese businessmen, and other participants from APEC economies, showed a level of willingness and flexibility to share and contribute that was refreshing, given the difficult birth that PPFS has historically endured. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 3

February 20, 2014
After a day of singleminded focus on the Business Mobility Group and our cherished APEC Business Travel Card, Mika and I have now split across different working groups – Mika on Emergency Preparedness, Customs and E-Commerce, and I on the Human Resources Group – a monster of a gathering that comes together only once a year, has three substantial working groups, and takes four days to plough through its agenda. Meanwhile, outside the cosy confines of the Shangri-la, Ningbo disappeared in swirls of sleet and snow. No snow settled, but anyone putting a nose out into the open air recoiled from clear evidence of an enduring winter. I keep reminding myself of Moscow in March 2012 to remind myself not to be a wimp.
One fascinating question arises out of the Human Resources Meeting: When is a Ministerial not a Ministerial? At iSOM in Beijing in December, our Beijing hosts very thoroughly listed all of the year’s ministerial, dates and locations. And I faithfully passed them on – all nine of them. Well it now turns out that Human Resources Ministers are meeting too – in September. I asked our Chinese hosts why this Ministerial had not been mentioned in the iSOM briefing, and was given a beguiling answer: the iSOM list only included the Ministerials being held in China. It so happens the Human Resources Ministerial will be in Danang in Vietnam. So now I am wondering whether there are further Ministerials out there that I am currently ignorant of, simply because they are intended to take place outside China. [ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 2

February 18, 2014
Monday was the Business Mobility Group and the day of the APEC Business Travel Card – and we were tantalizingly close to that rare APEC phenomenon – a truly newsworthy development. We got within a hair’s breadth and winning full and formal endorsement to extend the life of the ABTC to five years. Even now, it is possible in the coming week or so that we might wrestle to closure on this breakthrough. Between 20 approving economies and success was just one bureaucratic and procrastinating economy. No names mentioned. They know who they are.
Despite the tantalizing frustration of failing to get closure on extension of the life of the ABTC, there was a second quieter but very significant success – agreement that a change in passport, with the inevitable changes in passport number, date of issue and date of expiry, would no longer kill the ABTC. For those economies lacking the technology to manage this, our officials agreed there would be investment in capacity building.
[ Read More ]

Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 1

February 17, 2014

At last we have descended into the steel grey middle earth chill of Ningbo – home for the coming two weeks of the first set of APEC Senior Official meetings under China’s chairmanship.
The city, just south of Shanghai on China’s Pacific coast in Zhejiang, one of China’s richest provinces, and through 7000 years one of China’s most open and worldly centres, is still sufficiently locked in winter to be austerely monochrome. I’ve braved the cold to jog along the Fenghua river, and am pleased to say that the pollution that normally greets visitors to most Chinese cities is mercifully absent. But the air is grey, and the river is a wintry brown, and this lends a cheerless air.

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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 12

July 08, 2013


Keeping the best for last. Services liberalization is close to Hong Kong’s heart, and so the presentations in Medan to the Group on Services and the CTI on our ABAC Services agenda – in particular the headway made in Surabaya in our “Services Dialogues” – were deeply gratifying.

Since the Surabaya Dialogues, which allowed ABAC and PECC together to table for APEC officials the reasons why we believe services liberalization is so fundamental to our region’s future competitiveness, recent research from the OECD and the WTO has made steadily clearer how high a price economies pay for denying their manufacturers access to competitively priced services – in particular logistics and communications services.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 11

July 06, 2013

After the “mid-life crisis” of the Investment Experts Group in Surabaya in April, ABAC was tasked to facilitate a workshop in Medan with the broad theme “Whither the IEG”.

Since we had no formal ABAC meeting between Surabaya and Medan, it was in technical terms impossible for ABAC to comply – even though investment related issues have emerged to be as important today as they have ever been for us, and for APEC in general.

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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 10

July 05, 2013

In freezing Moscow in March last year, APEC launched a grand experiment in private sector-public sector collaboration. The aim was to bring business thinking – and discipline – to the APEC table more effectively than in the past. The new-born infant was the “Policy Partnership” – specifically the Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS).

15 months later, we have three policy partnerships, including the Policy Partnership on Science Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) and the Policy Partnership on Women in the Economy (PPWE). I would not be surprised if new “PPs” are being fledged.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 9

July 04, 2013

As I fly out of Medan, I depart with a nagging guilt. I normally try to provide readers with a prompt and comprehensive report-back on all key discussions taking place during the SOM cluster meetings. This time I have been remiss, and a number of key summaries need still to be written. I have several lame excuses: logistics in Medan, with meetings spread across four different hotels in a traffic jammed city, made coverage of all meetings almost impossible; the Medan menu was also massive. I’m told there were more meetings in San Francisco in 2011, and I’m told that my estimate of 82 meetings is slightly exaggerated by some duplications. But either way, covering more than 70 diverse meetings has been deeply challenging.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 8

July 03, 2013

There was cause for celebration today for the team that has slogged patiently over the past four months to win APEC officials' backing for ABAC’s proposals for wider adoption of Global Data Standards. Our proposals have at last won broad endorsement.

We are now tasked to work with APEC officials to build a programme of voluntary capacity-building, drawing on the many economy-level examples and experiences. This will be focused on the many identified chokepoints along the supply chain, and will form a foundation stone for cutting costs along the supply chain. APEC officials are tasked to cut 10% out of supply chain costs by 2015.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 7

July 01, 2013

Back in 2011, our Marshall School report revealed that 77% of interviewees saw inconsistent standards and regulations across economies as a significant barrier to trade. In the same year the pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) survey cited regulatory impediments in overseas markets as the second biggest challenge to doing business in the region.

