pacific forum History of Pacific Forum

Stephen Olson

Over the course of his more than 30-year international career, Stephen Olson has lived and worked in Asia, the Middle East, and the United States, holding senior executive positions in the private sector, government, research institutions, and academia. He is a recognized expert on international trade, economic, and business issues.

Currently, Olson is a senior adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum and a visiting lecturer and non-resident fellow at the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance. Olson was a research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation in Singapore from 2014 to 2024, on whose behalf he conducted analysis and produced white papers and thought leadership pieces on various global trade and investment issues, including US-China relations, the global trade architecture, regional integration, and sustainable trade. Olson authored a white paper on US strategies in the IPEF negotiations, jointly published by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the National University of Singapore ISAS.

Olson is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Futures Council (GFC) on Trade, and he co-leads a joint workstream with the WEF GFC on Geopolitics.

Olson was a Visiting Scholar and Adjunct Associate Professor in the MBA program at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology from 2013 to 2019 and co-taught a graduate-level trade course at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Saigon campus from 2019 to 2021. Olson has guest-lectured at numerous institutions, including the US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, and has also developed and delivered training programs for Southeast Asian government officials on trade negotiation strategies and trade policy development.

Olson is a regular commentator on network television outlets such as the BBC, Bloomberg and CNBC and is frequently quoted in international media, including the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent public speaker at conferences, roundtables, and seminars throughout the region and has authored numerous articles in prominent publications such as Nikkei Asia, the International Herald Tribune, the South China Morning Post, the Bangkok Post, Forbes, American Prospect, the Diplomat, and East Asia Forum.

Olson was previously an adjunct fellow and managing director (Asia) for the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, DC, on whose behalf he has conducted commissioned research projects on global economic issues, including a major study for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on the role of China in international institutions.

Previously, Olson served as the Vice Chairman for Policy and Business Development at the Cairo-based ARTOC Group for Investment and Development, one of the leading conglomerates in the Middle East. Olson was a member of ARTOC’s Senior Executive Committee. He developed and negotiated trade and business ventures for ARTOC, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe. Olson led ARTOC’s participation in organizations such as the World Economic Forum and the Arab Business Council.

Prior to ARTOC, Mr. Olson was the President of the Hong Kong-based Pacific Basin Economic Council (PBEC), one of the region’s oldest and most prominent business organizations. Olson played a lead role in the development of PBEC’s policy recommendations on trade and economic issues, which are held in high regard by regional governments and international organizations. Olson managed the day-to-day operations of PBEC and was responsible for relationship building with global institutions such as APEC, the WTO, and World Bank.

Olson’s career began in Washington DC as an international trade negotiator. He was a member of the U.S. negotiating team for both the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations. Olson worked in the Executive Office of the President, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Olson was the recipient of a Certificate of Recognition for outstanding services as a member of the U.S. negotiating team for the Canada free trade negotiations, as well as a Certificate for Sustained Superior Performance during the NAFTA negotiations. He has been accredited by the New York Department of Economic Development as a certified international trade consultant. Olson has a Masters Degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has also studied at McGill University in Montreal and has a B.A. from the State University of New York.