Our people

Meet our New Zealand APEC Study Centre (NZASC) members.

Research team

Co-director Dr Asha Sundaram

Asha Sundaram is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Auckland. She has an MPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Economics from Syracuse University, United States. Her research interests are in the fields of International Trade and Development Economics. Topics she works on include the role of networks in international trade and the impact of globalisation on labour markets and firms. She has consulted for international organizations like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and research institutions like the Peterson Institute of International Economics and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA). Her commentary on trade and policy issues has appeared in media outlets like the Newsroom, New Zealand Herald, Newshub, BBC, Al Jazeera and Politico.

Co-director Dr Haiping Zhang

Haiping Zhang is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, the University of Auckland. Prior to this, he held positions as Assistant Professor of economics at Singapore Management University and research fellow at the Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) and the Institute for International Economic Policy in Germany. Haiping received his PhD in Economics from Bonn University in 2006. His research interests are in the fields of macroeconomics, international finance and trade, and economic development. His current projects include intangible investment, automation, central bank digital currencies, digital platform and product innovation, etc. His commentary on trade and investment issues has appeared in media outlets like Al Jazeera and iStart.

Honorary Associate Professor Rob Scollay

Rob Scollay is an honorary academic appointed by the University of Auckland Business School. He joined the Economics Department at the University of Auckland as a Lecturer in 1979 and was promoted to Associate Professor later. Between 1995 and 2021, he served as the founding director of the NZASC and was involved extensively with APEC, both directly and through PECC and contributed significantly to the APEC process. For several years, he was the coordinator of the PECC Trade Forum, a network of trade experts from countries around the Pacific Rim. He has undertaken consultancies on trade issues for several international organizations, as well as for agencies of the New Zealand and Australian governments.

Dr Dulani Jayasurya

Dulani Jayasurya is a Lecturer at the Department of Finance, University of Auckland. She has an M.Phil in Finance from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Finance from the National University of Singapore.  She  has industrial experience in trading and building trading models at Hedge Funds in the U.K. and conducts consulting activities on Bank Risk Management, Data Governance and FinTech. Her research areas include banking, social media, machine learning, technology in education, blockchains and cryptocurrencies. She is particularly interested in applying artificial intelligence-based technologies to solve socio-economic problems in finance, education, health, and the environment.

Dr Benjamin Liu

Benjamin Liu is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland Business School. Before joining the University, Benjamin worked at international law firms and a leading European bank, specialising in financial derivatives and structured products. Benjamin is a qualified solicitor in New Zealand and England and Wales.

Non-resident research associates

Associate Professor Shiro Armstrong (Australian National University)

Dr Shiro Armstrong is an economist and Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy. He is Director of the Australia-Japan Research Centre, Editor of the East Asia Forum, Director of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research and Research Associate at the Center on Japanese Economy and Business at the Columbia Business School. Shiro is a Visiting Scholar at the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) and is a Visiting Associate Professor at Keio University.

Dr Deborah Elms (Asian Trade Centre, Singapore)

Dr Deborah Elms is the Founder and Executive Director of the Asian Trade Centre and the President of the Asia Business Trade Association. Concurrently, she is a member of APCO’s International Advisory Council, the G20 Trade and Investment Research Network, and the Advisory Board of the Trade and Investment Negotiation Adviser at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. She is also a Research Associate at the New Zealand APEC Study Centre and a Senior Fellow of the Ministry of Trade and Industry Academy of Singapore.

Dr Elms has extensive experience working with governments, international organizations, businesses, and the academe and is one of the leading experts on trade policy in the region. She was also active in her past leadership posts in international trade groups having served on the Trade and Investment Council of the World Economic Forum from 2017 to 2019, the International Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Trade Professionals Alliance, as well as being the chair of its Working Group on Trade Policy and Law. Prior to her current role, Dr Elms was head of the Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade and Negotiations and Senior Fellow of International Political Economy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Dr Elms holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Washington, an MA in International Relations from the University of Southern California, and Bachelor’s degrees from Boston University. Dr Elms frequently appears in the media to provide expert analysis on trade issues in the region and publishes the Talking Trade Blog.

Associate Professor Tomoo Kikuchi (Waseda University, Japan)

Dr Tomoo Kikuchi is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University and an adjunct Senior Fellow in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University. Previously, he worked at the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, and Korea University and held visiting positions at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Keio University Global Research Institute. He grew up in Germany and Japan and studied at universities in Japan, Germany and the UK. He is interested in how the global financial market influences economic development of countries and has published papers on the topic in journals such as the Journal of Economic Theory. He has edited many books and journal special issues on trade, finance, and investment in Asia and is an associate editor of the Journal of Asian Economics and Malaysian Journal of Economics. He frequently writes for newspapers such as the Straits Times and Nikkei Asia. He obtained his PhD in Economics from Bielefeld University in Germany.

