Future Partner Kieran Brown reflects on the Pacific Partnership Forum

The real value of the Future Partners delegation was not so much the tokenism of young faces in the room or additional youthful enthusiasm in the Q&A, but in the real crux of knowledge transfer and succession planning.

Being chosen as one of eight under 30 year olds by Fulbright New Zealand and the US NZ Council as a ‘future leader’ was a unique experience, one for which I am very grateful.

Perhaps the most important point to press is that the Forum is a legitimate and important item on the bilateral calendar between the United States and New Zealand. This kind of soft diplomacy and networking across sectors, industries and roles cannot be replicated in a video conference or via ‘virtual working teams’.

I studied business and have worked primarily in the private sector; both my parents are in businesses of their own. I was firmly in the minority of this group, peppered with academics, doctors, students, diplomats and activists. This variety is what gave the group energy.

I have been active in helping foster New Zealand’s international relations for many years now, primarily as part of the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Young Leaders’ Network and through the Japan New Zealand Business Council and NZ China Trade Association.

I have travelled on delegations to China, Japan and further afield several times, and I am passionate about New Zealand having a real role to play on the global stage.

In my current role in strategy with one of New Zealand’s major banks, I came to the delegation with a clear commercial focus, primarily orientated toward learning more about the scope, function and status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade deal.

There was an overwhelming consensus, both in the room and in the literature, that liberalisation brings development and growth, end of story. And because I am firmly in this camp, I found good company in every corner and muffin table of the Forum.

They impressed on us President Obama’s desire to “get it done” by Christmas. But with the added complexity of Japan joining negotiations by the water cooler, I think this is very ambitious.

Landing back in New Zealand courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, I felt a renewed sense of optimism and energy for “NZ Inc”. We should invest more in our defence forces to remain useful and legitimate players in global and regional diplomacy and security.

The Future Partners were a fantastic, highly visible and diverse group, from which I now have many new friends. Without a doubt some of them will be future CEOs, ministers and ambassadors.

The TPP will get done, and it will be more significant in terms of GDP than the EU. New Zealand has, and will continue to have, a key leadership role.

Finally, I take my hat off to Fulbright New Zealand and the NZ US Council for putting their money where their mouths are and supporting younger voices in the otherwise exclusive ‘silver hair’ conventions abroad.

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