In short, we in the business community have been anxious for a very long time to see officials in the region move towards harmonization of regulatory standards. For companies operating along long and complex supply chains, regulatory “friction” in each economy along a production chain can accumulate to add massive extra costs to production. The incentive to reduce or minimize such cumulative costs can mean economies are “bypassed” by such companies, who today account for a very large share of total trade. The result: that country’s export potential is stunted.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 6

June 29, 2013

For the first time ever, ABAC presented at the Mining Task Force this week. They wanted to know about ABAC, and so the priority was to provide an ABAC 101 introduction to what we are trying to achieve. Tougher was to identify issues of priority to ABAC that would concern the Mining Task Force – though several emerged after a little digging: first was the recognition that mining companies are less miners than they are managers of extremely long and complex supply chains: they are profitable depending less on the price of the mineral coming out of the ground than they are on the efficiency with which they can transport the mineral to destination consumers around the world. So discovery number one, they have keen interest in eliminating chokepoints in the supply chain.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 5

June 28, 2013

Alongside the massive Food Security Meetings, the first week of the APEC SOM cluster was dominated by another giant affair – the annual gathering of the Human Resources Development Working Group. On top of the main working group were workshops, and deliberations by its four sub-groups – a three dimensional labyrinth of meetings.

ABAC was interested for one reason above all others: a chance to get a first glimpse of the web-based Skills mapping Tool which is due for completion at the end of the year. You might remember that ABAC sponsored this initiative in 2011 as a first step to rebuild regional momentum behind the need to tackle serious and costly problems linked with regional labour mobility.

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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 4

June 27, 2013

ABAC was tasked this week to update on our concerns about the APEC Business Travel Card with the Business Mobility group (BMG). Even though our position has not in any significant way moved since we met in Jakarta in January, this was not an opportunity to be missed – in particular because of the survey on business attitudes to the ABTC currently under way with ABAC Japan.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 3

June 26, 2013

The Ocean Fisheries Working Group focuses on shipping, marine mining and marine tourism and environmental protection as well as fisheries management, but the group devotes a huge share of its agenda to food-related issues. Slightly alarming, then, that when it opened at the weekend, its members seemed genuinely unaware of the intense fisheries-related agenda of the PPFS’s Working Group 2. Nor that the PPFS has been vested with the authority to provide strategic oversight to all food-related initiatives in APEC.


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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 2

June 25, 2013

At last, after 18 fractious months, the Policy Partnership on Food Security is through the starting gate. To the intense relief of those who began to call for an APEC Food Security body more than a decade ago, we now have an Action Plan, a Road Map, Vision and Mission statements – and fairly firm commitments that private sector voices will play a significant role.

It took three days of fairly intense behind the scenes negotiation between Saturday and Monday to get final agreement on a Roadmap to the goal of food security by 2020. From a Niigata Declaration – which provides the Action Plan”, comprising a laundry list of 62 action items – we have now got a Roadmap of just three pages. It plausibly passes muster as “strategic, result oriented, and comprehensive”, but there will be many in the APEC business community who say this still lacks the discipline of a corporate plan, with concrete and measureable objectives, timetables, milestones, and metrics by which progress is measured.

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Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 1

June 24, 2013

After five visits to Indonesia’s teeming cities over six months, I am becoming acclimatized to traffic bedlam. Medan, the capital of North Sumatra and Indonesia’s third largest city, is no exception – which has been the source of extraordinary challenges, because our hosts have chosen to split the Senior Official meetings across four different hotels. The result: many amenities are quadruplicated (if there is such a word), and most delegates are spending large chunks of every day playing dodgems through swarms of motorbikes to get from hotel room to meeting venue.


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Dodwell in SFO Manado - Post 3

May 28, 2013

While JC Parrenas’ ABAC presentation on the APFF was my main reason for flying to Manado, for the Senior Finance Officials, this was “Any Other Business”. Despite the temptations around the thunderstorms of the coral reefs and the national reserves teeming with  wildlife, they waded through a heavy agenda that ranged from Trade Finance and debate on the state of the global economy, to disaster risk management, finance for the region’s unbanked poor,  and infrastructure investment.


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Dodwell in SFO Manado - Post 2

May 27, 2013

In the densely packed Senior Finance Officials’ agenda in Manado, the main reason for me being there was to listen to the ABAC “report back” from the Sydney Asia Pacific Financial Forum (APFF) meeting, provided by JC Parrenas from ABAC Japan. The report back was necessarily tentative, since ABAC’s full menu of insights and recommendations will not be fully discussed and agreed until ABAC3 in Kyoto in July, but it was comprehensive nevertheless.


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Dodwell in SFO Manado - Post 1

May 26, 2013

There were a number of very good reasons for this journey outside safe and familiar territory: mainly, I had been unable to attend the Sydney Asia Pacific Finance Forum (APFF) that ABAC organized with the Australian Treasury (because of the Surabaya SOM2 cluster), and wanted to hear ABAC colleagues summarise outcomes and next steps – and to gauge senior finance officials’ views.


But then there were two other very good reasons: first, Indonesia has encouraged much talk of closer links between the “SOM track” and the “SFOM” track, as the trade/commerce meetings and finance official meetings are contrasted, and I have a strong sense that financial system reform, and  investment liberalization and facilitation are going to be high priorities for China during its 2014 leadership of APEC.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 14

April 22, 2013

While I was flying out from Surabaya over the weekend in search of a day of rest before work resumed in Hong Kong, APEC Trade Ministers and their senior officials toiled on through the weekend, haggling the Ministerial Statement and – perhaps surprisingly – a separate long statement in support of the WTO and multilateralism.

After all of the talk over the past two weeks on regional trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the newly-cooked Pacific Alliance embracing the liberalizing economies of central and south America – the reassertion of concern to complete the Doha Round, and to reaffirm the importance of multilateralism, came out of left field.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 13

April 21, 2013

As our APEC sherpas girded their loins midweek for the Senior Officials Meeting, and the weekend’s Trade Minister meeting, so our ABAC focus turned to Services, and the two Dialogues that had been in preparation for two full months.

First, on Wednesday, was our ABAC-SOM Dialogue on Services, jointly arranged with PECC. The prime aim here was to inject the services liberalization imperative to the heart of APEC discussion, emphasizing as we did a year ago how services are pivotal to the efficient and competitive delivery of manufactured goods, just as they are important in their own right as a lubricant for trade and investment.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 12

April 19, 2013

It was Yuri Thamrin, Indonesia’s SOM convenor who reminded us this week that APEC’s new Executive Director, Dr Alan Bollard, is a man of many parts. And I am not simply talking about Alan Bollard’s extraordinary range of carefully understated but very artistic lapel pins he sports daily to liven the staid suits we are compelled to wear.

