Reflections on China and Hong Kong; looking forward to KL, SG, and asean.

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The bus lurches and I jerk awake. The clock reads 09:37, and I congratulate myself for sleeping away the past hour and a half. About two hours earlier, the delegation departed from Guangzhou (pronounced guang-jo in Mandarin, and guang-zhow in Cantonese) headed for Hong Kong's international airport. This bus ride, and the flight it is carrying us to, ends the China leg of the trade mission. I have met way more people in Hong Kong from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University here than I ever dreamed. Since I'm from Vancouver, where these two Universities are based, this bodes well for a future move to the booming Chinese economy. It is truly incredible how well connected Canada is with Hong Kong; many of my new connections were born in China, grew up in Vancouver, and returned to Hong Kong to start their careers and their families.

In terms of lifestyle, Hong Kong itself is an amazing metropolitan city. I love that you can do anything at any time of day. It's amazing the sheer number of people that have packed themselves into such a small geographic area, and because of that, there's always something going on. I've never been to New York, but I imagine there is a strong parallel between Honk Kong and North America's most densely populated city. There's even a pretty decent salsa dancing scene in Hong Kong about three nights a week... these are the sorts of things a young Vancouverite concerns himself with when considering moving to China's business hub.

The next leg of our journey will take us to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Singapore is a major player in asean (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations). Collectively, asean (pronouned ah-see-an, not 'asian') represent a $2 trillion USD emerging market, with the combined economic power of Malaysia, Thailand, Phillines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, and Thailand. This is nowhere near as large as the $7 trillion USD Chinese market, which surpasses the other three BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, and India combined, but $2 trillion is still very substantial. And it's growing.

Hong Kong is positioned as the entry point to Asia. It will be interesting to see how Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the next two cities we visit, have positioned themselves in the international business community. Although Hong Kong and China may be the world's largest emerging markets by far, with extreme investments in infrastructure still going on to date, the air quality leaves something to be desired. I'm realizing that being from Vancouver, I'm more than a little spoiled, and I wonder which of these international cities will hold a better nexus between opportunity and lifestyle for a young professional such as myself.

by Brandon Hastings, BBA, JD, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

http://www.bhastings.com

Legit Singapore

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As I sat in the food court of my old neighbourhood, the glass sliding doors of the ExtraFoods to my left, the 5 minute walk to my old apartment to my right, surrounded by my trade mission colleagues and new friends, I felt at home. I was honoured that these people, most of whom I had known for less than 2 weeks, trusted me enough to follow me 25 minutes from our hotel, into a foreign city, and out into a suburb, all based on my solemn assurance that this was the best authentic Singaporean food I had found during my four months in Singapore as an exchange student.

On the way to the restaurant, I had purchased us all cards for Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT): a system which rivals that of Hong Kong. A 10 minute walk into the Little India MRT station (closest to where we were staying), and a 15 minute train ride, and we had arrived.

Assembled on the table in front of us were my favourite foods, and I have yet to find their equals in taste, and certainly in price, in my hometown of Vancouver. We had (5 bowls of) Laksa: this might be my favourite thing in the known universe; it's a spicy seafood soup with coconut milk as the base. Fried Kway Teow, Goreng Mee, Carrot Cake (does not contain carrots), and a Korean claypot rice dish with chicken cubes and chilis. Later, we went for Durian McFlurries at a nearby McDonalds. Each of these dishes cost no more than $7 SGD, which is the equivalent of about $5.75 CAD. It's not uncommon to have a moderately lavish meal in Singapore for under $10 CAD. I used to regularly buy bowls of Laksa for $3, which was enough of a meal to sustain my 6'3'' frame. I can't think of a country I have visited with a stronger food culture. The only complaint I have is that it is remarkably difficult to find a good salad, and when I lived here I had to resort to making my own. Making your own food is a terribly un-Singaporean thing to do.

It used to be that all the food we enjoyed that evening would have been sold from stalls on the side of the street, called “hawker” stalls. Since Singapore has been industrialized, these stands have been moved indoors into “Hawker Centers,” which are most easily described in North American terms as foodcourts. Peculiar to this particular area is a a shopping mall which neighbors our food court. It contains another grocery store (the same brand), and a second food court.

