APEC preview: there's economic opportunity out there

Lee-Jay Cho
Lee-Jay Cho
George Ariyoshi
George Ariyoshi

By Teri Okita – bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Difficult financial market news can turn into opportunities for some.

Policymakers, business leaders, and academics from five Asian countries and the U.S. are in Hawaii as a precursor to the APEC summit in November. The 20th annual Northeast Asia Economic Forum, NEAEF, is trying to emphasize international partnerships - despite, or perhaps because of, the tough financial times.

Ideas on trade, energy, financing and cross-border projects are usually discussed during this forum. But on the cusp of the summit, this year's forum in Honolulu holds more significance.

NEAEF chairman Lee-Jay Cho says, "The success of APEC really depends on the countries in Northeast Asia and the United States." Japan, China, Korea, and the U.S. account for 80 percent of the GDP for APEC nations - so the exchange of ideas here is crucial to APEC's mission. The proposals these attendees make will be sent to summit leaders.

"These people are not politicians," says former Hawaii Governor and honorary forum chairman, George Ariyoshi. "They don't represent the country. They don't represent, in a sense, that they're concerned about the political ramifications. All they're interested in is to see a region, a country, and a people, and the region get better. And that's the motivation to be here."

Hawaii stands to be in the forefront of green-energy growth in the region, and Governor Neil Abercrombie touted the state's potential for business. "We don't want to be a crossroads," he told the audience. "We want to be a destination. We want to be a place that people want to come to, not pass through."

In the 20 years since it began, forum founders say they've seen tension between nations drop - as more cross-border projects, like gas and oil pipelines, electricity grids, and telecommunication cables, have been built. Cho says, "So if you hold infrastructure like a gas pipeline together, you won't think of making too much trouble to start a war."

Interestingly, along with trade and energy, forum participants are also discussing low fertility and aging in societies. Asian countries have an increasingly high proportion of seniors - and fewer young people to help support them. As they grapple with paying for programs similar to medicare, aging may become a big issue for these economies.

Also key to this conference: about 35 young leaders from the different countries are in attendance. Former Governor Ariyoshi says they're an important part of the process - as the economic baton gets passed to the next generation.

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