MBA event highlights Asia Pacific

Chris Kilford explores Canada's Indo-Pacific security interests

The MBA program highlighted its specialization in Asia Pacific Trade and Investment (APTI) during an evening event held in conjunction with the Canadian International Council (CIC). The audience of 80 included MBA learners on campus for their final residency, MGM students, alumni and CIC community members.

MBA students who participated in the APTI program, including a visit to Shanghai and Tokyo in March 2019, opened the evening by highlighting their key lessons learned on doing business in Asia. They stressed the importance of making a commitment to understand the differing cultures and protocols in the countries of the region before a visit. For example,  business relationships in Japan are often slower to develop, but can yield stronger partnerships and commitments. Students reported that companies are struggling to move manufacturing outside of China given recent trade tensions, but face challenges given the scale and infrastructure advantages China continues to offer.

The students also commented on how countries such as China have leapt ahead of North America in terms digital transformations, with almost all payments and shopping occurring over mobile devices. On your way home from work you can order a hot meal or ingredients for cooking and have them delivered by the time you get home. This has radically changed the retail landscape in China, offering new opportunities and threatening established powers. For example, Luckin Coffee has grown from an idea to over 2300 locations in only two years threatening Starbucks and Alibaba’s “New Retail” approach, including stores such as Hema, make Whole Foods and Amazon look dated and are set to change the global retail landscape. Students commented that the combination of online learning and on site experience both developed knowledge in advance and helped to gain insight that only a visit to the region offers.

After the student presentations, two experts on the region, RRU associate faculty member Dr. Jeff Kucharski and CIC President Dr. Chris Kilford, offered their analysis of Canada’s trade and security interests, and relationships in the Indo-Pacific. Dr. Kilford highlighted that the Asia-Pacific region continues to experience a myriad of security challenges from a range of transnational threats. The United States, which has dominated the region for over 70 years, is also increasingly confronted by a more confident and assertive China, eager to pursue its own political, economic and security interests. As great power competition returns, Asia-Pacific has become the US Department of Defense’s priority theatre. Washington also expects its allies, including Canada, to contribute farily to the region's security. Dr. Kilford detailed Canada's growing military presence in Asia-Pacific including Operation NEON, Canada’s contribution to support the implementation of UN Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea, and the recent commitment between Canada and Japan to strengthening their defence relations.

Dr. Kucharski, who is one of the instructors in the APTI program, focused on the issue of energy trade and security, and the role Canada might play as a stable and accessible energy partner for countries in the region, especially Japan. He highlighted the energy insecurity of most countries in the region, due to their reliance on the import of oil and LNG from mostly Middle Eastern suppliers. These energy supplies travel by ship and pass through several choke points including the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca on their way to Asian markets. These energy shipments are a key factor in China’s efforts to build a stronger naval capacity with new bases in the South China Sea, and frictions between China and the US and other regional countries. According to Dr. Kucharski, Canada has an opportunity to serve as a reliable energy partner for countries in the region, such as Japan and South Korea, offering an energy supply that does not need to travel through disputed waters or key choke points. He stressed that as Canadian energy infrastructure projects move forward there is a growing opportunity to diversify Canada’s trade while at the same time enhancing energy security in the region.

The evening wrapped up with a lively set of questions and discussions among students, CIC members and the guest speakers. The MBA Asia Pacific Specialization is now offered as a graduate certificate, and is open to students and alumni of other RRU master programs. For more information please see RRU Graduate Certificate in Asia Pacific Trade and Investment. The CIC Victoria branch engages over 400 members, including over 100 student members, fostering an engaged, inspired and connected global citizenry in Victoria and on Vancouver Island through regular presentations, meetings and activities. More information on the CIC and how to join.