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Asia Update Conference 2019:
Globalising Asia
May 9-10, Tartu, Estonia

“Asia Update 2019” is an international conference organised by Enterprise Estonia in cooperation with Tartu University, Tallinn University, Taltech, Tartu City and other relevant ministries and enterprises.

“Asia Update 2019” addresses important topics related to the developments concerning Asia. The conference aims to launch discussions on what globalising Asia means to the world and more specifically to our region. The conference brings together local, regional and international experts, business people, decision-makers and implementers who engage with Asia to share ideas and build networks for future growth and development.

Time: May 9-10, 2019
Venue: Tartu city, Estonia (V Spa Hotel Conference Centre)

Co-organisers and supporters of “Asia Update 2019”


May 9


City tour for speakers and registered participants


Registration and welcome coffee


Opening words by the Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid


Keynote: “The value of globalising Asia”
High-level speaker TBA
As part of the globalisation process, Asia is also expanding outside of its region – coming to study, work, visit, live and invest in Europe along with the rest of the world. Is there any specific value in the globalisation process of Asia? What kind of opportunities does it provide to the world? What could European/Western countries do to make this process more beneficial for common growth and development?


Panel discussion: “Asian investments in digital technologies – what does it mean for the rest?”
Moderator: Taavi Rõivas (Former Prime Minister of Estonia)
Speakers: S Mahendran (CIO Asia), Priit Martinson (PwC), two Asian companies (TBA)
AI, VR, the blockchain, and bitcoin – these are just a few of the technology buzzwords getting attention all around the world. Asia is also looking into how to benefit from these new technologies, thus, is investing heavily in acquiring and developing their own solutions. How does the national digital agenda differ from the country to country in Asia? Does it provide any real competitive advantages within an international context? Who are the main players in the local tech scene and what’s their impact on a global scale? Which approach prevails – indigenous innovation or rather M&A? Should Western countries fear Asia overtaking them in technological development?




Transfer to networking reception


Welcome words by the Mayor of Tartu Mr Urmas Klaas and Rector of the University of Tartu Mr Toomas Asser
Networking Reception hosted by the Tartu City Government (at Science Centre AHHAA)


Night owl session: “Looking into the future: imagining the world led by Beijing”
Moderator: Hannes Hanso (Former Minister of Defence of Estonia)
Speakers: Jürgen Steiger (GIZ, German Government Advisor), Ivana Karaskova (AMO China), National University of Singapore (TBA), Albright Stonebridge Group (TBC)
China’s growing world dominance has been discussed for long and, especially after president Trump came to power, China has been seen as gradually taking over the global leadership position from the USA. The “rise of China” causes fear – even tough China itself has labelled it as “peaceful”. In addition to military aspects, many members of Western value system also feel themselves threatened by China’s political and ideological system. However, how could the world under Chinese leadership really look like?

May 10


Breakfast sessions

The three sessions below are parallel and take place in different rooms. Participants can choose their preference during registration.

Session 1
“The role of  USA in EU-Asia relations”

Moderator: Marko Mihkelson (Estonian Parliament)
Speakers: Richard Dunham (Tsinghua University), Lars Freden (Swedish Diplomat), Centre for European Policy Analysis (TBC), Asian expert (TBC)
The United States has played a significant part in Asia, both militarily as well as culturally and economically. Historically, Asian countries have allied with one or the other, whereas these alliances, at least for some, could as well be interchangeable according to situation and needs. However, what role does the USA play in the relations between EU and Asia and what kind of impact will today’s political tensions between the USA and Asia have on the future of EU-Asia relations?

Session 2
“Who needs the language skills – there’s an app! Human skills vs technologies” 

Moderator: Ott Jalakas (Lingvist)
Speakers: Carl-Johan Westring (EF Education First), Neelakshi Premawardhena (University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka), Rauno Sainio (translator), language app CEO (TBC)
We live in the age of technology and become more and more reliant on it. Technologies are indeed very helpful and in many cases make our lives more efficient as well as open up new opportunities. While travelling, we can use apps to translate foreign words or use Google translate to get access to online contents – even in complicated Asian languages! That being the case, questions arise: is it still important to learn these languages? What is the value of having a language skill vs just using the technology? Who needs people with such skills?

Session 3
“Asian consumers’ impact on global marketing: opportunities for small countries” 

Moderator: Argo Sildvee (Velvet)
Speakers: Felim Meade (Emerald Green Consulting), Jimmy Adams (Moot China), Zhang Xiaotian (Shanghai University), Asian E-commerce company (TBC)
As they gain wealth and prosper, Asian consumers are becoming a new power in global marketing and an important target group for international companies. Their beloved technologies also enter the European/Western markets, advertising industry addresses them, signs and websites are translated, e-commerce channels used for reaching out to them… However, it is not easy to sell to Asia – even for bigger companies. So, how can companies from smaller countries benefit from these channels and trends?




The two keynote speeches below are parallel and take place in different rooms.

