Simon Draper's July 2020 Update

An unexpected consequence of COVID-19 has been an increase in people's interest to learn about Asia, and not just in relation to the pandemic. We have seen a surge in discussions, be they webinars, round tables or conferences, looking at New Zealand’s connections to the region and how we can strengthen them. The Foundation has been at the forefront of this messaging and it’s encouraging to see the growing awareness of the important role the region will play in this country’s post-COVID recovery.

Earlier this month, I was invited to speak as part of the Trans-Tasman Business Circle series of webinars about the findings from our latest Perceptions of Asia survey, and the importance of New Zealand having strong relationships with Asia in light of COVID-19.

The webinar was attended by businesspeople in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. As well as questions around trade, sport and education, with the webinar taking place the same week the controversial security law was imposed on Hong Kong, I was asked for my take on what this means for New Zealand and its wider implications. At its core, beyond the obvious implications the new law will have on Hong Kong, I see it signalling the kind of great power China is going to be and how it’s going to exercise its muscle.

Insights from entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia

On a lighter note, the many of you connected to the rural sector will no doubt be aware that New Zealand’s biggest agricultural trade show is currently running. This year, Fieldays is being held online with participants joining from around New Zealand and the world.

On Wednesday, the Foundation partnered with Fieldays to deliver a interesting discussion looking at the changing food trends in Asia, which was broadcast live on Fieldays TV. Two entrepreneurs the Foundation has had close ties to through our ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative, Alex Worker and Jerel Kwek, spoke at the event, hosted by Leadership Network member Margie Hunt.

This comes on the heels of a webinar we held last month that brought together three Southeast Asia entrepreneurs to discuss how they are navigating their businesses through these difficult times. It’s always interesting to hear how businesses in Asia are faring, in many cases without the support we have seen the New Zealand government provide businesses here.

Watch the webinar: Up Against the Wall: Stories of resilience from Southeast Asian entrepreneurs

Young people making a difference

This week, the Foundation has also been heavily involved with Festival for the Future – an event that aims to inspire young people to reach their potential and achieve great things.

The Foundation is a sponsor of the festival, which this year is being held as an online digital summit. We provided two keynote speakers for the festival: artist and Leadership Network member Alice Canton and Honorary Adviser Helianti Hilman, who spoke about bringing indigenous food to the world.

The Foundation has also led several other sessions, including with Kiwi journalists working in Asia and an introduction to K-Pop, and this afternoon will be holding sessions on sustainability in Southeast Asia and getting to grips with pronouncing Chinese words.

Coming up...

After hosting a very successful Webinar in June,  next week, the Foundation’s director business Felicity Roxburgh will be on a panel at the China Business Summit in Auckland, where she will join other Asia experts to discuss how Auckland can leverage its people-to-people and business connections to strengthen Auckland’s economy.

In August, Felicity will be on a New Zealand Institute of International Affairs panel to look at the future of Hong Kong in respect of recent events, including new security legislation.

So, after a slow autumn due to COVID-19, things have really ramped up. While it’s fantastic to see New Zealanders thinking about Asia and looking to reconnect, something we are conscious of here at the Foundation is that New Zealand is in a very fortunate position, and we must be careful not to forget that for most Asian countries basic health concerns are still top of mind. You can read my take on this subject in my latest Stuff article.

Finally, Matariki signals the Māori new year and there is no doubt 2020 is testing all of us in new and challenging ways. So let's take a moment to pause, take a breath and reflect on what we have collectively achieved over the last few months. Well done to all of you. 

On that note, noho ora mai,

Simon Draper