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Another Asia Savvy conference, another successful gathering! That was the sentiment conveyed to the

100-strong audience by Project Manager Jennifer Tate when she opened the 5th annual student-led, NZAI-

sponsored forum on 29 August 2015. Echoing the enthusiasm and confidence of the Organising Committee,

Professor Natasha Hamilton-Hart, Director of NZAI’s Southeast Asia Studies Centre, applauded in her welcome

remarks the event’s future-looking energy, learning-centred approach and interactive settings for participation

and connecting. These features, she noted, enabled the forum to grow from strength to strength and become a

significant component of NZAI’s effort to help promote public understanding of Asia in New Zealand.

Professor Siah Hwee Ang

from the School of Marketing and International

Business at Victoria University of Wellington delivered the keynote address.

He taught and served as the Associate Dean Postgraduate and International

in Auckland Business School for ten years before his current appointment in

2013 as the inaugural BNZ Chair in Business in Asia at Victoria.

Professor Ang began with a brief overview of his role responsibilities as the

BNZ Chair, pointing out that the position, the result of a partnership between

Victoria University, the Bank of New Zealand and three key government

agencies, signified a nationwide, cross-sector keenness for more and

informed engagement with Asia. Drawing on his extensive involvement in

domestic and international executive programmes and consulting projects,

he emphasised that for New Zealanders seeking business or other substantive

interactions with Asia, knowing how to use chopsticks, whether to eat the last

piece on a serving plate, or who should sit towards the door, would not suffice

for being “savvy” about the region. They should have at least some grasp of

the economy, politics, geography, development, history and socio-political

issues of the countries they would want to do business with.

Professor Ang took note of recent research data showing that Kiwi businesses

commonly expectedAsia to be themost influential factor, positive or otherwise,

in theNewZealand economy in the foreseeable future. Yet while seeing Asia as

holding the key to growth, many local businesses felt ill-equipped in terms of

resources to tackle the bigmarket of four billion people, particularly countries

like China and India. Professor Ang acknowledged that in copingwith the

challenge of asymmetrical size, some Kiwi companies fixed their gaze on smaller

cities in the twoAsian giants, and others joined the appeal for NewZealand

to shiftmore attention toASEANas an alternative trade option toChina. He

cautioned, however, that ASEAN’s own economic integrationwithChinawas

already quite advanced. Thismeant that Southeast Asian countrieswould

acutely feel the impact of and readily react to changes inChina’s economy. A

case in point was that whenChina devalued its yuan after the “BlackMonday”

crash of its stockmarket inAugust this year, all emergingmarkets, including

those inASEAN, followed suit and lowered their currencies to stay competitive.

An important lesson herewas that to dowell inAsia, NewZealandbusinesses

would need to be “savvy” in a broader sense rather than simply having a

rudimentary cultural, protocol anddemographic awareness of the region.

The speakers in the following panels substantiated Professor Ang’s

argument through their personal work and life experiences in Asia and New


Jay Waters

, Senior Advisor to the Korean Embassy in Wellington,

recalled the importance and usefulness of maintaining a constant sense of

appreciation of Korea’s 5,000-year history in his daily decisions and social

interactions when living in that country. Speaking on the long-standing and

multifaceted relationship between New Zealand and Korea since the Korean

War, he maintained that Kiwis should engage more with Korea as they might

find it an easier country to do business with than other giant economies

in Asia. Jay encouraged interested members in the audience to take

advantage of many available opportunities presented through scholarships,

English teaching jobs and commercial internships as pathways to Korea.

Summary of presentations

Get Asia-ready – your pathway to success

Jay Waters, Senior Advisor, Embassy of the Republic of Korea