As if governorship of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and now leadership of APEC were not accomplishments enough, Yuri Thamrin alerted us that the self-effacing Dr Bollard is also an accomplished author. His first novel, “The Rough Mechanical: the man who could” is just published. Reviewers in New Zealand at least have been snooty and dismissive, I understand – saying he should stick to the economic books that he has authored in the past – his assessment of the 2008 global financial meltdown, “Crisis”, was published in March last year, and has apparently received much more enthusiastic attention.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 11

April 18, 2013


After the long and patiently synchronised sequence of meetings up to the CTI at the weekend, Monday and Tuesday provided a chance to explore themes close to Indonesia’s heart – Monday a workshop on Infrastructure Development and Investment, and Tuesday on Connectivity.

Of course, both themes had threaded through many of the discussions of last week, but here was a chance to step back and explore the issues, and perhaps most important to explore how we in APEC might develop initiatives in these areas that could provide our Indonesian hosts with some deliverables for Bali.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 10

April 17, 2013

Since ABAC is not a “Friend of the Chair” in terms of APEC’s “Friends of the Chair” (FotC) discussions, the pivotal day (last Friday) devoted to an FotC examination of how APEC officials should manage their supply chain connectivity agenda, and in particular ABAC’s call for adoption of a regional approach to adoption of GlobalData Standards (GDS), had us trying to peek through the keyhole from outside the door.

Happily, there was a comprehensive report-back in CTI by APEC Hong Kong China, which is chairing the “Supply Chain Connectivity” issue. Even more happily, the discussion appears to have moved things constructively forward from the faltering start we had in SOM1 in Jakarta. This is in spite of an embarrassing short-circuit arising from the administrative accident that our ABAC proposal on GDS had been sent to our APEC officials under an ABAC New Zealand letterhead. This seemed to give them the idea that the proposal was a New Zealand proposal to ABAC, and that it would be submitted to CTI once ABAC approved it. Two times I had to clarify, painstakingly: Yes, this is an ABAC proposal, fully endorsed in the ABAC Plenary in Singapore. Yes, this was a complete accident, and the proposal should have been sent to them under a full ABAC letterhead. Mea culpa, mea culpa… Slaps on the wrist all round… But in the end officials agreed to accept that this was a proposal that had been empowered by the whole ABAC plenary. Phew.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 9

April 16, 2013

Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) meetings seem to be reaching epic proportions. They are a test to the stamina of even the hardiest government officials. It is astonishing how chair John Larkin paces patiently through a tricky and detailed agenda that only with good fortune squeezes into two days. There is an almost tantric calm around him as he unhurriedly waits, listens, summarises. For us, the most important discussion focused on supply chain connectivity, and in particular our Global Data Standards initiative. I will devote my next blog to this. But beside this, the agenda was rich.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 8

April 14, 2013

The Investment Experts Group’s (IEG) “accidental hero”, the blunt speaking convenor John Kitchen, flew back home to Australia on Saturday a happy man – mission accomplished. The mid-life crisis of the IEG was given careful attention by colleagues in CTI, with the decision to cut meetings from three to two a year. Potential successors as Convenor have also come forward. And we in ABAC have been put on the hook, tasked to organize a half-day workshop at IEG3 in Medan in June on “Setting the Agenda” – providing a business view of what we would like our Investment Experts to do. Looks like yet another task for our Regional Economic Integration Working Group, but a valuable one – to reexamine the structure of our business relationship with this important group of APEC officials, to clarify how the important investment-related work of APEC is divided between the Trade officials’ track (SOM), and that of the Senior Financial Officials (SFOM). Our Indonesian chair of APEC keeps telling us they are trying to bring Senior officials and Senior Financial Officials together, perhaps in Medan, to explore the synergies between their two tracks of work – but no firm outcomes yet.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 7

April 13, 2013

Having been incarcerated in the Marriott meeting rooms for an entire week, a gang of us managed on Saturday to break away to taste the city streets. Every day, we have walked forlornly into meetings past flamboyantly-dressed Surabaya Tourism people who have been tantalizing with a raft of city tour options. The most exotic is an overnight trek up Mt Bromo to see the sun rise over the lava moonscape of Surabaya’s majestic active volcano. Of course for all of us that have to work every day, we know we will never manage this, but it is tantalizing nevertheless.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 6

April 12, 2013

Friday’s Group on Services meeting was as rich as the early Market Access Group had been barren. Apart from an eccentric and untypical bureaucratic eruption by our US officials blocking progress on an initiative to facilitate cross border education services, the meeting was popping with fresh and interesting initiatives. Quite why the US got itself into such a tangle on education services remained unclear right through the weekend, as blocking and tackling continued into the CTI agenda, but it was unusual and bemusing to see virtually every other APEC member give the US a bad time.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 5

April 11, 2013

I walked into the third and final morning of the inaugural Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation five minutes late – and already up on the screens was the proposed PPSTI Vision Statement – all long words and lots of colours – the clear victim of editing by committee. Forty minutes, and heaven knows how many taxpayer-funded executive working hours later the final, final was agreed and was brought back into monochrome black. As a former journalist, the process of editing by committee was painful to watch, as a Chinese official called for a comma here, and New Zealand and US officials jousted over whether a future perfect tense (“will have been”) should be used rather than a simple future tense, and another called for the cooperation between “government, academics and private sector” to become cooperation between “government, academic and private sector stakeholders”. Can someone tell me the difference between an academic and an academic stakeholder?


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 4

April 11, 2013

When is a “policy partnership” not a policy partnership? When out of a meeting of around 80 people, just three at the table are representing business, then it is difficult to see where “partnership” – or any material form of business input – exists.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 3

April 10, 2013

I walked yesterday into an Investment Experts Group riven with angst. I had expected simply to deliver our now-routine ABAC presentation on the investment-related discussions of ABAC2 which confirmed an apparently ever-rising interest in investment-related issues at the heart of our trade and investment liberalization and facilitation agenda.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 2

April 09, 2013

Through Sunday and Monday, APEC’s Counter-Terrorism Task Force monopolised the APEC action. From my memory, this is normally highly technical and inevitably a bit insensitive to our ABAC trade and investment liberalization priorities, given their own focus on security.

