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6 months and counting: Life at Hinrich Foundation

Posted By Pragya Bhatnagar, Wednesday, 23 January 2019

In 2016, I was given a full scholarship by the Hinrich Foundation to Hong Kong Baptist University to get my master’s degree in international journalism and specialize in business and financial journalism. I became part of the foundation’s work-integrated learning program, which entailed working for the foundation between two semesters.

Pragya with his classmates and teachers for their graduation in November 2018 in Hong Kong

Export Trade Assistance internship

After the first semester, I joined the Export Trade Assistance program in 2017 as an export consultant based in India. My role included prospecting for suitable small and medium sized export companies, arranging face-to-face meetings to engage them in our program and then training them on using online software and how to more effectively communication with buyers worldwide. Additionally, I conducted research into India’ export sector and wrote professional sourcing reports for import buyers around the world.

Pragya (left) during a factory visit to one of HF ETA beneficiaries with Carmela Delos Santos, ETA Program Manager and Bushra Baaserat (India, HKBU MAIJS '14).

Move to International Trade Research

In 2018, I joined the International Trade Research (ITR) team, where I currently work as a research associate. Being part of the team has allowed me to work towards sustainable trade. It has empowered me to contribute constructively to the public debate on trade, with the hope that it will lead governments, businesses and civil societies to making informed decisions.

The ITR team conducts research and analysis and provides commentary on global trade issues. As a research associate, my work is to provide research support to Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation’s research fellow. It involves in-depth analysis of trade agreements, developments and talks happening bilaterally and multilaterally across continents. We keep an eye on trade issues and help facilitate dialogue in a constructive manner.

When I joined the program, the trade war between China and the US was at its peak. Through research assignments, I was able to understand the complexities of the issues and the real-life challenges it presented. Personally, the trade war has been a boon for me because it shifted the attention of governments around the world to trade talks and agreements. It has helped me understand the nitty gritty of trade and the ways the governments sit together to get a balanced trade regime working. It also has made me think more critically of agreements, talks and demands set forth by different countries. 

On top of my research work, I am also responsible for ITR’s social media pages, which promote articles written by the team and provide information on events and other trade-related projects of the foundation. I also handle ITR’s database and pages on the website, which has taught me a lot about website management and audience engagement.

Last year, the Hinrich Foundation commissioned a book entitled “China, Trade and Power: Why the West’s Economic Engagement Has Failed.” Written by Stewart Paterson, the book was released by the foundation commissions to encourage informed debates on the trade.

Photos of the Launch event of the HF-sponsor book China, Trade and Power: Why the West’s Economic Engagement Has Failed at the China Club in Hong Kong, November 30, 2018.

Being part of the team during the launch gave me a clear picture of the issues (and their root causes) facing different countries. Promoting the book has broadened my knowledge and given me the chance to learn new skills such as designing infographics, which I had never done before.

Looking ahead in 2019
During the first half of 2019, the team will be keeping an eye on issues that arise from the trade talks among the US, EU, Japan and China. They will be launching a report on digital trade in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and India. They will also be sponsoring and promoting a book on artificial intelligence policy by Brookings Senior Fellow Joshua Meltzer, who will also be writing a policy paper on China’s 90-day truce.

The Hinrich Foundation, in partnership with the Hong Kong – America Center, brings back the Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation in Hong Kong this February 16 & 23, 2019. HTNS will gather 48 university students form Hong Kong for a unique and intensive trade negotiation simulation experience.

I used to attend the Simulation in Hong Kong as a student last year, and absolutely loved the experience. This time, in the role of the organizer, I will be helping Stephen in facilitating the negotiation simulation. 

With its work and initiatives, the ITR team hopes to equip policymakers, business leaders and societies with information that will contribute to the design of mutually beneficial approaches for a sustainable global trade.

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