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World Trade Center New Orleans: Celebrating 75 Years of International Trade

Thomas P. Spiers, Chairman of the Board, WTC New Orleans; Hon. Edward T. Hayes, Board Member, WTC New Orleans; and J. Edwin (Ed) Webb, Chief Executive Officer, WTC New Orleans

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As part of the World Trade Centers Association’s (WTCA) 50th Anniversary, we look back on one — if not THE — original Members of our organization. At a gala on November 8 World Trade Center New Orleans (WTCNO) celebrated three-quarters of a century with a black-tie gala in the heart of the city. WTCA was on-hand to help celebrate this historic moment, and the event was the culmination of WTCNO’s week-long schedule of events supporting international trade. As our oldest Member, the editorial team at WTCA Meridian asked WTCNO to pen a brief history of their historic participation. 

On November 5 through 8, World Trade Center New Orleans proudly hosted the 3rd annual Louisiana International Trade Week & Jubilee in celebration of two 75-year milestones in international trade – the organization’s initial involvement in a consensus that would later form the World Trade Organization (WTO), and its unique position as a progenitor of the WTCA via the International House, and subsequently World Trade Center New Orleans. 

In 1944, with the end of World War II in sight, 730 delegates representing 44 countries huddled in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to forge an international consensus on trade, monetary, and exchange rules. The general agreement on tariffs and trade was the key outcome on trade, with fundamental principles of economic non-discrimination guiding decades of unprecedented global growth, ultimately resulting in the creation of the WTO 50 years later in 1994. While the past 75 years of international trade have not been perfect, the GATT/WTO system has provided security and predictability for global economies once dominated by agricultural and industrial trade, which is now moving to service-based economies filled with digital promise.

Our second 75-year milestone started right here in the Crescent City. As John Maynard Keynes of Britain and Harry Dexter White of the United States were forging new international economic policies in New Hampshire, local leaders William Zetzmann, Sr.; Rudolph Hecht; and E.O. “Archie” Jewell established the International House, and later the International Trade Mart, as institutional vehicles to capture and consolidate post-World War II international commerce in Louisiana. 

Leaders of these formative institutions included Alton Ochsner, M.D.; John P. Laborde; Basil Rusovich; James J. Coleman, Sr.; C. Alvin Bertel, Jr.; Hale Boggs; and many other visionaries. The successes of these institutions lead to their merger and creation of World Trade Center New Orleans, which together with its home city hosted the first General Assembly of the WTCA in 1968. Since then, the World Trade Center has been admirably led by the Hon. Thomas B. Coleman; Frank B. Stewart, Jr.; Ambassador Donald Ensenat; John L. Ochsner, M.D.; Hon. Patricia Denechaud; Hon. Donna Fraiche, and many other luminaries dedicated to the promotion of international trade, diplomacy, and peace throughout the state of Louisiana.

As we memorialize 75 years of trade, World Trade Center New Orleans honors Louisiana’s ongoing role supporting international economic growth. Together with our valued clients and business partners we celebrate this milestone with Louisiana’s multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) development projects, record-breaking cargo volumes, and expanding port activities; US-leading manufacturing productivity; and export-lead agricultural growth. World Trade Center New Orleans is driven by a passion for, and dedication to trade, both on a local and global scale. Today’s economic climate faces important systemic challenges deserving the same passion and dedication given in Bretton Woods and New Orleans 75 years ago.

On behalf of the World Trade Center New Orleans Board of Directors and leadership, we pledge our continued efforts to ensure that Louisiana maintains and grows its rightful position at the forefront of the new international trade economy in this new decade and beyond, hand-in-hand with its fellow WTCA Members around the globe.


Europe Through the Eyes of an American

Hon. Stavros Lambrinidis, Ambassador of the European Union to the United States of America

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Ask most Americans what comes to mind when they think of Europe and the answer is usually vacations, historical places, extended family, and great food. Some may have even done a tour of duty as part of their military service and have proud memories of that time. But ask what comes to mind when you mention the European Union (EU), and these positive, even heart-warming, associations sometimes give way to uncertainty and perhaps even a hushed confession about not really knowing how the EU works, except that it’s complicated.

It is natural that Americans whose ancestors came from Europe have a strong association with "the old country," whichever one it may be. But since returning to Washington, D.C. as the EU Ambassador to the United States (US) last March (after a hiatus of over two decades working outside the US) I have — at times — been baffled that the EU’s collective strength and significance to the US has yet to fully register. Mention World War II and everyone has visions of Americans and Europeans joining forces to defeat fascism and maintain democracy, both at the core of US ideals and security. Yet the EU — which is vitally important to the economic security and prosperity of the US — is still less understood, despite its positive effects on businesses, workers, and families in every single US state.