Dr Cong Pham (Deakin University, Australia)

Dr Cong Pham is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics, Deakin Business School. He obtained his PhD in Economics at Syracuse University, New York, USA. Prior to joining Deakin, Cong worked as a consultant in the Development Research Group, the World Bank, Washington D.C. from 2005 to 2008. He was Lecture in International Economics at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi from 1991 to 1999. His research interests include empirical international trade-related topics such as the gravity model, determinants of product specialization, the relationship between trade, development and poverty, the effects of terrorism on international trade in goods and services, the role of networks in international trade in goods and services, the determinants of arm trade, the impact of China on patterns of world trade in high-tech products, the export impact of US farms subsidies on US state exports, the ongoing US-China trade war and its impact, China's retaliatory tariffs and their impact of US agricultural exports, the determinants of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the determinants of trade in freight insurance services. He is also interested in topics related to other Asian economies such as India, Japan, South Korea, ASEAN economies and Vietnam.

Professor Heiwai Tang (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR)

Dr Heiwai Tang is Director of the Asia Global Institute and APEC Study Center in Hong Kong, as well as Professor of Economics at the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Prior to joining HKU, Professor Heiwai Tang was tenured Associate Professor of International Economics at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University. He is also affiliated with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (US), the Center of Economic Studies and Ifo Institute (CESIfo, Germany), the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (Germany) and the Globalization and Economic Policy Center (UK) as a research fellow. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the United Nations, and the Asian Development Bank; and held visiting positions at the IMF, Stanford, MIT, Harvard. He is currently Managing Editor of Pacific Economic Review, and Associate Editor of the Journal of International Economics, the Journal of Comparative Economics and the China Economic Review. Since 2021, he has served on a number of public bodies, including the Currency Board Sub-Committee of the HKMA’s Exchange Fund Advisory Committee and the Minimum Wage Commission in Hong Kong.

Professor Tang holds a PhD in economics from MIT and a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from UCLA. His research interests span a wide range of theoretical and empirical topics in international trade, with a specific focus on production networks, global value chains, and China. His research has been published in leading journals in economics, including American Economic Review and Journal of International Economics. His research and opinions have been covered by BBC, Bloomberg, China Daily, CNA, CNN, Financial Times, New York Times, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, South China Morning Post, and various think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Postgraduate and doctoral students

Benjamin Shen, Economic Growth: Agent-Based Modelling, Population Aging, and International Trade in Capital Goods

Yuhan Zhou, An Empirical Analysis of New Energy Vehicles in China, in progress



Daniel Gomez Abella holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Auckland (2021). In his thesis, Daniel explores the ex-ante and ex-post effects of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) of Colombia, both at a sectoral, as well as in an economy-wide context. He applies partial and general equilibrium analysis on the evaluation of RTAs in the Colombian context. His results provide new evidence of the effects of trade agreements in force since the 1990s and the mega-RTAs in the Asia-Pacific in terms of trade, production, and economic welfare.

Yen Nguyen holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Auckland (2021). In her thesis, Yen explores the impacts of services trade liberalization in Vietnam on manufacturing firm productivity and employment. She constructs a comprehensive dataset that transforms non-numerical barriers in services trade to numerical measurements. Combining this information with detailed firm-level data, her research shows that services trade liberalization boosts access to services inputs for manufacturing firms, improving their productivity. She finds that services trade liberalization is associated with a decrease in employment in manufacturing firms.

Masters and honours

Denham Watson, CBDCs in the Open Economy: Implications for Currency Crises and Policy Tradeoffs, 2022

Kaitlin Douglas-Gray, Words and Deeds: An Empirical Exploration of Current Developments in Central Bank Digital Currencies, 2021

Yuanqi Li, Industrial Robots and Automation in China, 2021

Li Qu, Industrial Robots and Employment: A Panel Data Analysis of Seven EU Countries, 2021

Adhikari Appuhamilage Wickramasinghe, A Panel Data Analysis of Robot and Productivity in Automotive Sector, 2021

Mengwen Gan, An Empirical Study of African Swine Fever in China's Pork Industry, 2020

Contact us

Dr Asha Sundaram
Senior Lecturer, Economics
Phone: +64 9 923 8312
Email: a.sundaram@auckland.ac.nz

Dr Haiping Zhang
Senior Lecturer, Economics
Phone: +64 9 923 1152
Email: haiping.zhang@auckland.ac.nz