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Leaders see APEC meeting as opportunity for Hawaii


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in Honolulu will be the largest intergovernmental meeting of world leaders in the state's history, according to the president of the East-West Center, who played a key role in coordinating the bid.

“;It brings a lot of publicity and awareness”; about what Hawaii has to offer, said Charles Morrison in a phone interview from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Many state leaders are looking forward to showing countries worldwide that Hawaii is a destination spot for serious business and not just sun and surf. The meeting, as announced Sunday by President Barack Obama in Singapore, is to be held in November 2011 at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

“;Securing the 2011 APEC Leaders Meeting is a significant accomplishment for the state of Hawaii as we continue to expand our state's role as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region,”; said Gov. Linda Lingle in a news release.

Meetings are under way among federal, state and city officials, including those at the East-West Center and Hawai'i Convention Center, and the private sector to create a detailed plan for the meeting. Officials also are waiting to hear from Obama on his plans.

“;There's no question in anybody's mind that Hawaii will be able to deliver,”; said state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert.

More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the meeting, including 20 heads of state and their delegations, a welcome boost for the tourism industry.

Isle residents can expect congestion on the roadways and airports during the event, but what it can do for the state outweighs the temporary disruptions, officials contend.

“;It could lead to many new advantages for Hawaii as we develop our relationships with Asian countries in the worldwide community,”; said Wienert.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann echoed her sentiment, saying the state will reap benefits for years to come.

Sixty percent of U.S. exports go to APEC nations, trade that supports millions of American jobs, Obama said. In turn the U.S. is the largest export market for Asia, providing more affordable goods for consumers in America, he said.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said, “;The president will be able to speak in personal terms as no other president could about America's commitment to the region because of his ties to Hawaii, our people and our diversity that is rooted in the history and culture of Asia and the Pacific. He grew up in the cultural milieu of Hawaii, which will demonstrate to APEC members that when they speak to the president of the United States, they are truly speaking to a world leader and American who shares with them a personal understanding and relationship.”;

The meeting will be the first in the United States since Washington state hosted APEC leaders in 1993.

Mike McCartney, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said the Hawaii-based Pacific Command, Hickam Air Force Base, the Hawai'i Convention Center and its proximity to the hotels, and the multiethnic culture are some of the factors that led to Hawaii's selection as the host site.

“;It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,”; said McCartney, adding that host sites rotate among APEC's 21 member economies.

Jerry Gibson, general manager of Hilton Hawaiian Village and Hilton Hawaii's area vice president, said: “;It's a world marketing opportunity for Hawaii.

“;We'll have the eyes of the world on us here.”;

Ambassador William Bodde Jr., a former diplomat-in-residence of the East-West Center who served as the first APEC executive director, said Hawaii's selection as the host site makes “;perfect symbolic sense”; due to its multiethnic culture and the multitude of experts on the Asia-Pacific region at the University of Hawaii and East-West Center.

“;There's no doubt that the economic future and political future of the United States is tied to the Asia-Pacific region,”; said Bodde by telephone, noting that Obama's meeting with his counterparts is important for both American policy and the international climate.

COMING TO TOWN

2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting

» When: Nov. 12-20, 2011, at the Hawai'i Convention Center

» What: APEC was formed in 1989 to facilitate economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, according to APEC's Web site. APEC's 21 members, referred to as “;member economies,”; account for 40.5 percent of the world's population, 54.2 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 43.7 percent of world trade. APEC's first leaders meeting was held in 1993 in Washington state.

» Who: APEC nations are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.