Adele Mason's October 2023 Executive Director's Update

This update comes to you from Taipei, where I am with a group of 15 members of the Foundation’s Leadership Network. It’s the network's second offshore hui of the year – our Singapore Hui in March marking a resumption of international travel after a three-year hiatus due to Covid.
A goup shot of Leadership Network members in Foundation t-shirts

In Taipei, the Leadership Network members are visiting New Zealand companies, exploring Taiwan’s advanced technology sector and connecting with indigenous groups

Our Leadership Network is made up of individuals who will form the next generation of leaders in the New Zealand–Asia space; taking them to Asia is one way we help them build confidence and develop their understanding of the region and its people.

In Taiwan, we’ll be meeting a number of Foundation contacts and New Zealand companies, as well as connecting with indigenous groups and exploring Taiwan’s advanced technology sector. 

This is my fourth visit to Taipei, and I’ve already spent more time exploring the city and taking in the sights than on all my past visits.  We’ve biked around Taipei alongside so many locals and tourists, evidence of the love of the outdoors in this bustling metropolis. A morning visit to Taipei 101 skyscraper coincided with the annual “Run Up Marathon”, with thousands climbing the 2,045 individual steps that ascend 90 stories of one of Asia's tallest buildings. Perhaps something for our next visit…

Keeping on the topic of the Leadership Network, we will be inducting 42 new members at an event in Auckland on 4 November. We’ll be welcoming a diverse cohort from various backgrounds, working in areas ranging from the creative arts to aerospace technology. As these up-and-coming leaders build their knowledge and relationships in and with Asia, they will lead the way for a more culturally aware New Zealand that's well-connected to the region.

The health and beauty entrepreneurs trying out beauty products

In Indonesia, the group visited health and beauty businesses to learn about local brands and customer preferences

This week, ten young health and beauty entrepreneurs returned from a week-long Foundation-led visit to Indonesia where they learned about that country’s health and beauty sector, developed contacts and scoped opportunities for possibly taking their products to the local market.

The visit was through the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI), a programme the Foundation facilitates on behalf of MFAT to build connections between business leaders and entrepreneurs in New Zealand and Southeast Asia.

The entrepreneurs time in Indonesia included attending the country’s largest beauty trade exhibition, Cosmbeaute. At the trade show, they got to see some of the latest health and beauty trends and gained an understanding of how their products might fit into Southeast Asian markets.

One of the entrepreneurs looking at a booklet in a health and beauty spa

In 2020, the beauty and cosmetics sector generated a revenue of some US$25 billion in Southeast Asia

Earlier this month, the Foundation’s director research and engagement, Suzannah Jessep, led a Track II delegation to Malaysia and Thailand to hold talks with regional thinktanks. Their first stop was Kuala Lumpur, where they participated in the 15th ASEAN Australian New Zealand Dialogue, which the Foundation co-host with Malaysia ISIS and Asialink.

The group engaged with over sixty other academics, sector experts, commentators and officials for three days of in-depth discussions about regional approaches to great power geo-politics; human security and climate change; trade integration and cyber-security.

To help set the scene and tempo for the talks, the Foundation led a NextGen workshop for twenty up-and-coming young professionals looking to a future in Track II diplomacy.

The delegation then travelled to Bangkok for a day of calls on leading academics, media and commentators, including representatives from the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University and the Asia Foundation.

Suz says she was struck by the dynamism and wealth of opportunity evident across a rapidly evolving Southeast Asia. However, she was also reminded of the serious challenges facing the region and the delicate balancing act that many in Southeast Asia are trying to achieve, between major powers, competing territorial claims, economic and environmental pressures, and governance issues.  

Next month, the Track II team will be leading two delegations, both headed by our board Chair Dame Fran Wilde, firstly to Viet Nam for our 14th dialogue with the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam and then Japan, for a range of meetings.

The New Zealand delegation and ISIS Malaysia representatives holding talks in a conference roomThe Foundation delegation in discussions with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia and Asialink. (Photo: ISIS Malaysia)

Last month, the Foundation's director research and engagement spoke at the India Business Summit, which was jointly hosted by the Indian High Commission and the Auckland Business Chamber.  At the event, Suz spoke about the rise of India and what it might mean for New Zealand, highlighting the need for New Zealand businesses to take a holistic, long-term approach to building relationships in India and to see it as a country to work with not just sell to. Keep an eye on our website for an article looking more closely at the event.

Finally, we will be having a pre-departure briefing for young New Zealanders who will be setting off for internships across Asia over the New Zealand summer.

For the first time, we will have a sports internship with the Organising Committee for the 2024 Youth Winter Olympics in Gangwon, South Korea. This partnership was developed as a direct result of our sports research last year and provides an opportunity for a young New Zealander to develop knowledge of Asia’s sports infrastructure, gain an understanding of the region and the place of sports within it.

I’ll be in Taiwan for a few more days still, so I’ll provide further reflections on the visit in my next update.

Hei konā mai,

Adele Mason