Sunday, 27 September 2020
2018 APEC CEO Summit: Da Nang, Vietnam

2018 APEC CEO Summit: Da Nang, Vietnam

I spent last week in Da Nang, Vietnam at the APEC CEO Summit. Coinciding with the Summit, Leaders and Trade Ministers from the 21 member economies met on bi-lateral and multilateral issues, including improving dialogue with the business community. The APEC Leaders meeting is a unique opportunity to re-affirm commitment to free trade in the Asia-Pacific region, progress trade liberalization, discuss regional security, and, of course, take that famous matching shirt photo.

The 2 ½ day APEC CEO Summit was an opportunity to hear from the Leaders, political and trade experts and leading business organisations. The mining industry was “represented” by the Vice Chairman, President & CEO of Freeport-McMoRan, Richard Akerson, who participated on a panel focused on New Frontiers in Trade.

Here are some observations from my time in Da Nang -

#1: Mining is facing the same issues and has the same questions as other industries do in respect to the  impacts of digital disruption, automation, and AI. These issues are being discussed and explored right across the board, and no one is quite clear on where the technology will lead us or what the longer term implications will be. In general, the consensus is that the impact will be good, but everyone agreed that the responsible application of new technologies is a must in order to ensure that the benefits are equally shared. Whether it is the real estate, retail or food production, topics such as interoperability, lack of relevant standards, legacy systems and connectivity are relevant. Collaboration across the value chain was discussed as a way to increase competiveness. Sound familiar?

#2: Skills is a huge issue, and the war on talent is set to increase. There is currently a lack of skills to meet demand in such areas of computer science, computer programming and data analytics – in every industry and in every country. Governments and educators are on the back foot, and there was not one example of a country that has adequately responded to today’s needs through the formal education system or other training. This not only includes skilling up future generations, but the re-training of older workers for the jobs of tomorrow. The pace of change means that governments and educators can’t respond fast enough, and, the only way it could have been addressed was to start on a different path 10 years ago. Planning for the structure of work, what jobs are being created and where the jobs will be is still a big unknown, and everyone is grappling with the same issues.

#3: There is a seismic geopolitical shift happening caused by a void in global leadership given President Trump’s world view, which doesn’t extend much beyond the Jersey Shore or the Golden Gate Bridge. With America in retreat, China is stepping into the void and leading the way with their “One Belt, One Road” initiative which political and business leaders spoke about with optimism. Both President Trump and President Xi Jinping spoke at the CEO Summit. President Trump espoused America first, patriotism and protecting your home. President Xi talked about shared prosperity, peace, innovation, and open trade. The contrast in the messages couldn’t have been more stark, and it was like witnessing a role reversal of countries when it comes to free market economics.

The discussion at the conference all resonated with those conversations occurring in the mining and METS sectors, and it’s good to know that as an industry we are focusing on the right areas, and in some areas quite advanced in our application of new technologies.  

Christine Gibbs Stewart, CEO, Austmine


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