Driving commercial and political engagement between Asia, the Middle East and Europe

  • Asia House
  • 63 New Cavendish Street
  • London W1G 7LP
  • enquiries@asiahouse.co.uk
  • +44 (0) 20 7307 5454
  • Driving commercial and political engagement between Asia, the Middle East and Europe

    HIGHLIGHTS: The Asia House Global Trade Dialogue 2020

    Published On: 11 December 2020

    Leading policy and innovation figures shared their insights at this year’s Asia House Global Trade Dialogue, with tech and the transformation of trade being key themes.


    Kai-Fu Lee shares excitement over AI potential, but warns of risks ahead

    In a Q&A with Asia House Chief Executive Michael Lawrence, AI pioneer Kai-Fu Lee outlined how rapid digitisation is having profound effects on business, from the explosion of live streaming retail in China – a sector that has boomed “from almost nothing last year to US$200 billion of ecommerce transactions” in 2020 – to the potential of digital learning to transform education through gamification. However, Lee also outlined some risks arising as the barriers to AI come down.



    Rising imports in Asia could see trade tensions ease, Bob Koopman says

    An uptick in imports to Asia in the second half of 2020 could lead to an easing of global trade tensions, Bob Koopman, Chief Economist at the WTO, told the Dialogue. “In the last couple of months, the trade data suggests that imports are increasing in Asia. That’s a very positive thing, and it’s the kind of thing we’d need to see to help reduce global trade tensions.”



    Looming skills crisis could dampen Southeast Asia’s digital boom

    There has been an “extraordinary” surge in internet users in Southeast Asia during the COVID-19 crisis, according to the President of Google Asia Pacific, Scott Beaumont. “This year across the region we’re seeing 40 million new people come online for the first time. In 2019, that figure was ten million, so you can see the impact that COVID has had.”

    The region’s digital economy is on course to hit US$300 billion by 2025, the Dialogue heard, but a skills gap could blunt growth. GO-JEK founder and Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture, Nadiem Makarim, said Indonesia is taking “an aggressive approach” to this challenge, and outlined some “quick moves” his government is making to acquire talent, including closer engagement between universities and the private sector.

    “We have to get creative about thinking about the supply of education,” he said, warning that the problem “is quickly becoming a talent crisis.”



    Policy experts discuss potential impact of Biden administration on US-China relations

    President-elect Joe Biden’s approach to trade and tech tensions with China, as well as US alliances around the world, were explored during the Dialogue. Noah Barkin, Senior Visiting Fellow, Asia Program at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, expects Washington’s approach to China may change, but its position will remain the same. “I think it would be wrong to expect a change in the thrust of US policy,” he said.

    Anne Ruth Herkes, former Secretary of State at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, expressed a hope of Europe having a more positive relationship with both the US and China. “The name of the game is to find important, strategic areas of collaboration,” she said. “Be it fighting the pandemic, be it restoring global trade, attacking security issues.”

    For Professor Tu Xinquan, Dean and Professor of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, Biden’s election has received a mixed response in China. “Some people argue that Biden is even more dangerous to China” than Trump. “There is a concern in China that the US will work with its allies to make new international rules with the exclusion of China,” he said.



    Lord Green highlights UK trade policy opportunities 

    The UK joining CPTPP “would send a very clear signal that Britain is open for trade, and means to be a very prominent advocate of open trade on the world stage,” Lord Green, Chairman of Asia House, said during his closing remarks.

    The former UK trade minister also highlighted the benefits of Britain pursuing economic partnership agreements with developing countries post-Brexit. “In some parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, there are opportunities for Britain to strike up agreements with developing countries that are more imaginative, and will allow those countries to move further up the value chain,” he said.



    The Asia House Global Trade Dialogue took place on Monday 7 December 2020.