Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Leaders see isles linking East and West

By Kristen Consillio


Hawaii politicians and business leaders urged attendees of the Asia-Pacific Business Symposium Thursday to form relationships that will transcend beyond the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this week.

With foreign and local businesses, politicians and experts in various fields on hand, the reiterated message was of the strategic role Hawaii so desperately seeks to play in connecting the United States with the Asia-Pacific region.

"APEC is giving international visitors and Hawaii residents a chance to interact where the rubber meets the road -- in academics, in public policy and in business," said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. "Heads of state will make their announcements over the next several days, but we are the people who are going to go about implementing them. This is the very beginning of the process, and, as exciting as this week is for all of us, this is a process we have to undertake over time."

Once the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is over, Hawaii officials will discuss a strategy to aggressively pursue attracting more high-level international meetings.

While traffic delays bring temporary headaches to commuters, the payoff in pulling together Hawaii's most logistically demanding international event ever has led to "a new line of business," said David Carey, president and CEO of Outrigger Enterprises Group.

"I don't think we've ever been in the market of asking these types of meetings to come here, because of the perception sometimes that we're strictly a leisure destination," he said. "This is a huge door opener to our community."

APEC is the largest international event ever hosted in the islands. The two-day Asia-Pacific Business Symposium at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa attracted 350 participants for the first forum of its kind designed to connect local and foreign businesses and policymakers to discuss trade, sustainability and public-private partnerships.

The issues that dominated the conference were food safety and security, disaster preparedness, clean energy, building sustainable communities and continued economic growth.

Chinese business executives, who flew in just hours before their panels, conveyed their eagerness in expanding into U.S. markets.

"Many Chinese enterprises are looking for opportunities to expand their businesses rapidly," said Henry Zuo Sheng Yu, president of the Association of U.S. Listed Chinese Companies and chairman and CEO of General Steel Holdings Inc. "Many of them have set up in the U.S. offices ... and formed deeper strategic partnerships with American companies to establish joint ventures for shared growth."

Carey hopes Hawaii's strategic position and time zone, convenient for East and West, will hopefully give it the edge it needs to entice foreign businesses to open offices and expand with new investments in the islands.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said, "We have a lot of things to be proud of and a lot of things to sell. We must be strategic. We have much to offer the Asian-Pacific region."

Despite Hawaii's inherent attributes of leisure and fun, the most important message officials sought to get across was succinctly put by Warren Luke, chairman of Pacific Basin Economic Council and head of Hawaii National Bank, who helped organize the symposium:

"Once you take off your tie, your brain does not disengage."

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