Dominic Ng in Conversation with USC’s Geoff Garrett

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Dominic Ng in Conversation with USC’s Geoff Garrett

October 30, 2023 By
Dominic Ng and Geoff Garrett sittting in director chairs smiling and speaking in front of a seated audience

(USC Photo/David Sprague)

Dominic Ng

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Week is set to convene in San Francisco this November, where the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) will present its recommendations to APEC at the Dialogue with Leaders. Geoff Garrett, Dean of the USC Marshall School of Business, spoke with our Chairman and CEO Dominic Ng, who serves as Chair of the Council, about what ABAC has been focused on and how it is addressing the economic issues impacting the Asia-Pacific region.


GG: ABAC is the voice of business in APEC, and I can’t think of anyone more appropriate than you to serve as Chair for the U.S.’s host year. The ABAC theme this year is Equity, Sustainability, Opportunity. Can you elaborate on what this means and explain how this is playing out?

DN: This core theme has guided ABAC’s commitment to create a more interconnected, inclusive, and environmentally conscious world. At a time of global economic instability, climate crisis, and technological disruption, these thematic goals are integral to making positive change. In regard to equity, ABAC aims to empower people of all backgrounds with the tools they need to succeed. The MSME supply chain resilience toolkit we launched this summer is a good example. In regard to sustainability, the Council champions pro-growth economic policies but only in balance with environmental considerations that address climate change. And lastly, regarding opportunity, ABAC promotes reforms that reduce burdensome regulations, making it easier to do business and increasing access to training, technology, and capital. ABAC nurtures an “opportunity mindset” when it comes to open markets, knowing that trade leads to growth and prosperity.


Geoff Garret sitting in a director chair speaking

GG: What’s your take on all the “D” words people are using these days regarding China—decoupling, de-risking, etc.?

DN: The talk about decoupling is mainly coming from political pundits or media trying to make some noise. It’s not coming from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen or President Biden. Yes, there are certain issues where the U.S. must look out for its own interests, but we’re not moving towards decoupling. ABAC’s approach is to focus on collaboration and competition. In areas where the U.S. and China can collaborate, we should. In other areas, we will be competitors. The aim is to strike a balance.

(Photo by USC)

GG: Global supply chain resilience has been a top concern for many businesses that have been overreliant on one supplier or nation. How are businesses navigating the decentralization of supply chains that is taking place?

DN: Doors are being opened for many developing economies in the Asia-Pacific to play a larger role in global supply chains. We are seeing businesses diversify their supply chains to include countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia as supporting hubs. It’s not just U.S. businesses that are looking elsewhere—European and Chinese businesses are also looking for alternatives. This diversification is moving the region in a positive direction. It spurs infrastructure investment and creates jobs in these hub economies. So far things are going smoothly, but this buildup will be a gradual process. It won’t happen overnight.


Dominic Ng sitting in a director chair speaking

DN: When I attended ABAC IV in Thailand last November, I was impressed by the ABAC research conducted by students from the USC Marshall School of Business. No other U.S. business school is doing this. How did USC become involved?

GG: Graduate students from the USC Marshall School of Business have been working on research projects with ABAC since 2003. For a long time, the school has believed that the kind of conceptual ideas and theory learned in the classroom comes alive in the real world, so action-oriented learning is incredibly important. Working on research projects and contributing to solutions for ABAC is motivating for our students because they know they are having a real impact. It’s all about focusing on the real world on real projects that have real-time impact.

(Photo by USC)

GG: We’re constantly hearing about the “next big thing” in tech. What emerging technologies are ABAC focused on, and how can businesses manage these new developments?

DN: One of the areas we are most engaged in is the emergence of AI and its impact on the workforce. There are valid concerns about the potential for worker displacement, so we’re examining how global economies need to pivot in response to such major technological advancements. However, no one is going to come up with solutions alone. The public and private sector need to work together to do that. That’s what APEC and ABAC make possible.

Another area we are focused on is cybersecurity and educating small businesses about issues surrounding their digital identity. Bad actors don’t care if you’re a large or small enterprise—they’ll take advantage wherever they find an opportunity. It’s crucial that we help micro and small enterprises (MSMEs) understand how they can protect themselves, so this year ABAC created a toolkit for MSMEs to educate and provide them with guidance on shoring up their online presence.


GG: What is something you are most proud of during your year as Chair of ABAC?

DN: We have been focused on looking at the bigger picture, so our recommendations can potentially have real-world impact with more tangible outcomes. We’ve been working to develop concrete recommendations that our respective heads of state and government can support and act on. For example, one area we’ve been focused on is eliminating barriers to cross-border trade so businesses in APEC economies can become global ones. All of this work goes back to our theme of Equity, Sustainability, Opportunity, and developing solutions to the issues of most concern to businesses of all sizes.

We’ve also pushed for further collaboration between ABAC and APEC. In the past, we have been somewhat siloed in having separate meetings. This year, we’ve been working more closely with senior APEC officials to make sure we’re better aligned on our theme and purpose. Continuing this integration will be key as ABAC seeks to develop solutions that better enable all those in the region to move forward.