University of Southern California

Asia/Pacific Business Outlook Conference 2014
Experts Address the Challenges and Ongoing Opportunities in the Region
May 8, 2014 • by News at Marshall

The Asia-Pacific region continues to offer both enormous opportunities and risks, including volatile political situations and radically different cultures, which must be navigated skillfully to succeed. The 27th annual USC Marshall School of Business Asia/Pacific Business Outlook Conference on April 7-8, at the Davidson Conference Center, organized by Marshall's Center for Business Education and Research (CIBER) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, brought together international business experts and 17 senior commercial officers from embassies and consulates throughout Asia, Latin America and Russia to share their expertise with a sellout crowd seeking to learn how to enter or expand their business in the region.

Fernando Zapatero, vice dean for graduate programs at Marshall, spoke about the School's ongoing commitment to international education at the opening of the conference.

"USC Marshall has had a long tradition in international education and as a pioneer of providing international experiences to its students. It's only fitting that this event take place here," Zapatero said before introducing the gathering's opening keynote speaker, James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank, St. Louis.

Bullard, a leading economist and monetary policy scholar, spoke about the debate over the role the United States should play in the global financial market. Critics in Asia have argued that the United States should help stabilize the volatility of the global economy through specific policy changes, Bullard explained, with criticism gaining strength following the rapid rise in interest rates in the United States this summer that led to the depreciation of emerging markets' currencies against the U.S. dollar.

"It's a classic question in international economics that's been debated for years," said Bullard. "This is just global equilibrium in action."

Despite the downturn in certain Asia-Pacific capital markets, the region will continue to be "where the future is born," said Peter Schwartz, senior vice president, During a keynote address, he went on to outline two forces that will impact the region and global markets: the rise of the middle class and subsequent demand for products and services and the growing interconnectivity of the world that further empowers individuals and challenges authoritarian governments.

The risks to such forward momentum, Schwartz said, included historical conflicts between countries such as China, Japan and Korea.

Keith Kirkham, senior commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow addressed the likely impact of Russia's invasion of Crimea during an outlook presentation.

"Russia's leaders heightened the political risk but there are still no general trade embargoes. So, in principle, the economic argument for doing business in Russia has not changed so much," said Kirkham, noting the opportunities for U.S. businesses aimed at increasing worker productivity—an issue with the country's heavily state-owned enterprise sector—and in the key areas of infrastructure development, consumer products and natural resources.

Unlike Russia and reigning economic behemoth China, whose leadership is wary of Western influences and open communication, India will become even more pro-American with the ongoing general election, said Gunjan Bagla, founder of Amritt Ventures in Los Angeles, during his seminar discussion. India, the world's largest democracy, values an open society and continues to represent enormous opportunities for U.S. companies. With $110 billion in bilateral trade between the U.S. and India in 2013, it wouldn't be surprising, Bagla said, if that figure rose to $500 billion by 2020. However, the failure of India to protect intellectual property rights—an issue in other Asia-Pacific markets addressed during other conference seminars— has led to a dearth of entrepreneurial culture, which Bagla said the country must address.

In addition to forecasting major trends and rising markets, this year's conference also included workshops focused on developing on-the-ground business skills to make negotiating in foreign markets, such as China, successful.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.