POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 20, 2013
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa says she expects more lawmakers and others to begin thinking about the United States refocusing on the Asia-Pacific region in terms of economics and other issues besides national defense.
Hanabusa said this week that she believes more discussions around future prosperity will take shape as the United States negotiates a trans-Pacific trade pact with 11 other countries.
"When you look at the population base of the world, it's basically in this area," Hanabusa said. "I think people are beginning to realize that the economic base of the world has to shift somewhere."
The 12 countries, including Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, agreed to restart Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in January. The White House sees the partnership as key to getting more American exports into rapidly growing markets in Asia. Also involved in negotiations are delegates from Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru.
Hanabusa said countries are looking at food, minerals and other untapped resources in the region as the U.S. shifts its military away from the Middle East.
Those who favor the pivot say a strong U.S. military presence and diplomacy will help maintain decades of stability and prosperity.
Hanabusa spoke with the AP in a wide-ranging interview in which she also discussed her U.S. Senate campaign. The Democrat is challenging U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a primary next year.
Hanabusa said she believes people see the race differently in Hawaii than in Washington. Schatz, who was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to replace longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye after his death one year ago, has been backed by several groups and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
"I tell people there's optics on the mainland and optics at home," Hanabusa said. "And always when you come home it makes you know why you're running."
Clay Schroers, a campaign manager for Schatz, said having networks with leaders across the country is part of being an effective leader for Hawaii.
"The outpouring of support from people across Hawaii for Sen. Schatz is what really counts because those are the people he fights for every day," Schroers said.
Hanabusa said she has not yet heard from Schatz or his campaign on her request for statewide debates.
Schroers said Thursday that Schatz looks forward to participating in forums and debates "when the time comes."
"We look forward to working out details that promote a vigorous exchange of ideas while, of course, prioritizing his responsibilities to the people of Hawaii as their U.S. senator," he said.
Oskar Garcia, Associated Press