Meridian Summit Explores Shifts in Trade, Energy, and Global Development

The Hon. Robert Scher (Head of International Affairs, BP America), H.E. Dr. Emily Haber (Ambassador of Germany), H.E. Rosemary Banks (Ambassador of New Zealand), and Ryan Heath (POLITICO). Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar

The Meridian Global Leadership Summit is the leading convening of diplomatic, business and policy leaders in a neutral, nonpartisan forum to exchange ideas and collaborate on solutions to today's most pressing global challenges and opportunities. The most significant policy issues and business decisions of the day are increasingly related to new challenges formed as a result of shifts in trade, energy, and investment. Meridian’s 8th Annual Summit explored how these changing landscapes will shape the global economy for the foreseeable future. Over 170 business executives, foreign ambassadors, government representatives and policy experts came together to explore how global leaders are responding to these swift changes.

Joe Daly (Senior Partner, Gallup) kicked-off the Summit with data on American views on “Trade under Trump.” Daly illustrated American sentiments towards global trade through public opinion data. Despite the unpopularity of the U.S.-China trade war, Americans remain pro-trade and are looking for economic growth and innovation. Even if largely uninformed, this may be the trend unless the U.S. economy dips.

A panel discussion on “The Shift from Multilateral to Bilateral Trade Agreements” dove into the future of trade agreements and reforms needed to reframe the multilateral system. Her Excellency Rosemary Banks (Ambassador of New Zealand) provided an overview of the Trade for All program in New Zealand, while Her Excellency Dr. Emily Haber (Ambassador of Germany) shared her experience with bilateral trade negotiations in the European Commission. Robert Scher (Head of International Affairs at BP America) brought a private sector perspective on the impacts of global development and the necessity of long-term planning in rapidly changing trade environments. Plurilateral trade agreements with strong enforcement mechanisms may be the future.

Mary Streett (Senior Vice President, U.S. Communications and External Affairs, BP America) transitioned the discussion to a spotlight on energy. The increased global demand for energy is a product of enhanced economic productivity. In order to keep up with this demand, renewable sources are increasingly complementing traditional fuels. Streett addressed the “dual challenge” of increasing demand for energy and growing need to reduce carbon emissions. The private sector increasingly has to take a global view and communication with stakeholders is key. As U.S. foreign policy impacts how multinational companies operate, insight through government service is invaluable.

Following the energy spotlight, Ali Velshi (Anchor and Correspondent, MSNBC), Senator Joe Manchin (Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources), and Ted Garrish (Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs) continued the discussion on energy. Velshi brought to the forefront concerns about climate security and moral energy production, while Senator Manchin focused on the need for further global innovation on energy efficiency, showcased by the EFFECT Act. A/S Garrish provided an additional perspective on America’s role in ensuring energy security while navigating a rapidly changing energy landscape.

Luiza Savage (Executive Director of Cross-Platform Content, POLITICO), Richard Chin (Executive Vice President and Head of Global Development, SK Group), Teresa Barger (CEO, Cartica), and Edward Burrier (COO, Overseas Private Investment Corporation) switched gears to investment and national security. Panelists agreed that the BUILD Act and establishment of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation signal a new era of global investment. The dialogue focused on strategic competition in the current geopolitical situation, as well as government roles in international development financing. U.S. monetary and fiscal policy were underlined and speakers provided recommendations to stimulate a collaborative investment environment and respect for the rule of law, even during uncertain times.

Ana Swanson (Trade Reporter, The New York Times) and Ambassador Michael Froman (Vice Chairman and President for Strategic Growth, Mastercard) addressed the future of the digital economy. Together they discussed U.S. government and private sector perspectives towards trade. The politics surrounding the USMCA and the role of China were highlights of the conversation. The audience listened in rapt attention to insight on the role of the private sector in driving innovation, shaping trade policies, and engaging in partnerships for sustainable growth. Following the discussion, Ambassador Froman was presented with the Meridian Global Leadership Award for his commitment to promoting international understanding through the exchange of ideas, people, and culture.

To close off the morning of conversations, Roy Kapani (Chair, 51st Annual Meridian Ball) emphasized the enhanced understanding of the topics at hand and new connections that attendees had made throughout the morning. He encapsulated the Summit with Meridian’s motto: “we are stronger at home when globally engaged.”

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