Numbers may not excite people in the same way as palaces, cathedrals and soldiers in uniform do, but the fact remains that we — the EU and the US are the lifeblood of each other’s economies. We are the two biggest, most open and most free and fair economies in the world, and we trade with and invest in each other more than we do with any other country or region. Together, the EU and the US comprise close to 50 percent of the world’s GDP and make up roughly one-third of the world's trading volume. Our relationship amounts to a total of US $2.2 trillion when goods, services, and income from investments — the three pillars of international trade — are accounted for. It is also highly balanced, with the US even enjoying a slight surplus.

This thriving relationship didn’t just happen. The EU Single Market — the crowning achievement of the EU’s economic integration — has made doing business in Europe highly practical and profitable for American companies. Apart from the EU itself, the US has been the biggest beneficiary of our huge, open, borderless market, giving US commercial entities a pipeline to 500 million potential customers no matter which individual EU country they choose to engage.

Sometimes the EU is painted as “closed” or “highly regulated” but this myth is simply not true: the Single Market is in fact a huge deregulatory exercise, replacing 28 individual countries' disparate laws and regulations with one single set of open market rules. As a result, today 47 out of 50 US states trade daily with the EU more than they do with China, and nearly half export more to the EU than they do to any other place in the world.

Put another way, a strong and united EU is one of the best guarantees for present and future US prosperity. Every year eight million American jobs are created by EU-US trade and by EU investments in all 50 states, where a full 70 percent of all foreign investment comes from EU firms. The livelihood of millions of American households depends on our unparalleled economic partnership, just as seven million EU jobs depend on fair and open US trade and investment in Europe.*

This prosperity is not limited to purchasable items that result in direct income — tangibles like Irish whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, German cars and cars made in Detroit, and Italian herbs and Iowan soybeans. Much of the backbone of the transatlantic economy lies in the intangibles, which focus on people and values. With our goods, services and foreign investment, we export to each other, and to the world, key values we both hold dear.

As leaders in the global market, the EU and the US need to work together now more than ever to ensure that this culture continues to thrive beyond the shared waters of the Atlantic Ocean. If we are united, we can ensure that all players comply with the values of the international trading system. In spite of the inevitable glitches and disagreements between us, trade for both of us has always been a win-win proposition.

And so, in my visits throughout the US, I always encourage others to look at the EU through the lens of US prosperity, and to see our EU member states not just as beautiful destinations but as invaluable trading partners — ones that increase the quality of life on American soil through the benefits brought by EU-U.S trade. Our shared ideals have united us for decades and remain true to our core today. The transatlantic relationship is the embodiment of these interests and values, the avenue for our financial success, and the vehicle for guaranteeing our future security and prosperity.

*Curious to learn more? Check out our EU-US Trade website at www.euintheustrade.org


Back to the Future: World Trade Center Taipei Prepares for Its Second Time Hosting a WTCA General Assembly

Walter Yeh, President and CEO, WTC Taipei

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The 2020 General Assembly in Taipei is quickly approaching, scheduled to take place at the very beginning of March. WTCA Meridian Editor Alex Brown sat down with Walter Yeh for a brief interview on why Taipei decided to bid on hosting the GA for a second time more than 20 years later, and how the city has grown to become a bustling economic hub in Asia. 

1. Mr. Yeh—thank you so much for sitting with us today. And of course, thank you for your service on our Board of Directors. Can you take a moment to briefly introduce yourself and your role with World Trade Center (WTC) Taipei?

My name is Walter Yeh and I am the President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WTC Taipei. I’ve been with WTC Taipei for more than 30 years. It is my great honor to serve on the WTCA Board and work closely with so many fantastic colleagues and partners in the WTCA network. Throughout my career I’ve been assisting businesses to expand globally, and I’m committed to facilitating the development of the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry in our region.

2. Great. So, of course, WTC Taipei is no stranger to hosting a General Assembly (GA). Your organization hosted the GA before, more than 20 years ago in 1994. Why did you and your team decide to bid on hosting the GA again in 2020?

The reason why we wanted to host the GA again in 2020 comes down to our engagement in the network, the growth of the Asia Pacific region, and the opportunities available in Taipei. In 1994, the 25th GA held in Taipei celebrated the silver jubilee of the Association and it was a great success. We’re honored by the Board’s decision to host the GA once again in Taipei this year and contribute to the celebration of the Association’s 50th Anniversary.

Asia Pacific is one of the key regions driving the growth of the WTCA network. In 2012, WTC Taipei achieved "Best Practice" in all eight categories of the WTCA Certification Program, the highest number of Best Practice certificates the WTCA had ever presented to a single member. Given that engagement and reciprocity are among the core values continuously highlighted by the Association, we wanted to host the GA again in 2020, hoping to share what we’ve learned while deepening our relationship with our fellow WTCA members.

