APEC Summit 2015: Obama hosts panel with Jack Ma and Aisa Mijeno

Such a successful publicity feat this!  The US, China, and Philippines in dialogue!  It shows that these three nations can actually have easy discussions (outside political differences) with each other!  Plus, I’m sure this has greatly increased Obama’s, China’s, and Philippines’ image everywhere.

OBAMA:  Aisa is a perfect example of what we’re seeing in a lot of countries—young  entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog  technologies.

It does raise the issue,  though, of how we can do more to support young  entrepreneurs like Aisa, and Jack. You’ve had the benefit of having been on both sides of the  equation—early entrepreneur scratching and  climbing and getting things done, and then now,  obviously a very successful businessman. How can both government and larger companies be assisting  in creating a climate for innovation that  encourages young entrepreneurs like Aisa?

MA: Government is simple: Just reduce the tax, or  no tax, for these guys.

OBAMA: There you go!

You got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs.

MA:  we just had a discussion at the back office—is that nobody  can help you. We can only help ourselves.  Investors, government, partners: they are all  uncles and aunties. You are the father, you are  the mother of the kid. Don’t give up the kid.  Because when we startup, we talk about our kid,  our passion, it all sounds crazy. But you are the  guy taking care of the kids.

OBAMA:  what have  been the biggest challenges and how could both  the public sector and the private sector be more  helpful in term of encouraging young  entrepreneurs like you?

MIJENO: Based on our experience, I guess what we  need here is like a support system… So, we have the passion. So what we need is a  support system from both the private sector and  the government to, like, mentor us and guide us  how we can scale up the product, the project…  And yes, we also need a lot of support in terms  of funding. That’s our main challenge right now.  We’re at a critical phase; we’re trying to mass produce the lamp, so we’re just looking for  someone to fund to get the project moving.

(Obama points at Ma at the end of Mejino’s reply.  The audience laughs. Ma points back at Obama, then at Mejino. More laughter and applause.)

OBAMA:  But a couple of things…. I know we’re running  out of time, but I wanna comment on…. I do think  there’s a role for the government to provide tax  incentives for the production of clean energy.

Second area that I think the government has an important role to play—and I think you  wouldn’t disagree on this—is, I think, research and development… Where governments can do is hard for  companies to do a front-end, basic research, that  doesn’t necessarily have an immediate pay-off,  but will then serve as the laboratory for young  people like Aisa to discover—based on that  basic research —’I’ve got a new idea and I can  do something.’

But the thing that I wanna ask you, Jack, sort of  in closing, is whether you think other businesses  you’re interacting with and dealing with,  particularly in the APEC countries, feel the same  urgency that you do, or do you think you’re still  an early evangelist on this to persuade others a  little bit more?

MA:  It’s too late to complain whose fault—whether  your fault or my fault, let’s solve the problem  together. It’s the combination… Combine the  work of the government, private sector,  scientists, and sociologists. We have to work  together.

The thing is how we can work together  efficiently. I believe always you have to keep  the heart inside, but out of the business’ way,  because you have to get things done. That’s why  scientists can tell us how to do it properly.  Business should tell us how to get things done  efficiently. And the government should have the  good environment and foundation of researching.  And also we need the media’s guide to tell the  people how we do it.

I think this area—Asia-Pacific, especially  China—we are taking good actions, but we need  to do it in a way that’s really workable.

OBAMA: Excellent… Excellent…

And Aisa, the  closing comments. You’re about to scale up and  I’m confident you’ll be successful. But one of  the most important things you’ve said, in my  mind, at least, that this starts from the  bottom-up. That whether it’s in the Philippines  or in Tanzania, or anywhere in the world, that people who are trying to improve their lives,  that they can’t be asked to just stay poor to  solve this problem. They need electricity, they  want transportation, they want the same things  that exist in developed nations.

But what that means is that if we’re working at  the grassroots level, seeing what folks need, and  figuring out in an efficient way how to deliver  improved quality of life while being  environmentally sustainable, that’s an enormous  opportunity but it starts at looking at  aspirations and hopes of ordinary people. Is that a fair thing to say?

MIJENO:  Yes. It’s mainly a collaborative effort.  You should not just, like, rely on the  government. Of course, you should also do your  part, both as a citizen of the nation, to help  your people. So like what we’re doing — I’m  focusing on what I’m good at, of course R-and-D,  research and development.

Toward the closing, there were interesting statements on climate change as well.

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