An Overview: Tripartite Economic Alliance Auckland 2016

Tripartite Economic Alliance: Auckland 2016

  • The theme of the 2016 Tripartite Economic Summit was ‘Making Connections’, and the Summit created a platform that enabled the three sister cities of Auckland, Los Angeles, and Guangzhou to engage.
  • The rising prominence and importance of e-commerce was apparent. Each city had large delegations present that were interested in understanding how the Tripartite Alliance can work together to increase the opportunity that new digital trading platforms can offer.
  • The benefits of cross-pollination and the critical importance of networks were frequently referenced – from education and academia to science, marketing, and business opportunities. A strong emphasis was placed on the role cross-pollination and collaboration plays in generating exciting, lasting innovation.

“We know that we have a challenge to get more companies out into the world more quickly.” -Steven Joyce

Making Connections

Auckland hosted delegations from sister cities Guangzhou and Los Angeles at the second annual Tripartite Economic Summit held in May 2016 over Innovation Week. The ANZ Viaduct Events Centre saw in excess of 700 attendees, including Auckland’s Mayor Len Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Guangzhou’s Vice-Mayor Wang Dong.

The Summit’s theme was ‘Making Connections’, and it set out to provide a platform for business groups and investors from the three cities to engage with local and international entrepreneurs, take advantage of potential business-to-business leads and commercial opportunities, and hear from leading keynote speakers and panelists with sector expertise in areas including entertainment, trade, design, and innovation.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Guangzhou Vice-Mayor Wang Dong / Photo: US Embassy

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Guangzhou Vice-Mayor Wang Dong / Photo: US Embassy

Tripartite Alliance

Guangzhou and Los Angeles are arguably Auckland’s most well-established and economically important sister cities. In November 2014, the Mayors of Auckland, Guangzhou and Los Angeles signed the Tripartite Economic Alliance agreement, aiming to set a new standard for how modern cities can engage and collaborate in the 21st Century. Together the cities make up a $1 trillion combined economy and present an enormous opportunity for businesses to leverage.

In addition to the formal events of the Summit, the networking that took place in between sessions, over coffee, over lunch and throughout the evening of the Summit dinner provided a great opportunity to establish relationships and contacts between the three cities.

Key messages that were reiterated by speakers and panellists throughout the Summit were the importance of partnerships, the rise of e-commerce, and the opportunities that can arise from the Tripartite Economic Alliance through cross-pollination.


The Summit had attendees from across the e-commerce industry, with a particular emphasis from Chinese providers, including e-commerce giant Vipshop, responsible for over 18,000 brands; ICBC’s E-mall – the world’s largest e-commerce platform; and the Guangdong Cross-border E-commerce Industry Association (GCEIA), formed by many of the leading Chinese e-commerce industry players, who attended the Summit looking for unique and innovative New Zealand products its members could sell through their platforms. While the types of customers may differ across respective tripartite cities, the clear message is that the global e-commerce industry is rapidly evolving and transforming the retail sector faster than ever before.

Throughout the Summit, a point of consensus appeared to develop among those in attendance: the ability of New Zealand companies to form joint ventures and partnerships to gain traction in overseas markets will be crucial to spurring future economic growth.

The Opportunity for Innovation

The Auckland economy has been powering New Zealand’s growth in the face of dairy-driven constraints for some time now. ATEED’s Dean Butchers told the Summit that in six of the last seven years, Auckland’s economic growth has outpaced the whole of the rest of New Zealand. The number of cranes on the skyline – “a proxy for construction and growth” – will soon exceed 40. “In places like Silicon Valley, in the places interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, there is increasing interest in what is happening in Auckland,” said Andrew Patterson of NBR Radio.

Steven Joyce, Minister for Economic Development addressed this during his keynote address. “We know that we have a challenge to get more companies out into the world more quickly,” he said.

This message was perfect for the Summit audience which included Auckland business owners, as well as investors and potential partner companies from Guangzhou and Los Angeles. “What we lack is the linkages with people overseas, which is where you come in,” BNZ’s Chief Economist Tony Alexander told attendees.


“What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.” -Māori proverb

The Māori business panel reminded us of the importance of people and partnerships for the Māori economy, summed up by the Māori proverb “What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people”. For Māori, relationships are about mana. Māori are spiritual people, and agreements are based on trust. Their motivation in business reflects their world view: that long-term sustainability is more important than profit.

Sunny Bates, director of Kickstarter and Creative Capital, advisory board member at MIT Media Lab, and a Brain Trust member of TED Conferences, gave an inspiring keynote speech at the Summit. She insisted that the economic driver of the future won’t come from factories, technology, or even software. It will be down to networks of people.

Bates referenced the revitalization of Rome’s Tiber river, Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, and the Dashanzi Art District in Beijing as cultural examples that bring people together. “Networks are the structural basis for globalization and for modernization,” she said. “Networks know no boundaries, and cultural networks are powerful.”


Tripartite Economic Summit dinner / Photo: US Embassy

Cross-cultural Collaboration

Erez Morag, former Nike Innovation expert, built on this message, and told attendees during his keynote address that innovation comes not only from networks, but from the ‘cross-pollination’ of ideas across networks. Instead of chasing the competition, chase the insights, listen to everyone, and play bigger than your size. Morag thought the Tripartite Economic Alliance is a great tool to generate that cross-pollination, creating and bringing exciting innovation to the three cities.

“There is a beautiful cultural exchange going on.” -Melanie Higgins, US Consul-General

This idea was highlighted throughout the sessions at the Summit. “There is a beautiful cultural exchange going on,” said Melanie Higgins, US Consul-General in Auckland. “Culture transcends the boundaries and the Pacific connects us.”

While there will no doubt be economic outcomes from attendees of the Summit as they progress the introductions made at the Summit, there were some significant partnerships established and proposed at the Summit itself.

Several Memoranda of Understanding were signed at the Summit, including one between the Tamaki Makaurau Design Alliance, Guangzhou Urban Planning Design Survey Research Institute (GZPI), and Los Angeles Business Council (LABC). This partnership brings together architects and urban designers to develop and share expertise in urban design, architecture and sustainable technologies that will define how cities look and operate in the 21st century. Auckland Mayor Len Brown told the Summit that this partnership will allow designers to “contribute solutions to the growing and constant challenges that fast-growing, multi-cultural cities provide.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke of the way his city has taken heed of examples of successful public facilities such as the Guangzhou Public Library and Auckland’s new Nelson Street cycle way – “something to inspire us all.”

Setting a Challenge

Minister Joyce challenged the three cities to create a ‘Tripartite Business Degree’, where business students from Auckland, Los Angeles, and Guangzhou would spend two semesters studying in each city. “Imagine the perspective they would get to succeed in this Asia-Pacific century,” he said.

Rohit Shukla, chief executive of the Larta Institute in Los Angeles threw down a challenge. He urged the audience to consider what we could do as three world-class cities, and suggested the creation of a tripartite working group that would be dedicated to food safety, reliability, and innovation in high value foods. “By creating a grand challenge for collaboration, the tripartite alliance could create high value foods that are good for our economies, and good for our planet,” he said.

Guangzhou 2017

After a successful event, Auckland has handed the baton over to Guangzhou for the 2017 Tripartite Economic Summit. As connections evolve into partnerships, deals, and opportunities in the coming months, the third Summit next year will no doubt build on momentum, with more and closer relationships established, increased cross-pollination and innovation, and – ultimately – businesses tapping further into that $1 trillion opportunity.

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