QUESTION: And the same question to Julie Bishop – you have a different set of risks, slightly different in Australia than parts of the wider East Asia Pacific region?
JULIE BISHOP: The East Asia Pacific risk was cyber-attacks at number one and, in Australia specifically, at number two. So this report is extremely timely because as we are living in a more interconnected, engaged, competitive, contested, congested world, the fact that cyber-attacks was seen as the number one risk by business is of vital importance. It is important also to note that growth in Asia continues to lead the world. India and China, the two most populist nations, are growing at 7.3 and 6.5 per cent respectively. The ten ASEAN nations, the nations of South East Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and others, are growing at, on average, 5 per cent. This is undoubtedly good news for the region, but globally, it also means that the risks of doing business are evolving and changing.
Specifically, the economies are now more reliant on connecting digitally between each other and the rest of the world, more reliant on complicated and interconnected supply chains that ignore national boundaries, and more reliant on the freer movement of expertise and workers. It also means that therefore these economies are more vulnerable to national policy decisions of economic partners that restrict the free movement of people and capital and goods. They are also more vulnerable to less smooth access to cyber, through sabotage for example, and a less safe cyber environment, through intellectual property theft or data theft.
This means that the geopolitical and technological risk factors are more significant than ever for the region, and this brings me to the theme of our meeting here. That is that the international rules-based order is more important than ever before, because it guarantees a level of predictability and transparency about the behaviour of states; it prohibits certain disruptive behaviour and it also proscribes a means of resolving disputes, and that gives a level of confidence for those who are seeking to invest. And also, it seeks to perhaps separate the political and the economic issues that of course are manifesting in the geopolitical challenges that we have confronted today.
In the case of Australia, energy security was listed as a risk – somewhat of a paradox given that we are an energy and resources superpower – but that comes down to some domestic issues that I won’t bore anybody with just at this moment.
[Questions to other panelists]
JULIE BISHOP: Just on the cyber issue – there must be a greater recognition that the rules that apply in the physical world have to apply in the cyber world, and online and offline rules must equally apply.
In the case of public attribution, of course there have been examples of interference in national elections, but also malware and ransomware attacks. The WannaCry and the Petya and NotPetya attacks – where groups of like-minded countries shared enough intelligence that they could publicly attribute responsibly in all those cases, and I think there will be more of that. We are going to see more public shaming if you like, of the source of the attacks as we share information and intelligence amongst a broader grouping of people. The NATO Centre of Excellence for Cybersecurity is also another example of the high-level of cooperation that is now beyond just NATO countries but access to their expertise is being sought by nations around the world.
QUESTION: We’re approaching the top of the hour with uncanny timing, but before we do let you go, I’ll love to ask you one more question if I may? We are here to discuss the future of our international rule-based order, Julie as you said. This is an important meeting for us as an institution. We’re building towards Davos [indistinct]. Let’s have a very short and pithy answer to what your one priority would be if we could achieve one change or reform or improvement to this rules-based order to take forward and to concentrate on in Davos in January?
JULIE BISHOP: If we assume that we are committed to improving and reforming the current rules-based order, and that is the perspective that I am taking as opposed to saying, “well this one isn’t working, let’s come up with a new model”. I would caution very much against that. You do not replace institutions unless you have a more effective and proven alternative. So, on the assumption that we are focusing on our current international rules-based order and the institutions and treaties and alliances and norms underpinned by international law, my focus would be on the WTO. Let’s look at the consensus model and what reforms are needed for the WTO. It’s obviously topical because it would be at the World Economic Forum, but I also think it’s doable. And we’re currently seeing a potential strangulation of world trade and strains of populism when it comes to open, globalised trade, and that would set the world back enormously.
That is a priority for me – to hear more from like-minded countries about what we can do to reform the WTO to ensure that we can guard against protectionism and continue to advocate for open, liberalised trade.
– Ends –