Dodwell's blog on SOM1 Ningbo - Post 3

February 20, 2014

After a day of singleminded focus on the Business Mobility Group and our cherished APEC Business Travel Card, Mika and I have now split across different working groups – Mika on Emergency Preparedness, Customs and E-Commerce, and I on the Human Resources Group – a monster of a gathering that comes together only once a year, has three substantial working groups, and takes four days to plough through its agenda. Meanwhile, outside the cosy confines of the Shangri-la, Ningbo disappeared in swirls of sleet and snow. No snow settled, but anyone putting a nose out into the open air recoiled from clear evidence of an enduring winter. I keep reminding myself of Moscow in March 2012 to remind myself not to be a wimp.
One fascinating question arises out of the Human Resources Meeting: When is a Ministerial not a Ministerial? At iSOM in Beijing in December, our Beijing hosts very thoroughly listed all of the year’s ministerial, dates and locations. And I faithfully passed them on – all nine of them. Well it now turns out that Human Resources Ministers are meeting too – in September. I asked our Chinese hosts why this Ministerial had not been mentioned in the iSOM briefing, and was given a beguiling answer: the iSOM list only included the Ministerials being held in China. It so happens the Human Resources Ministerial will be in Danang in Vietnam. So now I am wondering whether there are further Ministerials out there that I am currently ignorant of, simply because they are intended to take place outside China.
The discovery of the Human Resources ministerial is important and timely. They only occur every four years. And it was at the last one in September 2010 in Beijing where ABAC tabled our labour mobility concerns, and laid out the proposal for a big skills mapping exercise that eventually won official support and has been championed for the past three years by APEC Australia. It seems the upcoming Ministerial is intended to focus hard on labour mobility again, this time in light of the “people-to-people connectivity” priority pursued by Indonesia last year, and being taken up energetically by Beijing this year.
I was able to present at Tuesday’s HRDWG on ABAC’s concerns on demographic changes, the implications for deepening skills shortages and mismatches, and our concern over the proper management of international movement of working people. As a result, it seems we are about to be “mainstreamed” directly into preparations for the Ministerial, and so have a marvelous opportunity to attract highly focused attention from Ministers when they meet in Danang. There is apparently a large preparatory meeting for the Ministerial to be held in Vietnam in May, and those of us concerned about the issue in ABAC probably need to begin rolling up sleeves now.
Officials seem interested to learn more about how the labour mobility issue has been tackled among seamen, as Doris Ho elaborated to us in Auckland last week, but all emphasise that the rules that will need to be developed for workers living within national boundaries rather than on the high seas are likely to be more complex and politically challenging. But a first step has been made, and officials are keen to link these discussions with the issue of an APEC International Employee Card (what name would be best for such a card?).
There will be further preparatory discussions on Thursday morning, so once we have greater clarity from there, we need to roll up sleeves to prepare for May, and the Ministerial in Danang in September.
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