By José Villa
Hawaii Hispanic News
HONOLULU, Hawaii — The APEC Economic Leaders Meeting – which took place in Honolulu November 7–13 – was the first held in the U.S. since 1993, when Bill Clinton was president. Since that time, the Asia-Pacific region has experienced unprecedented economic growth and become a leading driver of the global economy. This meeting brought the leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies, and thousands of other leaders to our shores.
Two years ago, many of us didn’t really understand how global economics work. Many of us didn’t understand the interconnectedness of the global markets. Two years ago, we kept hearing the term “global marketplace,” but many of us thought of it as having an expanded arena in which to market our goods and services.
For example, instead of just selling our goods or services in Hawaii, we could also sell them in Japan and China. What so many of us didn’t understand then, and we do understand now, is that – from a global economics perspective – when a lady a China sneezes, a braddah in Kalihi must take out a handkerchief to wipe his nose.
But, through the global recession of the last two years, the reality of global economics has now been seared into our collective consciousness. Now, most of us get it. In the past few weeks, we have watched the events in Europe. We have had a front row seat in the drama of the economic crisis in
Greece, which still threatens to bring down Europe’s economy at a time when it hasn’t fully recovered from the devastating recession.
There’s even talk Greece may have to leave the European Union, stop using the euro, and revert to its native drachma, the original Greek currency.
Even as the Greece drama has played out, we’ve seen the other European economies of Spain, Portugal and Italy that are waiting in the wings for their 15 minutes of infamy.
So far this year, the economic crisis has brought down the governments of four or five European nations as their citizens express extreme disappointment in their inability to lead the nation out of the abyss. Economically speaking, Europe is teetering on the edge of a precipice.
Its financial collapse would also have devastating and debilitating effects on our U.S. economy, since Europe is our largest trading partner. And, as most of us now realize, pretty much anything that affects the U.S. economy is going to affect Hawaii’s economy.
In his welcome letter, President Obama encouraged the attendees to: “work together to bring the Asia-Pacific region closer to our common goal of a
seamless regional economy. At a time of global economic uncertainty, we can send a powerful message of cooperation by achieving concrete, meaningful
outcomes that will strengthen regional economic integration, expand trade, promote green growth, and advance regulatory convergence and cooperation.”
From Hawaii’s economic point-of-view, the APEC provided the islands unparalleled travel and tourism exposure throughout the entire Pacific-Asian region that was priceless. Having 1,300 members of the international media here – many of them for the first time – helped spotlight the islands in ways that would have probably used up all our allocated advertising funds for the year.
APEC created jobs and additional hours for many of the folks that work in our tourism industry. And, as most of us know, tourism is our number one
industry and the bellwether of our state’s economy. When tourism is good, the rest of our economy benefits.
Did APEC cause Oahu residents inconveniences? Absolutely! I’ll be the first to agree that: having to find alternate routes; leaving much earlier than normal for work/appointments; the general lack of knowledge as to what traffic would be like when we got to a certain point; and being caught up in those long, long traffic jams was a pain in the okole.
But, overall, I was impressed by how well HPD, our local military units, and the various security forces, handled the entire week. We had no major incidents that would have given Hawaii a black eye. And, by having the state and county governments work together, Hawaii proved not only that it could host a world-class international event, but also that we could do it in a classy way.
Several agreements – such as the basing 2,500 U.S. Marines in Australia as a counterweight to China’s expansion plans in the Pacific — were consummated here in Honolulu. Three of the world’s most powerful leaders – President Obama, China’s President Hu Jintao, and Russia’s Dmitry
Medvedev – don’t agree on everything all the time. They each have to look out for their own country’s vital interests.
So many times, we are allies – and in sync — on some issues, while on opposite sides of other issues. But that’s the way the global political power game is played. While here, President Obama said that the United States is – and will continue to be – a Pacific power. And Hawaii is a key facet of our nation’s ability to project that power. It’s a global chess game and we’re one of the important pieces.
Having a seat at the Pacific Rim power table has long been a wish of Hawaii’s various governmental administrations. While not as prestigious as the G20, the APEC is probably just one rung lower on the global political power status ladder. Having proved that we can handle a large international conference has definitely given us global status that is priceless.
So, in my opinion, the fact that the presidents, leaders and CEOs of the 21 APEC member economies – including Mexico, Chile and Peru – were meeting
here was a good thing. Anything the powers-that-be can do to try to work through positive, economic strategies together is something that will benefit most of us. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing.