- Nick Williams/Daily
By Kasey Cox, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 3, 2013
To kick off the 23rd annual Asia Business Conference, General Motors chief economist G. Mustafa Mohatarem debated the future of the Asian economy in his keynote address to a crowd of nearly 100 people on Friday evening.
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Hosted by a mixed board from schools and colleges across campus, the conference also had panels on Saturday that included expert speakers on regions and countries including China, India and Japan, as well as experts on finance, entrepreneurship, technology and transportation.
Focusing mostly on the automotive industry in China, Mohatarem discussed what to look for when investing in and trading with foreign nations. He highlighted that the auto industry's importance in emerging markets, especially in Asia.
“If you look at most of the countries that are now ‘rich,’ auto industries played a very key role in them becoming rich,” Mohatarem said. “As per capita grows, the demand for transportation grows with it. The two are interlinked.”
In his address, Mohatarem presented graphs and charts illustrating how GM observes trends – population trends – and decides where they want to go next. However, poverty, political instability and a countries’ changing economic policies must be taken into account, he said.
“Just because there is a large population, it doesn’t mean it’s going to take off,” Mohatarem said.
Mohatarem said there will be challenges for China as intra-Asian trade grows and China continues to allow North America and Europe to dominate their export market.
“If you look at discussions in the 1980s, they often asked when Japan would pass the U.S.,” Mohatarem said. “Now we are seeing the same discussion with China.”
On Friday, the audience represented a variety of young professionals, faculty and leaders of Asia and other multinational companies. Among them, undergraduate LSA and Business School students listened and expressed their excitement about the Saturday panels.
LSA freshman Zach Wloch said that the description of the China panel, though it is a vague topic, captivated his interest.
“I came here just to find out more about what the future holds for markets in Asia and to learn more about business as a whole,” Wloch said. “It was interesting it gave me a different perspective on different topics. I didn’t really know much about the topic of automotive markets in China and other Asian countries. It was more learning new things.”
Ross masters student Muriel Makarim was co-chair conference organizer and said she took away that it's crucial to adapt to various cultures within Asia from Saturday’s ASEAN/finance panel speaker, Zachary Emig, director of securitized product trading at Deutsche Bank.
“There is no one strategy to do business in Asia since every country is so different,” Makarim said. “Companies need to be aware of that to be successful.”