As a bustling Asian economic hub, Taiwan connects East Asia, South East Asia and the rest of the world. We believe that we have the talent, venue, services, city vitality, and industry opportunities that are needed for a successful GA. We believe the 51st GA in Taipei will increase the visibility of the Association in the region, attract new businesses to join the WTCA family, and enhance regional and global prosperity.

3. When we did our site visit earlier in May 2019 our team was quite taken with Taipei. It was exciting and dynamic, the food was delicious and the people were so friendly and welcoming. Economically speaking, it is also an important hub in the region, boasting multiple opportunities for Members and their local companies, suppliers, buyers, etc. Tell us a little about the sectors your event will feature, and some of the companies that will take part in the GA?

GA 2020 will focus on “Connecting Business to the Digital World.” The event aims to facilitate industrial exchange and prepare businesses for the advantages as well as challenges of the digital era. We’re hoping that businesses can benefit from the GA to be well prepared for the new decade.

We will organize B2B meetings to facilitate industrial cooperation and connections as well as enable attendees to learn more about the latest developments in doing business in Taiwan. The industry fields covered will include agriculture and smart agriculture; green technology; the Information and Communications Technology industry, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the “Internet of Things”; the medical industry and smart healthcare; smart cities; smart manufacturing; and startups and innovation.

To give you a sneak peek at our agenda, we are honored to have Mr. Michael Chang, CEO of Microsoft’s AI Research and Development Center as our keynote speaker to address the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation. We are also proud to share recent developments in smart solutions such as smart healthcare and smart agriculture. Leading companies and institutions from around Taipei will also participate in the GA to share their insights in those areas, including Taipei Medical University Hospital; Agricultural Technology Research Institute; MiTAC Information Technology Corporation; imedtac Corporation, Ltd.; and Hugreen Corporation Ltd.

You may have also learned from our weekly GA newsletters that we will be arranging company tours that will take our attendees to companies including Advantech, Brogent Technologies Inc., and iStaging to experience the latest IoT and somatosensory technologies.

Finally, one of the world’s top three bicycle trade shows, Taipei Cycle, will coincide with our GA on March 4. It will be a wonderful opportunity for attendees to explore the showgrounds and attend the forums of the show to see not only the latest bicycle industry developments, but also how we promote trade through international industry exhibitions.

4. We know your team has been hard at work preparing an incredibly enriching and meaningful program. And at the top of every Member’s mind is, of course, the all-important B2B matchmaking opportunities for their local-company delegations. Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the detail behind this part of the programming?

Sure! A major highlight will be the B2B Meeting Sessions on March 3. WTC Taipei will serve as a matchmaking-services platform for all participating WTCs and their member companies to help them find potential cooperation partners in Taipei and around the world.

As one of Asia’s logistic hubs, Taipei is a leading global trader and a key player in the global supply chain. We are renowned for our strong innovation capability and high performing industrial clusters. Taiwan is also the world’s 18th largest exporter of merchandise. Ranked fourth in the Asia Pacific for Global Competitiveness, Taiwan is known for its ease of doing business and is one of the best destinations for investment. So, we are inviting all fellow WTCs to organize a business delegation to Taipei and attend the B2B meeting sessions. We believe everyone can find great business partners in Taipei.

After registering to attend the GA, remember to sign up for the B2B Meeting Sessions and tell us what you are interested in procuring or offering. Our team will help match your interests with potential local companies and we’ll let you know who you’re going to meet before the meetings take place on March 3. All GA attendees are also welcome to download our official app to look for potential candidates and make their own appointments via the app platform (look out for more information in an upcoming GA newsletter).

We understand organizing a business delegation is not an easy job. So to encourage our fellow WTCs to invite more local businesses to participate in the GA, we are working with the government to offer travel incentives. Please contact our team at info@wtctaipei.org for more details about the incentive criteria.

5. And then of course there is the fun stuff! Tell us a little about the receptions and the gala you have planned. Everyone loves a party!

I have to say, the Welcome Reception and the Gala Dinner are definitely parts of the GA that you will not want to miss! During the Welcome Reception, we will provide authentic Taiwanese food and refreshments, and you will get to see Taipei’s creativity and cultural energy. Prior to the reception, you can join a tour of the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park known as the creative hub of Taipei.

At the Gala Dinner, in addition to the great food and refreshments, you will be amazed by how well technology complements the performing arts, and participate in the conclusion of the WTCA’s 50th Anniversary. That’s all I can say right now — you’ll just have to come and see it in person. Again, we are incredibly honored to have the opportunity to host this milestone event here in Taipei.

6. I also understand there is a lot more to the island than just Taipei, with some truly beautiful sights and attractions in the area for our Members and their accompanying guests to visit. What kinds of activities and excursions can Members look forward to if they decide to spend a little more time in Taiwan outside of the GA?