But I found some surprises. First, the US provided an excellent presentation on securing the supply chain which would deserve some attention at our next ABAC meeting in Kyoto. Second, the US also summarized progress in the Travel Facilitation Initiative, which gave more information than we have seen before, and suggested quite encouraging progress.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 1

April 08, 2013

The contrast between Surabaya and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands – where ABAC just held its second meeting of the year - could hardly be starker. With its three gigantic curvaceous towers topped with the world’s largest bathtub, the “MBS” is parked in lonely splendour on land only claimed by newly-planted botanical gardens, teeming with tourists taking subterranean journeys into Singapore’s largest casino.

Surabaya by contrast feels like it has emerged organically over the centuries, a sprawling jumble of battered single-storey shanties that spread as far as you can see. Like Ho Chi Minh city or Hanoi, this is a city teeming with motorcycles and it is a death defying challenge to cross the road to the tantalizing local restaurants steaming invitingly opposite the Marriott Hotel.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 9

February 05, 2013

Monday saw us bright and bushytailed to kick off the day’s CTI agenda with the services presentation – which was pretty much a rerun of the presentation given two days earlier at the Group on Services. Again this seemed to go down well, with high interest in ABAC’s 2013 agenda – the decision to focus the Marshall School this year on obstacles to foreign investment, our continuing call for an “experts group” to drive the services liberalization agenda, the priority need to understand the implications of the new OECD-WTO work on global trade balances as reflected once you break down where value is actually added – and perhaps most important, our interest in holding a Public Private Dialogue during SOM2 in Surubaya. There seems to be keen interest in the Dialogue, with calls for us now to come up with the over the coming few days.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 8

February 04, 2013

It was Sunday and all normal people were at rest – including our local ABAC team. That left us travelling sherpas traipsing back and forth along the underground tunnel that links the Marriott and Ritz Carlton Hotels to hold the fort through the first day of an absolutely huge CTI agenda.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 7

February 03, 2013

Saturday had our resources divided hard between the Economic Committee, where we were summarizing the ABAC1 meeting in Manila, and the Services Group, where I was tasked to present on ABAC’s services agenda. Needlesstosay, our services agenda aligns extremely well with that of the Group on Services, and there seems to be strong support for us preparing a Symposium or joint workshop at GOS2 in Surubaya in April on services – we need to move speedily to define the exact theme.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 6

February 02, 2013

Yesterday I was in “emergency response” mode: Pak Amin was tied up at the Economic Committee presenting his summary of our ABAC1 in Manila, but his Indonesian government colleagues were insistent: please can you have someone participate in our “Emergency Response Travel Facilitation Policy Dialogue” which someone must for sure be calling the ERTFPD. Of course, with the Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, the Christchurch earthquake, and the US’s Hurricane Katrina to anchor the discussion, there was a great deal of sobering experience to get teeth into.

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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 5

February 01, 2013

We strove to listen in to discussions at the Economic Committee, the Market Access Group, and the Investment Experts Group. As John Larkin, the new CTI Chair, has been addressing all of these working groups, it has been gratifying to hear him talk forcefully of the need to converge discussions on services liberalization with those on investment liberalization (of course including foreign investment liberalization).


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 4

January 30, 2013

At short notice, an informal meeting of the PPSTI Informal Working Group – formed to plan the launch of the PPSTI - was convened on the margins of a large APEC science meeting – the APEC Research and Technology (ART) Programme – that was being held not cosily up alongside the SOM cluster meetings at the comfortable Ritz Carlton, but across town in the long and functional wifi-less corridors of the LIPI Building – the Indonesian Institute of Science.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 3

January 28, 2013

Monday in Jakarta was a day of workshops: Intellectual Property protection; Anti-Corruption; Customs; and my own pick – a Business Mobility Group workshop on improving the APEC Business Travel Card.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 2

January 27, 2013

After all the stress and discord of PPFS on Friday, it was warming to see peace break out on Saturday, as members got down to agreeing Working Group agendas, and setting their timetables to deliver into PPFS2 planned for Medan in July. As if in empathy, the skies cleared, and we actually saw blue sky outside.

Despite the haggling over Food Security working groups on Friday, with pressure to reduce them to three, we find we still have four working groups – though their names and responsibilities have been altered.


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Dodwell in 2013 SOM1 Jakarta - Post 1

January 25, 2013

After an unusual four month gap in APEC and ABAC activity, the APEC 2013 show is back on the road. After four days at the year’s first APEC Business Advisory Council meeting in Manila, where the region’s business leaders combed through their priority concerns for the year ahead, I flew on Thursday to Jakarta for the year’s first APEC Senior Official cluster. Between now and February 7, discussions driven by Indonesia as APEC chair will range from Chemicals and Illegal logging, to investment liberalization and facilitating business travel.


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Dodwell introducing 2013 APEC

December 21, 2012

On January 1, one of APEC’s founding members – Indonesia – formally takes over from relative neophyte Russia as APEC Chair and host. What better time to review the achievements of the past year and to look forward to what can be expected in 2013? [ Read More ]

Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 7

December 08, 2012


Indonesia’s iSOM agenda was mostly familiar and expected – but a few issues came out of the blue from an ABAC point of view. Perhaps the most interesting of these was the intention focus on health issues as part of APEC’s “inclusiveness” agenda. As far as I am aware, health issues have attracted negligible attention in ABAC over the past five years, but this may be about to change – and that is probably for the good.

Our Indonesian hosts plan to focus on two health related issues in particular: health financing; and the damaging impact on economic productivity of a poor health environment. Both of these should be of keen interest to ABAC.


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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 6

December 08, 2012

One of Indonesia's three key priorities for 2013 is "sustainable and inclusive growth". So a big chunk of Thursday's iSOM Syposium was devoted to the topic. On behalf of business and ABAC, Steven Lee, Alternate Member from Taiwan, gave a well received presentation on "Inclusive Growth", which I thought would be worth circulating to members - and in particular to our SDWG members who are likely to be pressed over the course of 2013 to come forward with concrete business sector contributions to this agenda. I won't woffle on separately about it - the short powerpoint and supporting notes speak for themselves. Regard "inclusiveness" firmly on our agenda.


