Conferences & Workshops 2008

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APEC 2008 Summit: “Growth, Equity and Sustainable Development: Challenges for APEC”

Thursday,  4 December 2008
This event was co-sponsored with the Asia Society, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, New York University’s Asian Pacific American Institute, and the United States Council for International Business.

This symposium, held at the Asia Society, explored issues raised during the November 20-23, 2008 summit in Lima, Peru, with a view toward the 2009 summit in Singapore.  It featured Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach, U.S. Senior Official, APEC; Ms. Wendy Cutler, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Japan, Korea, and APEC Affairs; and Mr. Mitchel Lee, Consul, Consulate of the Republic of Singapore in New York.  Ambassador Haslach reported that, in the face of the global economic crisis, the APEC member economies in Peru reaffirmed their commitment to free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.  They firmly rejected the idea of erecting trade barriers to protect jobs, which they anticipated from some quarters amidst the deepening crisis.  President Bush was very supportive of APEC’s work, particularly a proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).  Ms. Monica Whaley, Executive Director, National Center for APEC moderated the event.

Colonial Memory:  A Comparative Perspective of Africa and Southeast Asia

Tuesday,  14 October 2008 This event was co-sponsored with The Alliance Program, the Institute of African Studies, and The Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

Dr. Romain Bertrand, Senior Research Fellow at the Center of International Studies and Research (CERI) and a lecturer at SciencesPo, Paris, gave a presentation on colonial interpretations from a comparative perspective.  Dr. Bertrand offered a critique regarding the parameters by which academia views colonialism, often criticizing assumptions that scholars make when studying the effects of colonialism.  Dr. Bertrand argued that the concept of colonialism is not properly defined, often because of the dominance of the European-centered perspective.  He thus gave more attention to the contribution from the African and Asian side, focusing on pre-European intra-continental relationships.  Dr. Bertrand also rejected simply viewing colonialism as a history of failed westernization, in order to better understand how the trajectory of history was altered by colonialism. The event was moderated by Professor Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies and Director of the Institute of African Studies. 

China and the World Trade System:  Does It Play By the Rules?

Thursday,  2 October 2008 This event was co-sponsored with the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of Global Business at Columbia Business School.

Professor Shang Jin Wei, the N. T. Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy at Columbia Business School (CBS), brought together a distinguished panel at CBS to discuss China’s relationship with the WTO since its accession in 2001.  Participants included Chad P. Bown, Associate Professor at the Department of Economics and International Business School at Brandeis University and the Brookings Institution; Scott Kennedy, Associate Professor, East Asian Languages & Cultures and Political Science at Indiana University; and Merit E. Janow, Professor of International Economic Law and International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and Co-Director of Columbia University’s APEC Study Center. Professor Bown said that the role of the WTO has increased with the growth of world trade, as has the role of China within the WTO.  The WTO is intensely political because it is often used as a mechanism to allay other concerns.  Until recently, the main players in this “game” have been the Americans and the Europeans, whose economies are similar, exports and imports are analogous and trading needs are approximately the same.  It is unclear how China, which has recently been thrust into this complicated environment, will respond. China’s economy is upstream from both Europe and the U.S.; the U.S. will not gain much from attacking part of the supply chain that helps keep the U.S. industry humming.  Likewise, China as a plaintiff has a weak hand because its industry consists of lower-end consumer goods that could be moved to several other developing countries with low labor costs.  Will China seek settlement, pursuit or mitigation?  At this point, it is too early and difficult to tell.  In the past – for instance, during the melamine-in-milk scandal – the government declined to supply any information or give adequate safeguards.  However, according to Professor Kennedy, there is a growing sense in China that it is important to adhere to WTO guidelines; leaders recognize that engaging in world trade confers greater responsibilities of ensuring adequate standards and information.  Also, increasing technical standards will allow it to move up the food chain of value-added products.  So it is in China’s best self-interest to play by the rules of the game. Professor Janow said that China has showed itself capable of being absorbed into the community of nations within the WTO: it made huge strides to be able to gain accession to the WTO, and is already a valued and active participant in the working groups of the WTO.  

