APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting — Session Three: Intensive Cooperation to Foster Innovative Growth

Kazan, Russia

Speech, check against delivery

5 June 2012

Thank you Mr Chair, and could I pay tribute to Russia’s leadership on innovation and I should also thank Korea for hosting the recent APEC Education Ministers’ Meeting.

Russia has rightfully placed higher education at the forefront of APEC’s innovation agenda. We know from many studies that education is the pre-eminent source of productivity growth in the 21st Century and can, through productivity growth, create more jobs and higher quality jobs. All APEC economies stand to gain from enhancing collaboration and trade in higher education. Increasing cross-border student flows will strengthen regional ties and promote economic development through knowledge and skill transfers. If I can add very much a personal note here, Mr Chair, and that is that I’ve long believed as an economist when we are looking at great investments that we can make, the best investment we can make is in the talents of our young people. It’s great in its economic consequences but wonderful in its social consequences. And in doing so - promoting the movement of young people to each other’s countries where they can gain an education - we’re creating ambassadors for our countries by the thousands, because the experiences they’ve had, when they go back home, of the country in which they studied is invariably a rewarding and high quality experience. And they talk about that to other people back in their home countries. We’ve had experience of that among APEC economies where we’ve had Australian students studying overseas and students from other countries coming to Australia – they always speak highly of each other’s countries. So I think this is one of the understated benefits but an extremely valuable one.

So, in that context we need to develop a strong APEC work plan on higher education services. The conference on higher education that Russia will host next month in Vladivostok, I think, should identify concrete ways to promote mobility of students amongst our countries, and also mobility of education providers. We understand some elements of educational cooperation, such as accreditation and quality assurance, might be difficult for some economies due to jurisdictional issues. But we think that we can find a practical way to work together to bolster APEC’s work on higher education and I suggest it would be useful for ministers and leaders to discuss collaboration on higher education in Vladivostok in September.

So, if I could finish where I started, and that is paying tribute to Russia’s leadership in this very important area of reform. It’s a great APEC agenda item and investment that will produce wonderful returns in the future.

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