Delegates of the APEC Voices of the Future Program and their take on the times
Tan Pengru, the APEC Voices Representative from Singapore, one of the G20 Youth Summit Delegates. Photo by Alex Lauer.
When asked about his time in Europe last June, Singaporean PhD student Tan Pengru has a good story to tell. How many Singaporean students can say they talked trade with Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel?
“She was a very inspiring and humble leader,” Tan said of his two-hour meeting along with that of other APEC youth representatives, at the German Chancellery where they discussed trade and other global issues.
Tan was among the APEC representatives who travelled to Berlin in June for the G20 Youth Dialogue. Young delegates from around the world gathered to network, brainstorm ideas and contribute to the G20 decision-making process. For the APEC group, the focus was on how best to reduce barriers to free trade and increase inclusive economic growth.
“The single biggest issue facing this region from my point of view is inequality,” the University of Tokyo public policy student said.
Free trade has brought unprecedented growth to many economies, especially in the APEC region. But policymakers need to work hard to educate the public about the benefits, particularly given the recent rise of protectionist sentiments, the 29-year-old continued.
Prosperity has not been shared equally, with technological advancements such as automation, for example, resulting in job losses.
“Governments need to find a way to redistribute the benefits of trade,” he said, warning that failure would result in a “sustained backlash against free trade and greater calls for protectionism.”
The delegation was organized as part of the APEC Voices of the Future program that sees young people from member economies play a role in addressing the trade, investment and other issues impacting the region. A forum held during APEC Leaders’ Week each year is a key platform for youth representatives to engage with government and business leaders, share ideas and contribute to the future success of the region.
Hoang Tien, APEC Voices Viet Nam Representative, one of the G20 Youth Summit Delegates. Photo by Alex Lauer.
“I have encountered many young, passionate leaders in the region who share the same values as me—a strong desire for sustainable and inclusive growth,” Hoang Tien, a representative from Viet Nam who is currently pursuing her PhD in economics in the United States.
“I realized that no matter where you are from, what story you carry, or which goal you aspire to achieve, the voices of the future of the Asia-Pacific all yearn to have a connected and prosperous future together.”
Hoang said the trip to Berlin proved critical to enhancing her real-world knowledge and understanding of how to tackle corruption and other global problems.
G20 Youth delegates, including APEC Youth representatives, meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I was able to learn about corruption fighting from a German lawyer, how free trade agreements work with an economist from the WTO, and discuss the future of work with an consultant with the International Labor Organization. This is tangible knowledge that has deeply affected my views about the challenges the world is facing, not just why but also how,” said the 23-year-old who also met the German leader.
Young people need to learn about climate change and other global issues at the highest levels to better prepare for the future, said New Zealand’s Zachary George-Neich, who took part in his first APEC Voices of the Future forum in Da Nang last November.
“By gaining this knowledge, youth delegates can then share it with their peers back home and improve understanding and hopefully better prepare youth for the future,” the first-year commerce student at Victoria University in Wellington said.
Roberta Morlin (third from the left) and Zachary George-Neich (second from right) in Da Nang, Viet Nam, during Economic Leaders Week 2017.
Roberta Morlin, a representative from Papua New Guinea who is working to improve the health and education sectors through technology, said she was looking forward to young people making a key contribution when her economy hosts APEC for the first time in 2018.
Morlin, 28, said there was a clear need for the APEC program, given that the youth are the future economic drivers of the region’s development.
“The world and technology are advancing at such an exponential speed and the youth have an important role to play as they are better versed and can be the driving force of the new digital era.”
APEC Voices of the Future Representatives Gather in Da Nang, Viet Nam, during Economic Leaders Week 2017.