Hynix Semiconductor: The Largest, Most Successful Asian Corporate Restructuring Ever

Tuesday,  23 September 2008 This event was co-sponsored with the Asian Business Association and the Korean Business Association.

In 2002, Hynix Semiconductor was written off for dead after its board rejected a takeover offer from Micron Technology, which would have alleviated its massive debt.  Shortly thereafter, however, Hynix's chief creditor, Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), proposed a restructuring of the company, Hynix emerged from the crisis, and today it is the 2nd largest manufacturer of DRAMs and 3rd largest manufacturer of NAND flash memory chips in the world.  Three distinguished speakers discussed the most successful restructuring ever in Asia:  E.J. Woo, Chairman, Hisem Corporation; Adjunct Professor, Inha University, Former CEO, Hynix Semiconductor; Robert E. Fallon, Adjunct Professor, Columbia Business School, Former Chairman and CEO, Korea Exchange Bank; and Uichol Kim, IFP Distinguished Professor, Inha University.  The panel was moderated by Hugh Patrick, R.D. Calkins Professor of International Business Emeritus and Co-Director of the APEC Study Center.  As the CEO of Hynix’s largest creditor, the Korea Exchange Bank, Mr. Fallon outlined how he led the company through several transformational steps, such as the selling of non-core businesses, negotiating joint ventures and debt refinancing.  He complimented Mr. Woo’s stewardship of the company, who took over after a failed takeover bid when the company was technically insolvent.  Mr. Woo then explained how the company overcame severe adversity and continued to produce world-class semiconductors with a small R & D budget that relied only on cashflows in a time of declining sales.  Mr. Woo’s Blue Chip Project minimized capital expenditure and raised employee morale, resulting in the successful turnaround of Hynix.  A conference report is available.

The Regional & International Agenda

Friday,  20 June 2008 The research program of the East Asia Bureau of Economic Research (EABER) co-sponsored this workshop

Peter Drysdale

This international workshop, held at CBS, brought together a small but high-level group of academics to explore possibilities for the structural reform of East Asian economies, divided into three panels: “Institutional Foundations for Economic Reform”, “American Agendas of Structural Reform”, and “The Way Forward on Structural Reform in Asia: Principles and Strategies for Regional and International Cooperation”.  It was the final workshop in a series of similar meetings in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Australia. A major aim in many economies in the region is to improve policy efficiency. This project is looking at ways to do this considering the different circumstances in economies around the region.  In APEC, and especially in East Asia, increasing attention, especially from business, has been paid to structural reform. A new framework is needed because it is now widely recognized that the largest gains from reform come not through trade negotiations but domestic reforms. Scholars and policy makers are now trying to establish an effective regional cooperation model to take the agenda further.  These beyond-the-border policy issues gained prominence during APEC’s 2005 meeting in Busan, Korea. The structural reform initiative was addressed in APEC’s 2006 meeting in Hanoi, but APEC’s 2007 meeting in Sydney attempted to give it more substance. Participants agreed to strengthen APEC’s Economic Committee and to host a Ministerial meeting in Melbourne to boost structural reform initiatives. They also made a commitment to beefing up the Singapore secretariat and its analytic capacity on structural reform issues.  The research program of EABER has helped to inform discussion in the APEC process. APEC’s Ministerial meeting in Melbourne in August 2008 is the next step in the process into which this project has aimed to provide input.  A conference report is available.

Oscar Lee Symposium of Undergraduate East Asian Studies

Friday,  18 April 2008 This program was co-sponsored by the WEAI, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and the Columbia College Student Council.  This half-day conference at SIPA, organized by the Columbia Undergraduate East Asian Studies Initiative, gathered diverse Columbia student groups, academic departments, and institutes into a collaborative and multi-disciplinary effort toward furthering the undergraduate interdisciplinary study of East Asia.  Four panels and ten presenters presented their research findings and received constructive criticism.  Some relevant panels included a presentation on “Gundamnomics: Transforming Japan for the Challenges of Global Capitalism” and consideration of an article in the Columbia East Asia Review entitled “Bridging the Local-Transnational Divide: China-Focused Transnational Labor Activism and Localized Legal Strategies”.  

