David Dodwell's Blog on the Third APEC Senior Official Meetings in Lima- Blog 1 & 2

August 17, 2016


Wed, Aug 17, 2016
 
As always, the first day or so of APEC Senior Officials clusters is dominated by the sharing of travel nightmares and logistical traumas. I had my own share – but perhaps invited them on myself by flying via Los Angeles – the world’s single most potent antidote to any affection for air travel.
 
Not all can be blamed on LAX, to be fair. It is the US government, and I suppose Homeland Security, that insists on transit baggage being picked up by transit passengers, lumbered through customs, and then re-checked into the onward flight. Why is it that other countries allow transit passengers to check their cases through to the final destination, but the US cannot? It is difficult to imagine what kind of terror threat might arise that necessitates this cumbersome make-work requirement.
 
Needlesstosay, my transit through LA was a nightmare. I personally managed to scramble onto my onward LAN flight to Lima – only with expedited transit by hyper-helpful Cathay Pacific staff. But my case was not so lucky. Having arrived in Lima with just the clothes I was standing in, and knowing that it would be a day at least before my case could catch up, I spent my first jetlaggy day in Lima filling out lost-luggage forms at Lima airport, and going shopping for some toiletries and a change of clothes. Oh the joys of long distance air travel.
 
Sadly, headaches did not end there. Promised shuttles from our APEC-designated hotel to the gloomy Lima Convention Centre, home to all of our meetings, failed to materialize. That meant a gang of us stranded there ended up scrambling into taxis and arriving to register fully 30 minutes after first meetings started. We were reminded of the nightmare they call Lima traffic. The promised 15 minute journey to the airport is in reality 45 minutes with a kind wind.
 
And the less said the better about the chaos they called registration. Needlesstosay, everyone I know arrived at meetings an hour after they were supposed to have started. Because just about everyone was late, I suppose that did not matter so much, but heavens, I hope it does not persist. I have taken to coming into the LCC for 7.30 in an effort to get ahead of the morning traffic glut. For once in my life, I wish there were a Starbucks nearby!
 
Anyway, I hope the worst of the logistical traumas are behind us, and we can get down to work. First meetings out of the blocks have been the Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) and the Business Mobility Group – about which more in the next blog.



For APEC, the scientific stuff clearly comes first. Tucked up in the 8th floor loft of the huge, cavernous Lima Convention Centre, first meeting out of the blocks at the year’s third senior officials cluster in Lima was the Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI), with Nick Brooke, our ABAC Principal Advisor to APEC ensconced at the top table.
 
Nick arrived armed with endorsement from ABAC’s Shenzhen meeting, held just two weeks ago, on support for five specific PPSTI projects. These covered a China-led initiative on the internet of vehicles (with a workshop on this planned for later in August in Shanghai), a project on SME Cluster Development led by Taiwan, a Smart City Forum on energy efficiency that is also led by China, a dialogue on sustainable urbanization to be led by Vietnam, and a project led by Korea on Climate Change impacts on Agriculture.
 
Project leaders will be meeting with Nick over the week to agree how ABAC members can collaborate on each of the projects. Nick will be reporting back to ABAC when it meets in November in Lima.
 
This particular meeting also revealed this year’s winner of the APEC ASPIRE Prize recognising top quality research undertaken in the region by a young scientist. This year, the focus was on food safety-related research. Hong Kong has a special interest, since Hong Kong-based scientists have so far won the prize twice – the only APEC economy to do so. But this year was not Hong Kong’s lucky year. Winner was Dr Hua Kuang from the Jiangnan University in Wuxi, who led a team trying to discover why toxic nitrites accumulated in certain birds’ nests used in Chinese birds’ nest soup. China imports almost all of its birds’ nests, made from the spittle of swiftlets found in south east Asia, from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and prior to this research there was no clear understanding of why certain consignments became toxic. Apparently much was linked to a habit at certain points to pour water on the consignments – H2O changed the chemical composition of the spittle that made up the nests. So there. Dr Hua’s prize was US$25,000. She will no doubt not spend it all at once.  


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