The neighborhood in which we ate, called Hougang, is very similar to many other communities in Singapore. We sat surrounded by rings of government constructed and owned subsidized condominiums. Within this neighbourhood are several shopping centres, community centres, grocery stores, and bus stops. At it's centre is the Hougang MRT station, as well as the Hougang bus terminal.

Both the planned nature of the Singaporean neighbourhoods, and the way their hawker culture has been brought indoors, provide elucidating examples of how Singapore has fuelled its massive growth. Singapore is technically a democrary, true, but it's middle class is small which means that the average Singaporean is not very involved in the country's politics. Lee Kuan Yew has been left as a de facto dictator for most of the country's history, and by most accounts has done an excellent job. Despite having a population which might not be ready to be thrust into the world-wide capitalist system, Singapore is of growing importance on the world stage, and is rapidly creating the infrastructure necessary to fuel that growth. The message to its citizens appears to be "ready or not, here we come."

by Brandon Hastings, BBA, JD, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

http://www.bhastings.com

Press Release: JTC Lands in Singapore

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: High Commissioner Heather Grant Welcomes Junior Team Canada to Singapore

Singapore — (August 12th, 2013), Global Vision

Canada’s High Commissioner to Singapore, Ms. Heather Grant, welcomed 31 Junior Team Canada (JTC) Ambassadors to Singapore, Canada’s third largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on Monday morning.

Following a preliminary overview of Singapore and the ASEAN market by Commissioner Grant, the Ambassadors participated in several briefings by trade commissioners in the sectors of clean-technology, defense & aerospace, agriculture, and life sciences. The speaker panel preceding the briefings included: Chia Wan Liew, Chief Representative of the Export Development Bank of Canada; Caroline Berube, Managing Partner at HJM Asia Law & Co. LLC; and Huijin Kong, Counselor and Program Leader at LinHart Group Pte. Ltd.

“Starting a business in China requires comittment to things like a commercial lease for a minimum duration of 12 months.” explains Pedro Burgarelli, a Junior Team Canada Ambassador from Montreal, Quebec. “In Singapore however, you can set up a business very quickly, in a few days. With it’s prominence in the ASEAN market and it’s free trade economy, Singapore would be a great market for Canadian entrepreneurs to set up in, especially in research-intensive sectors.”

The Canada-Singapore relationship is strengthened by cooperation in multilateral forums such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC and with dialogue through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Canada’s support for Singapore’s entry as an observer entity in the Artic Council, and conversely Singapore’s support for Canada’s involvement in the developing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, both demonstrate the close ties between the two nations.

Global Vision and Junior Team Canada would like to thank Commissioner Grant and the Trade Commissioners with the Canadian High Commission in Singapore for their continuous support of this mission.

Singapore, A Balancing Act

Having been denied entry to the gaming floor, the security was kind enough to direct us to the upper level. The top tier restaurants featured in Marina Bay Sands include Wolfgang Puck's CUT, Mario Bateli's Osteria Mozza, and Guy Savoy. Our circuitous route up led up past Armani, Louis Vuitton, and BVLGARI as well as a world class centre for the performing arts

2 years ago, when I lived here on a University exchange, the Broadway rendition of the Lion King was playing in this theatre. Nearby, at the Art Science Museum (there is some argument as to whether it is shaped like a lotus flower or the Buddha's Palm), Vincent Dali was being featured, as well as the HMS Titanic's travelling exhibit. Across the street sits the Marina Bay Sands Resort: literally, a cruise ship (the resort) that has been placed on top of three 194 metre columns (the hotel).

Approaching the balcony on the casino's third floor is a truly vertigo-inducing experience. We were able to snap the shots (above) before being informed that pictures were not allowed. The pictures don't do it justice; the sense of scale is all wrong. Staring down, past the second floor gaming area in the world's largest atrium casino, and into the gaming pit, one tends to lose perspective. There is a spot, about 30 degrees from straight down, where one can see nothing in their field of view except gaming tables. People look diminutive, and the casino maintains the frenetic pace, and the organized-but-chaotic atmosphere of an ant hill.