Sovereign Wealth Funds: The New Foreign Investors

Wednesday,  9 April 2008
This program was co-sponsored with SIPA’s International Economic Policy Program and was held at SIPA.

Brad Setser

Dr. Brad Setser, fellow for Geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations, made a presentation to Columbia University graduate students and faculty on Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), their importance to capital markets, and the controversies over their investments in the U.S.  He posited that SWFs are growing in importance, but will not eclipse the size of the central banks that hold and invest far more official reserves. The key example here is China, where the central bank added over $1 trillion in foreign reserves in 2007, while its sovereign wealth fund holds just $200 Billion in assets. High-priced commodity exports and massive trade surpluses in East Asian countries like China, Korea and Singapore are the source of these funds, and these drivers would probably endure over the next several years at least. These funds will be important to global capital markets since they provide needed liquidity while many banks are hoarding capital rather than lending or investing.  Regarding the possibility that sovereign investors would use their funds for political motives, Mr. Setser said that domestic politicians may very well exert some influence over sovereign investors’ decisions, though not in the menacing way imagined by some commentators in the U.S. and the EU. For example, large Chinese sovereign investments in U.S. banks were reportedly approved by senior officials in the Chinese government. However, this hardly means that there are foreign policy motives at play, except perhaps to appear helpful to the U.S. during its financial turmoil.  

Asia’s Recovery and Macroeconomic Policy Challenges

Thursday,  22 April 2010
This event was co-sponsored by the Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Dr. Jong-Wha Lee, Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), made a presentation about the economic recovery in Asia, possible risks to the recovery, and macroeconomic policy recommendations.  He declared that Asia has already started to recover from the financial crisis.  The ADB’s GDP growth projections for Asia showed a low in 2009, but 7.5% growth in 2010 and 7.3% growth in 2011.  He then divided the region into countries, and GDP growth into its components.  He showed that export-oriented markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea were hit hardest by the crisis when trade collapsed and investment in these countries stopped.  However, countries with large domestic markets such as China and Indonesia continued to attract investment, and still have positive investment.  At present there is only mild recovery in external demand, so it cannot be depended upon as a source of recovery.  Dr. Lee noted that Asian governments used substantial fiscal stimulus to accelerate recovery, and, like Western countries, they face the problem of unwinding the stimulus and shifting demand from the government to the private sector. Dr. Lee also addressed concerns about inflation in Asia’s economic outlook.  2009 had an unusually low rate of inflation because Asia was operating below capacity.  Inflation is expected to increase to 4% in 2010 as the recovery continues; inflation pressures are emerging, but still manageable.  Regarding risks, Dr. Lee said that the largest risk to the recovery in Asia is the global economy itself, since Asia is export-driven. The final portion of Dr. Lee’s presentation focused on macroeconomic policy.  First and foremost, he claimed that it is essential to reaffirm sound fiscal and monetary policy.  Macroeconomic policies need to adjust to the changing environment following the crisis.  He praised Asian countries for achieving not only high growth, but high stability as well. He recommended that monetary policy should be coordinated with financial regulation and exchange rate rigidity should be reduced; exchange rates need to reflect market fundamentals to avoid disturbances.  There should also be a gradual appreciation of currencies, as increased exchange rate flexibility is in Asia’s interest. Finally, Dr. Lee encouraged policy coordination and regional and global cooperation.  He asserted that the role of Asia will grow, and that emerging markets will have an increased proportion of world GDP.  Cooperation is required to make the world economy stronger.

Asian Business Association Career Panel

Thursday,  20 March 2008
This event was co-sponsored with the Asian Business Association and the Center on Japanese Economy and Business and was held at CBS. Gerald Kok and Connor McKenna from Credit Suisse, Rosa Yi from Longacre Fund Management, and Jin Tae Kim from FTI Consulting offered career advice about their respective positions in investment banking, hedge fund management, and turnaround management, followed by a helpful Q&A session for business school students. 

The Graduate Student Conference on East Asia

Friday,  8 February 2008 - Saturday, 9 February 2008 Held at Columbia University, this event was co-sponsored with the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Nearly a hundred graduate students presented papers on all aspects of East Asian studies – history, economics, business, political science, literature, art history, and religion.  These papers were subsequently discussed by student panels.