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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 3

December 07, 2012

The 2013 APEC logo unveiled by Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Marty Natalegawa today – a strong bamboo tree bending resiliently to the force of the wind. Twenty one bamboo fronds representing the 21 APEC members. Strong deep blue background representing the ocean, and – in Indonesian culture – wisdom. APEC in yellow, representing the sun. A dedicated website for APEC Indonesia 2013 has also been launched today.

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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 4

December 07, 2012

Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Marty Natalegawa set the tone for the day when he opened the APEC iSOM in Jakarta: “Get the Bogor Goals done!” He also set the tone for Indonesia’s hospitality by deciding that his welcome to APEC officials should not be at the JW Marriott ballroom where all of the other iSOM discussions were being held, but at the Gedung Pancasila, the historic Foreign Ministry building that was the site of the signing of Indonesia’s independence constitution in 1945. The setting was impeccable: a fine old colonial building set in soft green lawns with flame of the forest trees in flower all around.

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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 5

December 07, 2012

After bludgeoning our way painfully through Jakarta’s teeming streets to meet with the Indonesian Foreign Minister at the historic Gedung Pancasila, the APEC bus cavalcade finally got back to the JW Marriott, home of all of the iSOM discussions, in time to start the day’s meetings at 10.00. The task ahead: to review in detail the three priorities for 2013 laid out in the Symposium the day before – getting the Bogor Goals done; sustainable and inclusive growth; and improving connectivity. Over the next four hours and in three separate sessions, these three priority areas were laid out and debated in detail in three separate sessions.


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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 2

December 06, 2012

ASEAN, Indonesia can naturally look to melding some of the initiatives that have proven successful in ASEAN with development plans for the wider APEC region. Equally unsurprising was the priority being given to sustainable and inclusive growth: Indonesia shares rising international concern about how much of the “growth” of the past two decades has benefited a tiny proportion of the region’s population, widening the rich-poor divide in virtually every economy in the region.

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Dodwell in iSOM Jakarta - Post 1

December 05, 2012

This week the curtain falls on a Russian year of APEC Chairmanship. Senior officials gather in Jakarta on Thursday and Friday to pass the baton to Indonesia, review achievements of the past year, and to debate Indonesia’s thoughts on priorities for 2013. No offence to our Russian friends, but it will be nice to exchange the refrigerated charms of Moscow and St Petersburg for the familiar steamy sprawl of Jakarta.

Because the Vladivostok APEC Leaders’ meeting fell so early this year, in deference to Siberia’s gripping winters, we have had an unusual pause in activity. But inevitably, the region’s challenges have not gone away, and in certain respects they have deepened: the threat of global recession remains as acute as ever, as does the danger of backsliding into protection. Since the Vladivostok meetings, conflicts over islands in the South China Sea have tested strong regional relationships, and elections in the US, China and (next week) Japan throw political uncertainties into the mix. But those APEC members involved in ASEAN have had positive meetings in recent weeks, so it is our hope and expectation that the collegial and collaborative mood that characterizes APEC activity holds firm.

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APEC ASPIREs to make a difference

September 14, 2012

In Vladivostok last week at the APEC Leaders’ Meeting, Professor Chiu was the star of a very special party – winner of the US$25,000 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) Prize.

Professor Chiu is a discrete and unassuming chemical pathology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Morningside College, but her prize provides a valuable illustration of a hidden talent that Hong Kong has in science and innovation – in spite of general views that Hong Kong has little to boast about in science and R&D.

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Dodwell in APEC China CEO Summit at Beijing - Post 1

June 07, 2012

Refreshed from three shimmering days in the bazaar they call Istanbul, I flew Wednesday into Beijing on the last leg of a three week APEC odyssey – now for the China CEO Summit.

If China’s Vice Premier Hui Liangyu took pride of place at the inaugural China CEO Summit as it began this morning (Thursday), the charisma sat with Kevin Rudd, the former Australian Prime Minister, who had the audience swooning with his ability and willingness to flip back and forth from Mandarin to English in his Keynote role at the two-day meeting. His analysis of the future of the Asia-Pacific region, as seen from the vantage point of Australia’s “creative middle power security”, was also acute for his mainly-Chinese audience. For  ABAC, his compliments for APEC were kindly taken (this was, after all, an APEC Summit): “If APEC had not existed, I wonder what would have happened in the region over the past 20 years,” he commented, recalling the traumatic decades that only came to an end in the mid-70s with the end of the Vietnam War.


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 9

June 05, 2012

My sense is that ABAC Members will need to identify a number of key priority initiatives to formulate and take forward from our ABAC3 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City in mid-July. We might also do well to encourage next year’s Indonesian hosts to kick off the year early –  bringing forward the “iSOM” meeting normally held each December to prepare priorities for 2013, and perhaps even by arranging a “mini-cluster” of meetings around the “iSOM”. They might also think about pulling the first APEC senior officials cluster forward into January. I wonder whether Chinese New Year would allow that?


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 8

June 03, 2012

After a week of robust, and sometimes short-tempered debate in the newly-formed Policy Partnership on Food Security, the week’s work ended well with a substantive Ministerial Meeting, and a “Kazan Declaration” that embodies many of ABAC’s concerns and priorities, and will shape policies aimed at future food security for many years to come.

Tony Nowell, Chair of ABAC’s Regional Economic Integration Working Group and a long-time passionate advocate of governments and the private sector working together on food security, was able to report to Food Ministers a substantive menu of tasks that we need to roll up sleeves on straight away. For ABAC, that will mean discussions and decisions from our Sustainable Development Working Group in Ho Chi Minh in a month’s time.


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 7

June 02, 2012

Over the course of the past week, four APEC committees have asked me to present to them on what ABAC has been up to – the Market Access Group, the Investment Experts Group, the Economic Committee, and the Committee on Trade and Investment. This gave a timely opportunity to report back on the outcomes of the year’s second ABAC meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which finished just a week ago (seems a lifetime ago after a week running around Kazan!).


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 6

June 01, 2012


Through the early part of this week our long-standing staffer from ABAC Japan, Omamu Kamikawa, Japan kept lonely vigil at the APEC Business Mobility Group (BMG). It seems he has been faithfully attending the BMG, and speaking on ABAC’s behalf, for years.

