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Will Hawaii Host the Pacific Rim?



If it happens here, it will be the biggest international meeting Hawaii has ever hosted, bringing together as many as 20,000 people, including delegates, observers, staff, international media and close to 20 heads of government, including President Obama.

It’s the leaders meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, a wide-reaching organization that holds a high-level meeting once a year somewhere around the Pacific Rim.

In 2011, after almost two decades, it will once again be the United States’ turn to serve as host and local officials have launched an all-out bid to get the November summit here. Other U.S. cities interested include San Francisco, Los Angeles and perhaps Chicago.

One of the enduring images from these annual meetings is the group photograph of more than a dozen leaders posing in the traditional garb of the host location. Imagine them all in aloha shirts and muumuu.

The gathering also includes associated meetings of Cabinet ministers, business leaders, economists and others.

The APEC summit would be a shot in the arm for our visitor industry. In raw numbers, it would not be as big as the national dentists’ convention, but the VIP quality will be off the chart.

The biggest drawbacks are the logistics and security involved in hosting nearly 20 world leaders. Honolulu has had similar experience on a smaller scale: It hosted the Asian Development Bank’s meeting in 2001, not long after riots disrupted the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.

There were protests in Honolulu around the ADB meeting, but the event went off without major disruption. Supporters of the APEC application note that Hawaii’s isolation and rich military resources (including Hickam Air Force Base for VIP arrivals) make it a strong security bet.

East-West Center President Charles Morrison, who has participated in three APEC summits, has taken a lead role in Honolulu’s effort to become the APEC site for 2011. “We are confident Honolulu is an outstanding site for these meetings as it has a welcoming, visitor-oriented economy, a symbolic trans-Pacific location, a rich and distinct culture, and superior security advantages,” he wrote in Hawaii’s application.

“As a venue,” he added, “Hawaii can provide a statement about America’s reach into the Pacific in a way no other venue can.”

And if Obama is going to host the meeting, why not hold it where he was born?

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Hawaii Business,June