The construction of Marina Bay Sands was a hotly contested issue. It's only Singapore's second casino. The Singaporean government had to balance the protection of its citizens from the perils of gambling, with the huge revenue that an international casino and resort would provide. In order to effectively strike this balance, Singaporean citizens are discouraged from gambling through a $100 per person cover charge. Foreigners, however, or at least those over the age of 21 and who have valid passports, may join the throng for free.

Singapore has only recently been confronted with the trappings of success, and the balancing act its government has played in deciding to construct Marina Bay Sands, then create regulation around its citizen's entry, perfectly exemplifies one of the major challenges faced by the Singaporean government: how do you take a citizenry into the middle class with alacrity, open up to international trade, and still maintain the welfare of a population whose culture isn't necessarily ready to resist the glitz and glamour of North American opulence that comes part and parcel with international trade?

by Brandon Hastings, BBA, JD, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

http://www.bhastings.com

ICT Sector Summary

Sector Summary: Information & Communication Technologies in South Asia

Many factors contribute towards South Asia's international reputation as both a leading manufacturing complex and a major commercial centre within the world. While many factors such as the economic policy of free enterprise and free trade, the rule of law, a well educated and industrious workforce, a sophisticated commercial infrastructure, as well as development of ports and airport which are among the world’s finest are important, an emerging factor that attracts the attention of the world to this specific region is the fast-paced growth of their I.C.T Sector.

As a student interested in learning more about investments geared towards the Technology, Media, and Telecommunication industries, I have been a keen observer of the way the improvements in technology and infrastructure have affected the regions' society and culture. As a race that heavily values the concept of efficiency and effectiveness, it is only inevitable that the way people communicate has shifted tremendously in the last decade. Unlike in the North American society, the Asian world is heavily reliant on smartphone as well as portable technologies, up to a point that this technology is subtly being integrated to everyday tasks such as ordering a cup of coffee through the use of E-Wallets and booking a taxi through SMS messages.

While there is large variance across Asia's ICT infrastructure landscape, there are centralized themes and factors driving innovation and development, largely deriving from the region's increasing economic integration, which in turn has several important effect for ICT technology purchase. Intra-regional trade and investments as well as increasing foreign demand has made South Asia one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions. The fact that carriers and enterprises largely avoided the global Financial Crisis has proved that it is more convenient for them to make decisions on next-generation technology, such as the introduction of Long-Term Evolution technology and other 4G mobile upgrades.

This economic robustness, and the continuous cycle of regional integration that has supported it, has also facilitated cross-ownership in telecommunication and particularly mobile network operations. An example of this would be Singapore's SingTel as well as Malaysia's Axiata who hold stakes in operators in Thailand, Indonesia, and other ASEAN nations.

As well, the Asian nations are currently experiencing difficulties while dealing with the flow of information. The growing concern has led the Asian market to become early adopters of technology that has just been introduced to the North American and European markets. By transferring most of their collection to the Cloud servers and technology, government organizations and multinational corporations that are headquartered in South Asia has been able to centralize their database and reduce the need for manual I.T tasks, allowing their human capital to automate their systems and allocate more of their efforts in developing strategies.

In conclusion, I can say that I was tremendously enlightened by the rapid growth of the ICT industry of South Asia. Through such growth, I was able to determine three key opportunities that could potentially rise from this on-going trend: Wireless Build, Next Generation Networking, and Mobile Media. These three sector are not as well promoted to the Western world, however, shows promising future for investors as they are all experiencing fast-paced growth. By providing services dealing with Wireless Broadband technologies, I.T Solutions (Hardware and Software), and mobile content services, there is no doubt that Canadian investors and entrepreneurs could see success in the years to come.

by Andrew Shon, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

Singapore's Culture!

Singapore is extraordinarily diverse. Fifteen percent of Singapore's population is Muslim. It's citizens are also Catholic, Buddhist, and Hindu. With all of Singapore's diversity it is also home to a wide variety of languages. Singaporeans do not only speak Mandarin and Cantonese, they also speak English, Malay, and Tamil. Compared to home in Canora Saskatchewan where I have only been exposed to one language. Singapore also has a unique heritage, arts, and culture scene. Singapore hosts a lot of festivals, including; art, film and writing festivals. These are only a few of the cultural activities available to Singapore's residents.