The BMG folks are all about managing people across borders – visas and that kind of stuff. Much of their work is dull and technical, but what has made it important for ABAC, and justifiable for Kamikawa-san, is that BMG is home of discussion on the much-loved APEC Travel Card. While we always talk glowingly of the Travel Card as one of APEC’s iconic successes, truth is that we have been troubled by developments in the past couple of years, and Kamikawa-san has been our voice on these issues. It still takes months to get a card with a critical mass of APEC economies signed up; and many business travelers have found it increasingly difficult to qualify for a card. Many immigration departments don’t like the additional work involved. We are calling for quicker approval and issuance, and we are keen to see a five year card replace the current three year card. We are keen to see arrangements put in place that mean your card stays valid even if you have to change your passport. In short,  Kamikawa-san presses our case every SOM. Important, thankless work.


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 5

May 30, 2012

Wednesday’s inaugural Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) could so easily have become a fiasco. The baldest of agendas meant that most participants arrived without any clear knowledge of what was going to be discussed or how. Conspiratorial huddles on the margins of the meeting created a highly charged and combative air as the meeting began. Some wanted to plunge straight into discussion of projects. Others wanted to work on defining long term strategic objectives and a framework for achieving them.

The Russian Chair, Sergey Aleksashenko, had his hands full managing this unprecedented amalgam of government officials and business leaders. Stress levels were high in part because of high expectations. As one member noted: “We can make such a big difference in so many peoples’ lives.” As the Chairman noted in a letter circulated immediately after the boisterous meeting:  “All of us became participants of an experiment – political leaders of the APEC economies (for the first time) decided to listen to the opinion of the business community.”


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 4

May 29, 2012

After several days of discussion here in Kazan on the importance of services in all of our economies, and the need for – and value of – services liberalization, there was some dismay on Monday to discover that the draft statement of Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) made the vaguest passing reference to services and services liberalization, and similarly little reference to investment liberalization. As a result, some urgent informal advocacy was cranked up to press our Trade Ministers to pay services and investment a little more attention.

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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 3

May 28, 2012

A fresh wave of conference folks swept in on Monday – clearly not the usual APEC people – all headed for the inaugural meeting on food security – the Policy Partnership on Food Security that ABAC has fought for more than a decade to create. No sooner had they arrived than they swept away, to visit a massive Tatarstan dairy herd. For me, one dairy herd looks very like another, and as a non-meat-eater I don’t feel keenly motivated to spend a day with a bunch of Russian cows, so I gave the field trip a miss, and instead knuckled down to a very productive Investment Experts Group.

Apart from providing the group with a comprehensive report back from our Kuala Lumpur meeting, there was a solid review of the IFAP – the Investment Facilitation Action Plan – which is also very close to ABAC’s heart. We were able to reiterate our support for this programme, and for the need for metrics that measure progress on the various plans. So it was gratifying to learn that the Policy Support Unit is planning an audit that should be ready by the end of the year.


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 1

May 27, 2012

Everyone seems to have their own exotic stories of how they flew into Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan and - for three weeks - home to the second huge cluster of APEC Senior Officials meetings. Despite the difficulties in getting to Kazan from our ABAC2 in Kuala Lumpur, ABAC has arrived in moderate force – a total of four Members, and a solid crowd of staffers like myself.


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Dodwell in SOM 2 Meetings at Kazan - Post 2

May 27, 2012

The weekend in Kazan was devoted to supply chains and services liberalization, with workshops organized by the Group on Services that offered us rich opportunities to further ABAC’s agenda for the liberalization of services. ABAC members Anthony Nightingale from Hong Kong and Tony Nowell from New Zealand spoke jointly on “The Governance of Services” at a Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) on Saturday.

This was followed on Sunday by a Trade Policy Dialogue orchestrated by APEC Singapore on Facilitating Global Supply Chains – an excellent opportunity for Tony Nowell to recount ABAC’s efforts over the past two years on identifying choke points in the supply chain, and to outline the work being done this year by the Marshall School research team from the University of Southern California on chokepoints in services supply chains. The Workshop included excellent  presentations both from business and from public bodies like the WTO, Jetro and the OECD. Our sense at the end of the day was that while there is a long way to go, ABAC’s efforts to get officials to pay more policy attention to liberalizing trade and investment in services are beginning to bear some fruit.


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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 6

April 05, 2012

With four other highly competent staffers in situ for the April 4-5 Innovation and Trade  Conference, I decided to cut from Singapore at the end of the CTI meeting on Tuesday, and fly home to Hong Kong to squeeze a couple of days work ahead of the Easter break. It seems there are so many inconclusive ends from the CTI that a huge amount of work looks necessary between here and Kazan. The shortening of this year’s APEC sequence is really creating significant pressures. They will be severe for ABAC too, since the ABAC 2 in Kuala Lumpur overlaps with the first five days of Kazan – meaning that we will miss the first stages, and then have a mad scramble to feed into the meetings of the last 10 days. A large number of ABAC members and staffers will be poring over maps and flight schedules to work out how best to get from KL to Kazan as quickly as possible after the end of APEC2 on May 25.

Early departure after the CTI did not mean the blog had to die. The following is an edited (day 1) summary from NCAPEC’s David Boman from the Innovation and Trade Conference on Wednesday.


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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 5

April 02, 2012

While Singapore’s business centre quietened out over the weekend for all sensible people to take a break, APEC’s Group on Services officials trudged loyally into the vast empty spaces of the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The area was not entirely desolate – there were some Singaporeans sidling into the glitzy Sands Casino next door – but the earnest business areas populated by APEC were pretty lonely places. 

In spite of – or maybe even because of – the isolation, a remarkably interesting and substantial agenda was pursued. I reckon there were at least five areas of interest to the business community.


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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 4

April 02, 2012

Sunday promised to be another richly instructive day: a morning focused on supply chain connectivity, and in the afternoon a key “Friends of the Chair” discussion on compilation of an APEC list of Environmental Goods and Services. Instead, it proved frustrating and unproductive.

