APCAC –the Asian Pacific Council of American Chambers – recently expanded to comprise 29 AmChams in the region and held its spring meetings in Singapore. Several AmCham HK members participated in the conference and related meetings for chamber leaders.
Richard Vuylsteke reports
This year’s annual APCAC conference, hosted by AmCham Singapore on March 11-13 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center, was attended by more than 450 private sector executives, diplomats, and government leaders from the region.
The theme, “The United States and Asia – New Opportunities in the Pacific Century,” built on previous summits’ themes about Asia’s growth and global influence. Organized and executed by host chamber AmCham Singapore, the conference also celebrated Singapore’s 50th anniversary as a nation.
At the opening reception in Singapore’s new “Gardens by the Bay,” US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar emphasized US government and business engagement in Asia through increased economic cooperation, job creation, infrastructure development, and enabling the creation of new domestic enterprises.
“The expanded trade engagement and our enhanced military cooperation with allies and strategic partners in the region underscore the US government’s commitment to building a bright future in this region on all fronts – economic, cultural, political, and security,” Ambassador Wagar said.
The conference included networking receptions, several keynote speakers, including five US Ambassadors posted to Southeast Asia, one-on-one meetings with US Foreign Commercial and Foreign Agricultural Officers posted to the region, and a selection of 12 panels covering regional and global business, economic, and political issues.
“It was great to be able to meet officials from the US and the region in one place,” says Catherine Simmons, AmCham HK Board member and Managing Director and Head of Government Affairs, Asia Pacific, at Citi.
Panel choices included a wide range of topics, including the Global and Regional Economic Outlook, Innovation and Technological Disruption, Branding in Asia, South China Sea Issues, and Prospects for the ASEAN Economic Community.
“I don’t usually have the ability to gain in-depth perspectives on the entire region from governments and companies on the ground in one setting — that was very useful,” says AmCham HK Board member Sara Bosco, President of Asia Pacific for Emerson Electric. “Hearing about the progress of TPP and TPA from the people who are actually working on the issues was particularly helpful, and hearing ambassadors from five countries all in one panel was amazing. The opportunity for networking goes without saying.” “I managed to meet three senior commercial officers from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia, as well as the heads of AmCham from Cambodia and Philippines, and also renewed acquaintances from AmCham Mongolia and Japan—all relevant regions for Emerson,” Bosco says.
For the first time in several years, attending AmCham Board members and chamber presidents/executive directors met over an early breakfast to discuss ways to increase coordination and support for regional chambers throughout the year.
“The breakfast discussion was enlightening, as I did not have a good sense of the role of APCAC as another platform for information sharing and advocacy,” Bosco says.
The chamber leaders discussed the possibility of having more board member involvement in APCAC throughout the year as a means to coordinate on chamber messaging to Congress, the development of more targeted advocacy agendas, and to share best practices.
“If there is a consensus that certain topics are effectively discussed and dealt with by APCAC as well as each individual chamber, I think Hong Kong should support this,” Bosco says. “For example, more coordinated efforts on the passing of TPP, APEC activities, and ASEAN Economic community development, could be areas of focus for our engagement.”
At the breakfast, AmCham HK, which each year conducts business delegation trips to the region, reported on the usefulness of coordinating these visits closely with other APCAC chambers in order to reinforce local and regional advocacy topics.
Over the past three years, these trips have included meetings with AmCham Board members in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing China; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam; Yangon, Myanmar; and Dacca, Bangladesh. Preparatory trips have also included Mongolia, Taiwan, Cambodia, and Thailand.
The final conference event was a special session with Derek J. Mitchell, the US Ambassador to Burma/Myanmar. This was of special interest to AmCham HK, as a tentative delegation trip is being planned for this year or next year. Given the election environment in the fall with officials most likely not being as available for meetings, the recommendation was to wait until 2016. Nevertheless, the Ambassador urged people to continue individual visits to the country as the business growth possibilities remain strong.
For more information about AmCham HK’s activities in APCAC, contact Richard Vuylsteke