Auckland gathering of Asia-Pacific business leaders to focus on trade, digital and SMEs 31 Jan 2018 The meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) being held from 1-4 February in Auckland will seek to advance sustainable and inclusive growth.“Prospects for expanded trade and investment in the region have improved significantly with the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) now concluded. We now need to put in place the sort of business strategies that will turn CPTPP into a winning proposition,” BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said.BusinessNZ is acting as host organisation for the ABAC meeting which brings together business leaders from APEC’s 21 economies, along with senior officials.Mr Hope explained that ABAC members, including New Zealand’s own Katherine Rich, Tenby Powell and Phil O’Reilly, will develop recommendations to APEC’s Economic Leaders on business priorities and concerns.“ABAC has a full agenda and its work programme for 2018 will be kicked off in Auckland. Key topics include removing trade barriers – not just tariffs but also red tape, unfair standards and slow bureaucracy, as well as regulatory hurdles for services trade. Ultimately, ABAC wants to see a region-wide ‘Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific’.“It is only by thinking about these issues together across the region that we will foster the optimal conditions for modern models of business such as global value chains, which offer important opportunities for SMEs to get involved in trade.”“And of course, no discussion about future prosperity is complete without talking about how best to surf the wave of digital transformation. That will be a key focus for ABAC at this meeting,” Mr Hope said.He noted Auckland was an ideal venue for the meeting.“Auckland is a world-class dynamic, innovative and multi-cultural city, and is also deeply connected to our Pacific neighbours, including this year’s ABAC and APEC Chair Papua New Guinea. I am looking forward to showing it off to our visitors,” Mr Hope added.The ABAC meeting and associated events are being funded by business supporters and the New Zealand Government (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and business sponsors. The lead sponsor is ANZ.ANZ Managing Director Institutional NZ Paul Goodwin said he was excited about ABAC’s work deepening connections within the region.“ANZ is deeply committed to growing links among Asia Pacific’s senior business community, including stronger trade flows between New Zealand and our trading partners,” Mr Goodwin said.Other sponsors are Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), Douglas Pharmaceuticals and the Bank of China (NZ) Ltd. Support is also being provided by Fonterra and the New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF).New Zealand’s three ABAC members are Katherine Rich of the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council, Tenby Powell of Hunter Powell Investments, and Phil O’Reilly of Iron Duke Partners; Stephen Jacobi (Executive Director of NZIBF) serves as Alternate Member.New Zealand will Chair APEC in 2021, and will host a range of APEC meetings that year, including the APEC Leaders’ Week that will also be held in Auckland.