Downton Abbeystan: Why Central Asia is like Twentieth Century Upper Class England

British TV series Downton Abbey follows the Earl and Countess of Grantham in early twentieth century England as they endeavour to save the immense family estate. Viewers have been enthralled by this fictitious upper class English family’s efforts to make successful marriages for their daughters to ensure the estate remains in the family’s hands—at the time, daughters could not inherit titles and the properties that went with them. Continue reading

Urban Beekeeping: a new buzz in Asian cities

We need bees, but bees are dying. This is a global problem, but some Asian cities are finding novel solutions in urban beekeeping.

The humble Apis Mellifera punches well above its tenth of a gram weight. Through transferring pollen, bees are essential to 80% of the food we consume. Furthermore, the economic input from bees is substantial, with pollinated crops accounting for $1 trillion of the yearly agricultural produce sold. Continue reading

Transforming Local Industrial Districts in Japan into Innovative Clusters

A characteristic of the Japanese “flexible production system” is vast networks of subcontractors. Recently, the overseas sourcing of parent companies’ manufacturing has led to reorganization of small business in Japan. Efforts to revitalize regional economies in response have focused on the creation of industrial clusters. Continue reading

Bureaucratic Red Tape Chokes Free Markets in India

India auctioned 3G licenses for USD $14.78 billion in 2010, a bonanza for a government staring at a large fiscal deficit and trying to promote inclusive growth through a host of populist social schemes. With new telecom auctions scheduled soon, the government hopes to generate more money to pare its fiscal deficit, and bolster its reformist credentials to foreign and domestic investors. Continue reading

Post-socialism, North Korean Style: With State Economy in Ruins, Workers Look Elsewhere for Employment

North Korea is often described as the “world’s last Stalinist state,” but this is misleading. While the facade of a Stalinist economy remains visible in Pyongyang, the nation’s capital, the socialist regime has long become an empty shell. The North Korean economy is now dominated by legal, semi-legal, and entirely illegal private enterprises that provide employment for workers who have failed to make ends meet in the formal economy. As such, it more closely resembles a post-socialist Eastern European economy than a Stalinist one. Continue reading

Upcoming Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement – Lessons Learned from Korea

Memo #192 – Canada and Japan are set to begin negotiations to develop an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on November 26th, 2012. Canada hasn’t completed a preferential trade agreement with any of its Asia Pacific partners, and Japan has yet to finalize an EPA with a G8 country. As negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea have entered their seventh year and as regional competitors, like Australia, are forging new trade partnerships in Asia, Canada feels pressured to assert itself in the region. If Canada can learn from the stalled Korean negotiations, the Canada-Japan EPA can become the platform to accomplish such a task. Continue reading

Tourism Businesses in Asia must be Socially Responsible

Memo # 176 – The World Tourism Organization predicts there will be 1.8 billion tourism arrivals around the world in 2030. Arrivals to Asia and the Pacific is expected to reach 535 million by 2030. This robust prediction indicates growth of tourism businesses, ultimately exerting greater pressure on local environments through resource consumption or pollution. To be sustainable, the region’s tourism businesses should accept wider responsibility of their surrounding environment and not simply exist for profit. Continue reading

Exporting “Tough on Crime” Policy to Thailand: Harper’s Recent Visit

Memo #148 – Human smuggling and terrorism – not trade – played centre stage in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Thailand in March. Although the Thai government was eager to solicit more interest in trade during a visit that marked the 50th anniversary of Canada-Thailand relations, it was left with $7 million (CDN) for an anti-crime program and an “exploratory” talk on free trade. Continue reading

Through Taiwan is the Shortest Route between Japan and China

Memo #98 – Joint ventures between Taiwanese and Japanese firms in China survive longer than companies formed only with Japanese capital. Research shows that Japanese firms have a better chance of success in China through alliances with their Taiwanese partners. The survival rate (which measures firms or joint ventures started in the 1990s up to the year 2005) in China has been around 68 per cent when Japanese companies entered the market alone. But the rate is 10 per cent higher if they worked with Taiwanese corporations. Taiwan can play a critical role in trilateral relations and create a win-win-win environment. Continue reading

Hu Jintao’s Promise to Business: Can He Deliver?

Memo #53 – Two weeks ago, fourteen of the world’s most powerful CEOs converged on Washington for a brief 45 minute opportunity to engage Chinese President Hu Jintao (Google was noticeably absent). Of the many issues raised, one has been China’s renewed commitment to the protection of U.S. corporate interests in the Mainland. President Hu voiced support for reform, opening-up, transparency, as well as a fair and just investment climate. Hu then highlighted intellectual property (IP) and government procurement as areas where foreign firms have equal treatment to their Chinese counterparts. Continue reading