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APEC provides Hawaii with unique opportunity to do business -- and to learn

By Keith Vieira


The world's attention will be focused on Hawaii when the presidents, prime ministers, Cabinet members, corporate CEOs and legions of journalists from the 21 member economies of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) gather in Honolulu for a series of "Leaders' Week" meetings Nov. 7-13.

Hundreds of Island businesses and residents have spent countless hours planning the complex logistics of the APEC events under the leadership of the Hawaii Host Committee, the U.S. State Department and the Secret Service. I feel confident that this will be one of the best APEC Leaders' Weeks ever.

APEC brings together an extraordinarily diverse group of economies::

» Big nations like the U.S., China and Russia, and small ones like Peru and Singapore.

» Economic powerhouses like Japan and Korea, and developing economies like Malaysia and Mexico.

» Continental nations like Russia and Chile, and island states like the Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand.

Yet despite such extraordinary diversity, and even a history of wars between some of APEC's members, the leaders of these economies — accounting for approximately 40 percent of the world's population, 60 percent of world's gross domestic product and 44 percent of world trade — have been meeting every year since 1989 in an effort to improve the lives of billions of people.

Their accomplishments have been significant:

» As the forum for free and open trade in the region, APEC has lowered trade barriers among its members by an impressive 70 percent (between 1989 and 2004).

» At the same time, APEC members have concluded more than 30 bilateral free trade agreements with each other, including the recent agreement between the United States and South Korea.

» Thanks to these lower barriers, trade in merchandise among APEC members has grown an average of 8.5 percent a year.

» And thanks to the growth this has helped stimulate, the proportion of the APEC economies' population in poverty has been more than halved.

I felt very proud when President Barack Obama announced, at the 2009 APEC meeting in Singapore, that the 2011 Leaders' Week would take place in Hawaii. And the more I learned more about APEC's meetings and its member economies and accomplishments, the more opportunities I saw for Hawaii.

The benefits for our visitor industry are clear, as APEC can help position Hawaii as a place where serious business can take place — a credibility challenge we have faced for as long as I can remember.

Speaking as a hotelier, the new relationships that have been formed with the economies and corporations attending Leaders' Week are priceless. Many in this industry have already reaped future business because of APEC.

But APEC's benefits go well beyond the benefits to tourism. These meetings are an incomparable opportunity to showcase Hawaii's accomplishments in such areas as renewable energy, health and life sciences, astronomy and agriculture. When have we had an opportunity to share our aloha and the diversity of these islands with so many influential people all at once — not just the government leaders, but the hundreds of APEC CEO Summit participants meeting at the Sheraton Waikiki? The opportunities that these meetings will generate are immeasurable.

But APEC is not just an opportunity for Hawaii to shine. It's a chance for us to learn, too — to see how 21 economies can look past their enormous differences and find common ground on which to build for the benefit of their people.

So let's look beyond a few days of unavoidable inconveniences and embrace APEC with the same energy its members have applied to improving the lives of their people. This will be a gathering to celebrate.

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bender wrote:
Of course it is an excellent opportunity for Starwood Hotels and Viera, they stand to make a lot of money. But I question the value to the average resident. I don't think they will benefit unless they are directly connected to the tourism industry and even then many of those still won't benefit. In fact it is more likely the Waikiki workers will be inconvenienced. But I have learned, I've learned that we can probably do without conferences that involve world leaders. Their demands are too much.
on October 31,2011 | 07:02AM
Leewardboy wrote:
APEC policies basically seek to establish a "NAFTA" for the Pacific Basin. Destruction of agriculture in other nations and the export of U.S. manufacturing jobs to other countries as we import more and more manufactured goods from other countries and export raw materials and agricultural goods to those same countries. The large corporations benefit from the cheaper labor in other countries - bolstered by the destruction of local agriculture by our cheaper agricultural products which force farmers off their land and into manufacturing jobs. More pay but higher prices for all goods - especially imported food. An almost certain trade deficit for us - since 1994 when NAFTA went into effect our trade deficit with Mexico has grown every year: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c2010.html As bender commented: "excellent opportunity for Starwood hotels..." but not a real benefit to average citizens of Hawaii. They don't even want most of us around under the guise of "security". This is like the Asian Development Bank conference a few years ago when very similar security precautions were taken but not as publicly as for the upcoming APEC conference. Looks like they want to make sure that people of all political stripes and positions get the message: "Don't question, don't protest - if you do - you'll be crushed." Conservative, liberal, left or right, big government or small government - we all better look at the massive security build up, $$$$$$$$$$, and realize that it could be used against any of us if we disagree with government policy. Ironic, or maybe not so, that this is all taking place under a "liberal" Democratic leadership.
on October 31,2011 | 09:10AM
HoldEverything wrote:
The way the APEC story has been spun as something that benefits the people of Hawaii is a masterpiece of deception. Sure, Keith Vierra may see opportunities for Starwood in APEC. But it's nothing but a major inconvenience for the people of Hawaii. Why should one million people be forced to deal with road closures, security zones, and who knows what else when the only ones who have even a slim chance of benefiting are Vierra and his fellow business leaders, who have jockeyed into position to curry favor with politicos from around the Pacific? They want to curry favor, let them do it on their own dime and time, not on the taxpayers'. Nothing good will come from APEC. As pointed out in other comments, they don't even want Hawaii residents anywhere near the APEC participants or the events.
on October 31,2011 | 10:37AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Political leaders and tourism officials hyping APEC as being great for Hawaii are blowing smoke to obscure the truth and mislead local residents. They want you to believe that APEC is being held in Honolulu to promote business between Hawaii and the 20 non-US member countries, when that real purpose of the APEC meeting is to promote trade between the United States and the 20 other APEC countries. Hawaii certainly will receive a lot of exposure in the APEC region and receive some marginal benefit vis-a-vis the rest of the United States, but the primary reason for the US hosting APEC is to promote business for the entire US and not just Hawaii. The real beneficiaries of APEC in Hawaii will the hotels in which attendees are accommodated and the restaurants in which they eat. The state and city are spending more than $100 million to support the event but will take in less than $10 million in GET and TAT from the estimated $120 million in economic activity APEC is expected to generate. That is a terrible return on investment, and we, the taxpayers, will be the losers.
on October 31,2011 | 11:02AM
LemonySnickets wrote:
America wants to show up the Asian Countries. China once called "The Sick Man of the East" will prove they are not. "Business is War" since said by Miyamoto Musashi in Book of Five Rings. Asian countries do not wage war and die but their war is in Business. How to learn and do better as Made in Japan was junk stuff but Japanese have improved and made their products of great quality. Toyota now using parts Made in USA or other countries find their cars are not up to high standards as before. China same in quality but labor is cheap. Made in China that sells in Hawaii. Most stores should cover up the Made in China labels and put Made in Hawaii. Ha Ha. Businesses who use labor in China sell the product and it breaks but they made their fortune so why should they care. China will fall to western ways by going union.
on October 31,2011 | 12:19PM
HDoug wrote:
I'm glad some local people will be able to make a dollar from APEC, but when the international 1% meets with world "leaders" what sort of benefit can the 99% expect? What sort of environmental protections can we expect will come from APEC without the participation of any environmentalists? What sort of respect for indigenous Pacific and Asian people can we expect from APEC without their participation or influence? It might be good for the New York based, multi-billion dollar Starwood Hotels and Resorts, but I'll be one of the people outside the hotel with a sign reading, "APEC Sucks!" because it does.
on October 31,2011 | 12:21PM
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