Singapore is also home to a world leading gastronomy scene. To really experience Singapore's diversity, one may visit different parts of Singapore. In Chinatown, you can enjoy traditional, authentic Chinese food. By walking down the street to Little India you get the authentic Indian experience. It is possible to mentally transport oneself from India to China by walking down the street.

What amazes me most is that Singapore has so many different cultures and aspects of living in a single island state.  Singapore’s variety of culture reminds me a lot of Canada’s cultural diversity, as a common feature is something which allows Singaporeans and Canadians a gateway into each others lives, cultures, and realities.

 

JTC-NYAA Amazing Race Singapore

Neither the tropical rain of Sunday morning nor hot sun that afternoon intruded the adventures of Junior Team Canada on their Amazing Race Singapore. Designed by the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) council, JTC was split into 6 teams faced with 60 questioned with answers hidden in all corners of Singapore.

As a member of Team 6, we had the opportunity to visit many sites of the city such as The Flyer, Greek Theatre, the Marina, Artistic District, National Museum of Singapore, Chjmes, and the Battle Box. All teams reunited in the breath taking scene of Singapore Botanical Gardens, waiting patiently for the results while bonding with NYAA youth. Beyond all the sites visited, we learned a lot about Singapore. From singing their National anthem in Malayan to understanding how fast the city emerged, us Canadians felt connected to Singapore on another level . I spoke with Mr. Ken Ong after the race, as he explained the structure of the NYAA program. Quickly, we were comparing its many similarities to the Canadian familiar Duke of Edinburg Award program. It was amazing to realize that in other places in the world, that there are like-minded youth who submerse themselves in programs like the NYAA to not only better themselves but the community around them as well.

Team 4 finished with the most points, but the smiles on the faces of every JTC member when they got to the end point proved we were all winners. The time and energy put into both planning and executing the Amazing Race Singapore by the NYAA Council was greatly appreciated by Global Vision, and are all looking forward to getting to know Singapore’s Youth throughout this week.

Kayla St.Croix, Junior Team Canada Ambassador

JTC Mission Launch!

31 Youth Selected to Represent Canada on International Trade Mission to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia

Ottawa, Ontario — (July 10th, 2013), Global Vision

31 young Canadians will be traveling to Asia on an international trade mission this summer from July 31st to August 19th, visiting Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia, as part of Global Vision’s Junior Team Canada program.

Junior Team Canada is a delegation of youth ambassadors that represent Canada both at home and abroad, through national conferences, international trade missions, and special assignments like the G8, G20, and APEC summits. 20-30 youth are selected through a nationwide selection process each year, giving these young leaders the opportunity to experience international trade and diplomacy first hand.

As Junior Team Canada Ambassadors they will meet with leaders from business, government, and the community to promote Canada’s economic interests, learn about business and culture in Asia, and further develop trade relationships in the region. The 2013 mission will be focused on the clean-tech & renewable energy, information technology, agriculture food & beverages, mining & resource extraction, education, real estate, and finance sectors.

“The mission is going to open up a world of new and exciting opportunities for them,” says Amy Giroux, Director of Global Vision and Junior Team Canada. “These dynamic young leaders are getting the experience and skills they need to help strengthen Canada’s presence in the global marketplace.”

About Global Vision

Global Vision - Junior Team Canada (JTC) is a Canadian non-for-profit organization founded in 1991 by Terrance Clifford, MP London-Middlesex (1984-1993) and Member of the Order of Canada. Global Vision’s objective is to give youth hands-on experiences in international trade and community leadership to produce top global leaders that build the future of Canada.

Global Vision’s flagship program, Junior Team Canada, has led missions to over 30 countries on 6 continents, the most recent being to Colombia and Panama in July 2012. Since its founding in 1990, it has equipped hundreds of Canadian youth leaders with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to become extraordinary leaders. The organization has been responsible for delegations on Team Canada Trade Missions, the APEC Summit, Inter American Development Bank, G8 and G20 Summits, as well as a variety of other top level international events.

For more information on Global Vision and its programs, visit www.globalvision.ca
Information Media Only: Amy Giroux: 1-888-829-2838 | amy@globalvision.ca