Keynote: “Asia – an opportunity of a lifetime”
Speaker: Xenia Joost (fashion designer, marketing expert)
Asia offers challenges and opportunities to those who dare to venture into these exotic faraway countries. Some go to stay, others return home, bringing along the wealth of experiences and networks. So, what to think of life and work in globalising Asia? What kind of opportunities are out there to be discovered?

Keynote: “Borderless world and Estonia’s role in it”
High-level political representative (TBA)
Creating a world without borders has been a dream, which in Europe has manifested itself in the establishment of the Single Market approach. In addition to abolishing physical borders, Estonia has played an important role in creating an EU Digital Single Market. But what does Estonia have to offer on the global scale and to Asia?


The two panel discussions below are parallel and take place in different rooms.

Panel: “Developing and managing a career in Asia”
Speakers: Jens Põld (WorkVenture), Joseph Lau (Strategy Expert), Eversheds Sutherlad (TBC)
Whether still a student or someone with a family – it’s sometimes hard to know the right offers and supportive structures to make use of when planning a career in Asia. But sometimes all that’s needed is just the yearning for adventure and having some courage to leave the comfort zone. So, why to choose Asia for the personal career development? How to successfully manage a career in Asia and what support to use?

Panel: “Digital technologies and borderless economies”
Moderator: Tobias Johannes Koch (E-Briefing Centre, Enterprise Estonia)
Speakers: Allan Martinson (LeapIN), Kentaro Morita (Former Economic Attache of Japanese Embassy in Estonia), Speaker TBA
Remote workplaces are just as common today as are the freelancers who travel around the world and live and work as “digital nomads”, using co-work spaces if needed. This is all enabled by digital technologies and understanding that, for successful business, physical presence is not always needed. Does that also work in Asia? Or what kind of opportunities do Asian “digital nomads” get offered in Europe/Estonia?


Conference lunch


Keynote speech (speaker tba)

Panel discussion: “Small states and big markets: what can we offer to Asia?”
Moderator: Sonny Aswani (Tolaram Group, Estonian Honorary Consul in Singapore)
Speakers: Colum Rice (PwC New-Zealand), Ansi Arumeel (Omniva), Bernard Piette (Liege Airport Business Park), Alibaba (tbc)
Compared to Asia, Europe mostly consists of small countries, which may find it challenging to establish equal partnerships with their Asian counterparts. However, does the size of a country matter? If so, how to overcome this challenge and find opportunities in/with Asia in terms of business, culture or education? How should governments support this?


Wrap-up by the conference moderator


Networking reception


Kersti Kaljulaid_!
Kersti Kaljulaid

President of Estonia

Taavi Rõivas

Estonian Parliament
Prime Minister of Estonia (2014-2016)

Colum Rice

PwC New-Zealand

Carl-Johan Westring

EF Education First

Bernard Piette

Logistics Wallonia
General Manager

Sonny Aswani

Tolaram Group

SMahendran_Pic new
S Mahendran

CIO Academy Asia

Richard Dunham_1
Richard Dunham

Tsinghua University

Co-director, Global Business Journalism Program

Lars Freden

Former Swedish Ambassador to China and Mongolia

Jürgen Steiger_1
Jürgen Steiger

Senior Advisor

Joseph Lau1
Joseph Lau

Civil Service College Singapore

Zhang Xiaotian

Shanghai University
Deputy Vice President

Ott Jalakas


Xenia Joost

Fashion designer

Ivana Karásková

Association for International Affairs
Research fellow

Felim Meade

Emerald Green Consulting

Jens Põld1
Jens Põld

WorkVenture Technologies


Allan Martinson


Ansi Arumeel


Hannes Hanso

Estonian Parliament
Minister of Defence (2015-2016)

Marko Mihkelson

Estonian Parliament
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Argo Sildvee


Priit Martinson

PwC Eesti
Government Technology
Digital Transformation Leader

Rauno Sainio


Kentaro Morita
Kentaro Morita

Former Economic Attache of the Japanese Embassy in Estonia

Jimmy Adams

Moot China
Partner/ Creative consultant

Neelakshi Premawardhena

University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Professor of Modern Languages

Senior Fellow (TBC)



Asian tech company

Political representative


Additional Information

Asia Update 2019: Globalising Asia is a high profile conference that brings together politicians and decision-makers, experts, entrepreneurs, and academics and encourages discussions on Asia. The conference is invitation-only and certain panels are also closed to press.

If you are interested in sponsoring the event, joining the conference as a journalist or as a visitor, please contact conference organizers at asiaupdate@eas.ee.

The conference is sponsored by Toppan Printing and Horizon Pulp & Paper.

If you have already received an invitation and given your RSVP to the invitation, we suggest you to also look into our recommendations for accommodation in Tartu. We are glad to say that our partner hotels in Tartu are offering our guests special prices for accommodation during their stay in Tartu. More information can be found from the following website.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the conference organizers via email asiaupdate@eas.ee.


Conference venue:
V Spa Conference Hotel

Reception venue:
Science Centre AHHAA


For further information, please contact asiaupdate@eas.ee