Hawaii's World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, May 7, 1996

Hawaii pulls out of Pacific Basin Council

GOVERNOR Cayetano has withdrawn Hawaii from the Pacific Basin Development Council, a joint economic development cooperation by the governors of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi helped found PBDC. He calls our withdrawal "very unfortunate." If we are to have an international role for Hawaii we need to show leadership in the areas closest to us, especially the four U.S. areas of PBDC which can be helped immensely in Washington by our status as a state, he says.

All four areas have been paying annual dues of $63,000. Gerald Norris, executive director of PBDC's Honolulu headquarters since its founding, says the other governors want the organization to continue. He offers figures showing it generated $2.5 million in federal grants for the area in 1994 and 1995 and that 48 percent of these were spent in Hawaii.

Cayetano also has missed recent functions of Pacific Island leaders when they met in Honolulu. Does this mean Cayetano is turning his back on the Pacific?

No, insist two of his closest aides, and no says Lawrence Johnson, CEO of Bancorp Hawaii, which has operations in 16 of the 22 Pacific island economies. Johnson thinks Cayetano simply is so pressed for time and so focused on his efforts to downsize government that he can't be all the places he'd like to be.

Brenda Foster, Cayetano's assistant for international affairs, says "everybody wants you everywhere." She says Cayetano explained his conflicts to the key Pacific island leaders and they understand. He meets with a number of them when they are in Honolulu.

She calls the withdrawal from PBDC primarily economic, part of his general budget cutbacks. She headed a 10-person Office of International Relations under Governor John Waihee. Cayetano killed OIR but kept her as an executive assistant. A lot of OIR functions have been absorbed by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Seiji Naya, director of DBEDT, also says Cayetano does not want Hawaii to quit the Pacific and is seeking economic opportunities in the region. Cayetano plans to attend a Hawaii night function in Washington May 21, which will be part of a three-day meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council.

This is a high-powered non-governmental business leader organization that embraces 19 Pacific Rim and Asian economies, including the biggest. It, too, is headquartered in Honolulu with a staff of eight that is about to grow to 10.

Cayetano and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye will be co-hosts for the Hawaii evening. It will cost about $70,000 and is getting funding from both the state and the Hawaii business community. A model of the new Hawaii Convention Center will be on display. There will be a video stressing that Hawaii investment opportunities go beyond tourism, and a wall of Hawaii pictures. Cayetano will have been in Korea the previous week, also promoting business.

TWO other Pacific area cooperations headquartered in Honolulu are the 22-member Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the Joint Commercial Commission for the Pacific. The commercial commission was created after President George Bush's 1990 Honolulu summit with Pacific leaders. It is a funnel for U.S. aid but hasn't funneled much.

Both groupings have the East-West Center as their secretariat. They connect through its Pacific Islands Development Program. Director Sitiveni Halapua says Pacific island leaders value these as their only direct governmental connections with the U.S.

Foster says on one occasion Cayetano had to choose between attending a meeting of the East-West Center governors and a gathering of the Pacific Island leaders. He sent his regrets to the latter, he said, because he felt helping the East-West Center over its economic troubles is the higher priority, even for the Pacific islands leaders who depend on it.

NEXT TUESDAY: What's out there in the Pacific islands?

A.A. Smyser is the Star-Bulletin's contributing editor.
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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