First, the hugely technical supply chain connectivity discussion swept high over my head. The meeting was undoubtedly valuable and productive for those technocrats working on how, in practical terms, to squeeze 10% of costs out of the region’s supply chains. But to a lay business person, it was as tedious and tortuous as it was worthy and necessary. Some meetings we can safely miss and leave to our officials.

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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 3

March 31, 2012

If you think an “environmental good” is hard to define, then wait until you start to wrestle with “environmental services”. In the austere and arcane world of trade policy, few issues are as fascinating – or frustrating – as environmental goods and services. So we attended Friday’s full day workshop on environmental services with some trepidation. The workshop had been organized by China as part of a capacity-building initiative, but a clear majority of presentations came from Americans – and most were fascinating.

Profound insight number one: in environmental services, the market does not work. There is no natural demand for them. As Dale Andrews, head of the OECD’s Environment Division noted: “Who would purchase, for example, sewage or air cleaning services out of sheer altruism?” In effect, regulations (for which read Government officials responding to public opinion) determine the market. This means that Government officials by necessity play an extraordinarily significant role in determining the size and nature of trade in environmental services.


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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 2

March 31, 2012

Friday’s Market Access Group discussion seemed a rather flaccid affair. There was clearly great enthusiasm for the two workshops of the previous day – one driven by Caterpillar on “Remanufactured Goods”, and the second on updating the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), which was originally drafted in 1995 – but it proved hard to sustain the animation into the full MAG meeting.

On “Reman”, it is perplexing to hear the same demands today that were heard in Washington a year ago for clearer definitions of what we mean by a “remanufactured good”. Are so many people really so obtuse that after at least three comprehensive debates on the issue, they still don’t understand, or are some quiet political games being played? A visit to Caterpillar’s massive and impressive regional remanufacturing centre in Singapore clearly “wowed” every participant, and one can only hope this helped to move the discussion forward towards some form of concrete conclusion.

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Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 1

March 28, 2012

The contrast with the Moscow APEC Senior Officials meeting in February could not be starker: from 25-30 degrees below zero, to a sweltering 25-30 degrees above; from the tight, dark streets around the Moskva River to the green and humid open spaces around the Sands Casino resort on land reclaimed along Singapore’s sheltered coastline; from Moscow’s Crowne Plaza, the “grand dame” of western hotels in the former soviet capital, to the vast unused spaces of the spanking-new Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

The scale of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment cluster (CTI2) is also noticeably more modest than the full Senior Officials Meeting in Moscow – a mere 7 committees or working groups meeting, compared with the 30-or-more in February.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 11

February 19, 2012

Focus on my return to Hong Kong is now very much on the ABAC meetings, which start on Tuesday with a big SME Summit on Entrepreneurship, and then shift into the three days of formal ABAC meetings. A high point will be the meeting between ABAC members and Senior APEC Officials, most of them flying in directly from Moscow. This dialogue with Senior officials happens just once a year, and is significant both for Senior Officials to brief the region’s business leaders on APEC priorities for the year ahead, and for the opportunity it provides for ABAC members to drive home our own business priorities for the year.

There will inevitably be much discussion based on the SOM just finished in Moscow. I raced away to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Saturday morning with the full SOM still in progress, shortly after our ABAC Chair, Ziyavudin Magomedov, presented ABAC’s 2012 work plan to Senior Officials. He made a perfectly workman-like presentation hampered only by the fact that ABAC has yet to meet this year, and so has not yet finalized its 2012 workplan.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 10

February 18, 2012

The final day before Senior Officials meet in earnest, was devoted to two “Friends of the Chair” discussions – on Food Security, and on Innovation – two of Russia’s four priorities for 2012.

The Food Security issue has now been very well “cooked” – first with the PPFS Management Council almost two weeks ago, and then with an extended discussion at Thursday’s “SEC-COW” meeting on the logistics of getting members appointed and in harness. The Friends of the Chair discussion involved our Russian colleagues tabling a total of 20 specific proposals to be driven forward in the coming months – and in particular up to the Food Security Ministerial planned for the end of May in the Tatar capital of Kazan. With the exception of “post harvest loss”, or food waste, where there seems to be fairly universal agreement that progress should be made, my own sense was that there is an understandable but inappropriate sense of haste.

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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 9

February 16, 2012

One of APEC’s most improbable acronyms - SCE-COW – produced an unexpectedly fertile opportunity for inputs from ABAC on Thursday. SCE-COW stands for Steering Committee on EcoTech – Committee of the Whole. I must be frank – I walked into the huge meeting room wondering what on earth I was going to learn in this “COW”.

Much was procedural and dull but a Russian presentation on plans for pursuing the Food Security priority allowed a robust discussion of arrangements for the newly-created Policy Partnership on Food Security.  

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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 8

February 15, 2012

At 30 minutes notice on Tuesday afternoon I was marched down to the Economic Committee (EC), where I was told I was on the Agenda to present on ABAC’s 2012 priorities. Woops. No-one had told me. So I begged time, and appeared on Wednesday morning at 9.30 with powerpoint in hand. Heaven knows whether I covered everything I should cover on ABAC’s behalf, but I did my best. Going forward, the Economic Committee says it wants to hear more from us.

Both the EC agenda and the CTI agenda are gigantic affairs. Documents are compendious – books’-worth of reading, if anyone had the time to be that conscientious. And with so much turf to cover, discussions can be totally sleep-making.  The challenge here is that in the midst of the ponderous, technical detail, some little gems fall out – and it’s hard to make sure you are awake when they drop.

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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 7

February 14, 2012

In Honolulu last November, APEC leaders gave instructions for officials to draw up a clear list of Environmental Goods and Services that would carry tariffs of 5% or less. So ABAC officials have dedicated themselves to a fascinating but inconclusive debate over the goods that would qualify to sit on an EGS list. It took an APEC official from Indonesia to remind all that APEC first tried to draw up an EGS list in 1995. Sobering thought. Experts from the World Bank, General Electric, Environmental Business International, Beijing Normal University and the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development reminded us of how complicated it is simply to define an “environmental good”.

