After failure to achieve ambitious goals in the G-20 summit in South Korea and low expectations in the final days of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Japan, world leaders are looking to next year’s gatherings in France and then Honolulu for success. Next November is now envisioned as a time for economic breakthroughs in the back-to-back meetings after a yearlong cooling-off period, providing Hawaii with unprecedented attention as a serious world stage.
More than two dozen planners from the state in addition to Honolulu police and other security officials have been in Yokohama, Japan, this week to gain insight to host the APEC meeting, which is expected to bring 15,000 government and business leaders here, along with worldwide media. Those leading the way obviously recognize that the opportunities to show off the city’s attributes for conducting serious activities will abound.
Still dogged by Republican victories in last week’s election, President Barack Obama was unable to come away from the Group of 20 world leaders in Seoul with much more than handshakes and one-on-one meetings. The theme of the APEC gathering in Yokohama was "change and action," but neither is expected by the time of tomorrow’s closing gavel.
Obama, though, did reveal the hope for Asia to help boost recovery back home, telling APEC attendees that engagement with Asia is a "jobs strategy," important to increasing U.S. exports and spurring economic growth around the world. "We don’t want to lose the opportunity to sell our goods and services in fast-growing markets. We don’t want to lose the opportunity to create new jobs back home," he said in a prepared speech. "When it comes to this growing, sprawling region of the world, the United States is here to stay."
In Korea, G-20 members refused to pressure China to raise the value of its currency, while Obama defended the Federal Reserve’s decision to inject $600 billion into the U.S. economy against criticism by China and Germany. Obama was unable to make a deal with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on a free-trade treaty, as Lee rejected lifting tariffs on automobile and beef imports, delaying ratification by Congress and the Korean National Assembly.
World leaders at the G-20 did agree on some initiatives, including a U.S. anti-corruption initiative that China had opposed. The president noted that G-20 leaders also agreed on a mechanism to determine whether countries are engaging in unfair trading practices.
The goal for next year’s meetings are more ambitious and achievable. Obama plans to push for a Trans-Pacific Partnership to cut import tariffs for Australia, Japan and seven other countries, hoping it will lead to free trade among all 21 APEC members.
The G-20 summit is scheduled Nov. 3-4 next year at Cannes, France, and the APEC meeting will be Nov. 12-20 in Obama’s home state of Hawaii, so they will not overlap as the two gatherings did this year.
Opportunities for Hawaii to reveal its serious side to the world don’t come around very often. If the APEC gathering is successful, Honolulu will be recognized as a logical and sensible meeting place for world leaders — the Geneva of the Pacific.