Hinrich Foundation, in partnership with National University of Singapore (NUS), organized a 3-day workshop for organizations and companies to understand and manage the growing disruption and complication in cross-border trade at NUSS Suntec City, Singapore, on October 7-9, 2019.

The course, titled ‘Managing Cross-Border Trade In an Uncertain World: News Risks and Opportunities’, was designed to motivate strategic thinkers, policy makers and other key stakeholders to rethink their approaches to cross-border trade, learn how to anticipate the next wave of disruption and identify the new opportunities.

Hinrich Foundation, NUS hold 3-day workshop on cross-border trade management in Singapore 1

Merle A. Hinrich, Founder and Chairman of the Hinrich Foundation, welcomes workshop participants

The three-day forum was attended by 40 participants. The course kicked off with opening remarks from Hinrich Foundation Founder and Chairman, Merle A. Hinrich. He was followed by Hinrich Foundation Research Fellow Stephen Olson, who spoke in the first session of day 1, titled ‘Where Are We With Global Trade Now?’.

In the session, Olson described the underlying cause of the US-China trade frictions and how these two fundamentally different economic systems can be reconciled under a single set of global trade rules. He also said that a complete economic decoupling is unlikely over the longer-term, however, a certain degree of economic dis-integration was already occurring and would continue.

The first session closed with a discussion between the Olson and participants, who were eager to know more about the ongoing US-China trade war and how it would impact the companies and countries.

“Session 1 gave deep insights that we can use to help manufacturers understand the US-China trade frictions better,” said Yeoh Oon Tean from Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers.

The second session of day 1 commenced with Alex Capri’s, Visiting Senior Fellow at NUS, presentation on ‘Key Trends Impacting Global Value Chains (GVCs)’. In his presentation, Capri emphasized on the links between trade policies and new business challenges and how localization, fragmentation and decentralization are affecting GVCs. He also spoke on trade challenges and opportunities arising from the platform economy, data flows and cross border e-commerce.

His presentation was followed by a class discussion and lunch for the participants.

After having a sumptuous lunch, participants engaged with panelists, who talked about Asia’s digital landscape and data privacy, security and cross border trade in the third session of day 1. The panel discussion was moderated by Stephen Olson and panelists included:

  • Angela Xu, APAC Lead, Google’s Privacy Legal Team
  • Clarisse Girot, Senior Fellow, Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI) and,
  • Elizabeth Chelliah, Deputy Director, Principle Trade Specialist, Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The session highlighted how data privacy regulations are redrawing value chains and examined GDPR and its impact on Asian policy makers. The panelist also provided insights on how companies are restricting operations across data localization law.

The last session of day 1 concluded with an ideation exercise on Asia’s e-commerce landscape led by Clarisse Girot and accompanied by Arwan Shah Ismail from Indonesian E-Commerce Association (IDEA) and Ooi Tiat Jin from Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition.

The participants were required to reflect on the day’s learning and apply salient themes to assigned questions as well as strategic roadmaps pertaining to sustainable trade, ideas and solutions.

The day closed with participants identifying cross-border business opportunities that are arising for small business, examining the policy challenges confronting cross border e-commerce and discussing the kinds of regulatory bodies and frameworks required in this new trade environment.

The day 2 of the workshop commenced with Karen Murphy, Vice President, Global Trade FLEX, and Alex Capri speaking on ‘The US-China Technology Rivalry and Its Impact on Value Chains’. They talked about the US export control and licensing requirements, dual-use technologies and how they impact trade, and why US sanctions are lethal.

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Alex Capri, Visiting Senior Fellow at NUS, engages the audience in his presentation

Both speakers organized exercises and discussed cases with the participants before making way for a panel discussion on ‘Reconfiguration of Global Supply Chains, moderated by Alex Capri. The panelists included:

  • Taimur Baig, Chief Economist, DBS,
  • Karen Murphy, Vice President, Global Trade FLEX, and
  • Frank Lavin, Founder and CEO, Export Now

The panelists discussed global value chains across a variety of business sectors and explored how a possible decoupling of US and Western firms from China would impact cross-border value chains in Asia and elsewhere. They also talked on how national security focused policies could disrupt business ecosystems before closing the session for lunch.

The session 3 of day 2 started with presentation by the Director of Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organizations, Associate Professor at NUS, Lawrence Loh. Loh spoke on China’s digital belt and road initiatives (BRI) and gave insights on China versus the West Scenario with respect to the evolving technology ecosystem.

The final session of day 2 saw a special presentation on China’s BRI and the technology sector. Alex Capri and Lawrence Loh gave the presentation and engaged with participants on scenario mapping involving trade-related issues on the BRI and proposed risk mitigation strategies.

During the session, special guest Elangovan Karuppiah, CEO, Regional Solutions and Services Middle East/Asia-Pacific, Siemens Smart Infrastructure, provided insights on how companies are managing opportunities and risks along the belt and road. The day concluded with case discussion and exercise for the participants.

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Participants discuss critical trade issues with each other

After completing two days of intense learning workshop, participants came back on the final day to understand free trade agreements and sustainable trade. The day kicked off with presentation by Razeen Sally, Associate Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who took a deep dive into Asia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The session saw Sally speak on the nature of different FTAs and compared the rules and frameworks of different FTAs as well as discussed the systematic changes impacting FTAs.

Sally’s talk was followed by Raphael Madarang’s, Director Global Trade Compliance and Management at APL Logistics, presentation, who spoke on FTAs and rules of origin (tariff engineering). Madarang touched upon the harmonized tariff schedule and discussed how importers incorporate optimization strategies.

Madarang’s presentation was followed by lunch and a panel discussion on ‘Good Governance and Traceability in GVCs’. The discussion was moderated by Lawrence Loh and panelists included:

  • Tim Yu, Risk Intelligence Analyst APAC, DHL 360 Resilience
  • Simon Lord, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad

The panel discussion looked into the labor and environment standards in cross-border supply chain and talked on how technology can be harnessed to enforce sustainable and ethical supply chains. They also talked about supply chain transparency, traceability, carbon footprints and corporate social responsibility. The session closed with a case discussion by the panelists before making way for the last session of the three-day workshop.

The final session of the three-day workshop was presented by special guest Simon Lord. He presented on ‘Sustainable and Traceable Supply Chains’, providing insights into how Sime Darby Plantation uses technology to trace and manage, from end-to-end, its palm oil supply and how it interacts with its key stakeholders on matters regarding sustainable and ethical supply chains. The session also witnessed debate on the effectiveness of supply chain sustainability validation process before the start of Q&A session.

The three-day workshop concluded with an exercise given to the participants to reflect on the day’s learning and applying salient themes to assigned questions as well as strategic roadmaps pertaining to sustainable trade, ideas and solutions.

“The course included both big-picture concerns and areas of technical rigour, putting trade issues in context while staying grounded in practicalities. I particularly appreciated the detailed presentations by speakers with deep experience in the area of global trade. The wide range of fellow participants — from various countries, sectors, and disciplines — also yielded lively discussions and interesting insights,” said one of the participants from Singapore Press Holdings.

About the author- Pragya Bhatnagar

Hinrich Foundation launches Indonesia Digital Trade Report in Jakarta 2Pragya Bhatnagar is a Research Associate with the Hinrich Foundation where he focuses on International Trade Research. He is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader Scholar alumnus, earning his Master’s degree in International Journalism, specializing in Business and Financial Journalism, from Hong Kong Baptist University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Lucknow University, India.