There are things to see and do in various cities all over the island. Thanks to the High Speed Rail (THSR) and frequent flights, in addition to an extensive train and bus network called the Taipei Metro (MRT) and Railway (TRA), going from Taipei to other cities such as Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Hualien and the offshore islands of Taiwan is fast and convenient.

One of the cities you must visit is Tainan. Located just under two hours away by THSR, the city is renowned for its 300-year-old history and amazing street food. To the east of the island is the world famous Taroko Gorge National Park located in Hualien. Also just two hours away by train from Taipei, the park is known for its hiking trails, skywalks, and mountainous scenery.

Taiwan is also known for its culture and festivals. For example, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is named one of the “14 Festivals To Attend” by Fodor’s Travel, and is called “the second biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the world” by the Discovery Channel. Additionally, you can relax in a traditional tea house and experience a traditional tea tasting and ceremony with a tea master. The next tea master could be you.

And last but not least you can find temples almost everywhere, playing an important role in Taiwanese religious culture and in people’s daily lives. With more than 15,000 temples in Taiwan, these temples are not only a place of worship, but they also serve as community centers to interact with others. The most recognizable temple in Taipei, Longshan Temple, was originally constructed in 1738 and is easily accessible via the MRT’s Longshan Temple station.

7. Well I know from working with your team that this is going to be a GREAT GA. Is there anything I left out? Anything else you would like to add?

Taipei is an energetic and creative city that will never stop amazing you. Ideas and innovation are what this city is all about. Not only does Taipei offer business opportunities, but it also provides access to regional and even global opportunities. We’ve prepared a full agenda of surprises and fun activities that will surely make anyone fall in love with the city. So if you haven’t registered for GA 2020 yet, do it now!

8. Great—thank you so much for your time. I know so many of our Members are looking forward to what we are certain will be a fantastic GA!

Thank you! We look forward to hosting it as well. See you in Taipei!


Sheltersuit: Inspiring, Connecting and Activating Those in Need


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During this year’s Member Seminar, WTC Twente introduced us to Sheltersuit, a non-profit organization whose mission is to keep the homeless warm. As we reflect on the year behind and all the reasons to be thankful, the WTCA hopes to bring attention to this important and inspiring mission.

Founded in 2015 by fashion designer Bas Timmer, Sheltersuit is a water- and windproof coat that can easily be transformed into a sleeping bag, providing full-body protection from elements all year round. Under his leadership the organization is launching a global mission to support local communities from Sarajevo to New York City, San Francisco to Amsterdam, and everywhere in between.

“We developed the Sheltersuit as a short-term solution for a big problem,” stated Bas Timmer, founder and designer of Sheltersuit. “Although it does not solve being homeless, it does prevent people from freezing to death. We believe every single human life matters and therefore everybody deserves a small shelter when they need one.”

Using materials donated by Dutch and European companies, Sheltersuits are made by volunteers, ex-homeless, unemployed, and refugees. Sheltersuit delivers a triple impact by helping those in need, creating jobs for those who need them, and reducing waste streams by using recycled fabrics, deadstock fabric, and repurposing insulation. These Sheltersuits are given away for free to those in need, with a full range of shelters to protect the homeless in both cold and warm climates. Each Sheltersuit comes with a water- and windproof jacket, an attachable sleeping bag, and a backpack to carry it during the day.

To date, Bas and his team have delivered more than 6,000 Sheltersuits around the world to refugees and the homeless across Amsterdam, Milan, Lesbos, Sarajevo, and Austin. Sheltersuit has also won several awards including the Dutch Design Week’s Public Choice Award in 2017, the German Design Award in 2018, and the Constructieve Rebellen Awards in 2019. This year, Sheltersuit has expanded to the U.S., presenting its mission at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin and donating Shelterbags to the homeless throughout the city using upcycled banners from the event itself, and engaging Ziel Inc. PBC for the production of all US products.

The organization’s goal for 2020 is to raise US $5 million to help 20,000+ homeless individuals in need around the world. To help those in need in the New York City area this winter, Sheltersuit will be partnering with Bridges, a Newark-based outreach organization that hands out supplies to the homeless located in Newark, Battery Park, and other locations around the tristate area. On December 3rd, Sheltersuit launched a campaign to receive donations from individuals and corporations for #GivingTuesday to bolster production in preparation for the winter season. Throughout the month of December, the organization distributed Sheltersuits to those in need throughout the tristate area and beyond.

To learn more about Sheltersuit, visit https://sheltersuit.org/ and view the video presentation from the 2019 Member Seminar. To make a donation, visit https://thenaf.org/sheltersuit/ and to learn more about how your company can get involved, email Noelani Reyes at noelani@sheltersuit.com. Also, you can follow the conversation through social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.