ABAC’s own Takeshi Hajiro from ABAC Japan presented views from Japanese business – and very sensibly called for officials to build a larger list, which should include (for example) environmentally-friendly vehicles and energy-efficient electrical appliances. Let’s see if our officials can rise to the challenge. Drawing up an EGS list remains one of 2012’s key priorities, so for APEC’s Senior Officials, the pressure is on.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 6

February 13, 2012

Competitiveness, how we are progressing on liberalization, and the “dashboard” measuring APEC member economy progress towards achieving the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment were the focus of the APEC Committee on Trade and Industry (CTI) and the Economic Committee (EC) which both began their long sequences of meetings in Moscow on Sunday.

While the Economic Committee focused on the “Ease of Doing Business” indicators devoted to the metrics measuring how our member economies are progressing in their liberalization efforts, the CTI was host to long, technical presentations from the World Bank, the IFC, the World Economic Forum and APEC’s own Policy Support Unit, on how they build their global country rankings on competitiveness. There was even a presentation from the Turku School of Economics in Finland on competitiveness in the Logistics Sector, based on an assumption that competitiveness in this sector is a good proxy for broader trade competitiveness.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 5

February 12, 2012


While most of you lucky people have been capturing a bit of family and relaxation time over the weekend, the APEC circus has continued to roll. It is one of the fine traditions of APEC Senior Official meetings that they continue to meet right through weekends. Sensible, really, when hotel rooms cost US$300 a night, and every day away from home is an additional cost to the taxpayer. Doubly sensible when it is -20 degrees outside, with every incentive to stay huddled in the warmth of the hotel!

The weekend’s meetings were particularly important for ABAC: we were able to present to the Investment Experts Group on the “Investing for Growth” report (full report) prepared over last summer by NC APEC in the US; and we were able to contribute to a special workshop on “Regulatory Coherence” based on a substantial report brought together by ABAC New Zealand and NC APEC which described the practical damage and cost to business of regulatory “divergence” in three sectors – dairy, electronics and off-road transport.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 4

February 11, 2012

This weekend, ABAC brought trade negotiators for both goods and services together in Moscow for a rare joint meeting. The aim was to demonstrate that liberalizing services trade is just as important for boosting trade and competitiveness in goods as it is for services.

ABAC proposed to trade negotiators back in the San Francisco SOM3 last year that officials from the two important trade policy groups – one dealing with services, the other with goods (“the stuff you can drop on your foot” as one Market Access Group (MAG) official put it) – could valuably meet together to examine embedded and embodied services. It had been a clear conclusion from the Services liberalization report championed by ABAC Hong Kong China and ABAC Philippines through summer last year, and endorsed by leaders in Hawaii last November, that the long-standing neglect of services trade and investment liberalization was hurting the export competitiveness of goods producers – in particular high value-adding ones, and goods produced along long transnational supply chains.

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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 3

February 09, 2012
  Over five days of meetings for APEC’s Human Resources Development Working Group – the biggest human resources meeting since Washington in March last year -  the need for closer links with business has been a constant theme. I think business needs to take note, and examine how we can link with them in tackling some of the labour market challenges that are likely to intensify over the coming decade.

But for now, ABAC’s priority for the business community has been a major Skills Mapping initiative, which was launched in September 2010 in Beijing at APEC’s first Human Resources Ministerial in nine years. There have been times over the past year when it seemed the initiative would flounder, but now, under the meticulous stewardship of Australia, there is rising confidence that the project will get the go ahead. We will know in a couple of days, when APEC’s Budget Management Committee finalizes the projects that will get APEC funding in the year ahead.
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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 2

February 06, 2012

Monday in Moscow was dedicated to ABAC’s favourite subject – the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). The Business Mobility Group, which has nurtured the development of the ABTC for more than a decade, had a meaty 17-item agenda dominated by issues of long-standing interest to APEC’s business community: extending the ABTC validity period from 3 to 5 years; shortening and simplifying the time needed to process ABTC renewals; coverage of the ABTC beyond the APEC region; and development of a “trusted traveller” scheme to build on the ABTC.


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Dodwell in SOM1 Moscow - Post 1

February 05, 2012

Russia’s welcome to the first Senior APEC Officials meetings of 2012 has been warm, but Moscow has not. Arriving in the bleak morning darkness with officials cheerfully telling us to wrap up because it is -21 degrees outside, one could only recall with fond affection the balmy Hawaiian weather that welcomed us to the APEC leaders meeting in November last year.

For many outside observers, APEC starts and ends with just one event – the  APEC Leaders Meeting every November, with its associated APEC CEO Forum. But for those of inside the process the Leaders Meeting is the culmination of a huge amount of work that starts every February with the Senior Officials Meetings. I say meetings, because these SOMs are actually “clusters” of anything up to 60 separate meetings on issues ranging from Foreign Investment and Customs Regimes to Human Resources Development and Services Liberalisation. These Senior Official “clusters” usually occur four times a year and this first – in Moscow – is important in setting the 2012 agenda for many of the region’s officials.

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Getting Stuff Done in Hawaii

November 18, 2011


Lots of journalists – and a lot of business leaders too – tend to be dismissive. They see APEC as just another “hot air-fest” – an opportunity for high profile posturing to election-focused domestic audiences, and grand-sounding declarations that melt to nothing once they are carefully scrutinized. I suppose the TPP – or the Trans-Pacific Partnership – would be counted as one of these.

But I think they are wrong. After a year of heavy engagement in the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and a week camped in Honolulu meeting rooms looking forlornly out on surfers and Japanese honeymooners making more appropriate use of Waikiki beach, I believe some very important things are happening both in APEC, and in particular around the TPP.

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The Air Passenger paper trail

November 04, 2011

I spend much time at APEC meetings across Asia listening to people talking about the imperative of “regulatory convergence” – the politically correct term is in fact “regulatory coherence”. Why not start on something simple like converging the immigration forms, health and customs forms and – better still – using the data stored electronically to save us having to fill out paper forms in the first place? I wonder how many millions of sheets of paper would be saved in the process.

At our next set of APEC meetings in Hawaii next week, there will be earnest an interesting discussion on an “APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative” that will aim to “improve the overall travel experience for passengers”. They are talking about building “trusted traveler” programmes to speed and simplify immigration procedures, and to improve security screening. Why can’t they just start by clearing up the crazy paper trail?

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