The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for twenty-one Pacific Rim member economies that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region. When President Obama announced the 2011 APEC Summit would take place in Honolulu on November 12 and 13, it was visualized as a unique opportunity for Hawai‘i to demonstrate our competitive capabilities in hosting an event of this international stature and to launch Hawai‘i’s Asia-Pacific strategies for the future.
To achieve these dual goals, the APEC 2011 Hawai‘i Host Committee was formed, comprised of private and public sector leaders, including Bank of Hawaii Chairman and President Peter S. Ho as Committee Chair and HMSA Senior Vice President Timothy Johns as Executive Vice Chair, with Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz serving as the State’s lead member of the Committee.
“If Hawai‘i’s willing, Hawai‘i definitely has proven it’s ready for the big time, ready for the big leagues. This is a shared home run for Hawai‘i and for the United States at large.”
– Kurt Tong, U.S. Ambassador for APEC
“It can be said that Hawai‘i was the location most suited for feeling the certain future of the Asia-Pacific region over the years to come, both for its characteristics as a location and in historical perspective.”
– Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister of Japan
Special Roles of the Lieutenant Governor
Launching a rebranding of Hawai‘i in the Asia-Pacific Region
Thirteen hundred journalists joined important international business and government representatives in Honolulu for APEC, creating a unique opportunity to showcase Hawai‘i to millions of people from all over the globe. The Lieutenant Governor and the Host Committee repositioned Hawai‘i as a leader in clean energy, higher education and research, as well as the hospitality industry, for which the State is already known worldwide. This rebranding connects to our own future Asia-Pacific strategies. Although it isn’t possible to put a precise dollar figure on the value of “free media” for Hawai‘i, it is estimated that Hawai‘i received over 22,000 stories and tens of millions of dollars worth of publicity worldwide from APEC.
Overseeing infrastructure improvements for Honolulu International Airport and the route from the airport to Waikiki
The Lieutenant Governor worked with the Department of Transportation to ensure the completion of infrastructure improvements. The projects at the Honolulu Airport include: (1) The ‘Ewa Pedestrian Breezeway Restoration and themes; (2) International Arrivals Gates 24 & 25 repair work; (3) International Arrivals Canopies replacement; and (4) Planter and curb repair. On Nimitz Highway, over 200 palms and 2 acres of grass were planted along the median. Major improvements were also made along Nimitz Highway and Ala Moana Boulevard including pavement resurfacing, relocation of electrical and telephone wires underground and removal of all wiring support poles. All of these improvements were much needed and provide long term benefit for residents and visitors beyond APEC.
Refocusing on Hawai‘i
APEC focused the Asia-Pacific region’s eyes on Hawai‘i in other ways. During the summer of 2011, media from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Seoul visited Hawai‘i in advance of APEC Leader’s Week. These media tours generated stories read and viewed by millions of people on our achievements in energy and life sciences and Hawai‘i as a premier destination for business travel. APEC Leader’s Week also brought members of influential meetings media outlets that met with HTA, the APEC Host Committee and the Lieutenant Governor to learn about how the APEC experience further developed our capacity to host large and complex diplomatic and commercial meetings.
Meeting with U.S. Cabinet members
“This is very exciting. Hawai‘i is the perfect test-bed for us.”
– U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
APEC brought many American leaders to our State. Given the opportunity, the Lieutenant Governor facilitated State meetings with United States Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez focusing on how the federal government and Hawai‘i can work together on trade and travel, including reducing travel restrictions on visitors from the Asia-Pacific region to Hawai‘i and the mainland. Other discussions focused on initiatives Commerce has taken to aid local companies in directing their exports to Asia. A major meeting was also conducted between United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and energy leaders from the various sectors of Hawai‘i to discuss the federal-state partnership for clean energy.
With respect to the coordinated management of this world class event, the work done by the Host Committee, the private sector, every level of government and thousands of volunteers was remarkable. Cooperation and focused problem solving were a hallmark and this model can be modified for future application.
Most importantly, Hawai‘i established a clear and successful track record at holding an international convention of this magnitude. This included Hawai‘i sponsoring a two-day Asia-Pacific Business Symposium to discuss regional trends and opportunities and to build relations between Hawai‘i and member economy participants.
The value of the 2011 APEC Summit in Hawai‘i cannot be measured only in terms of a single event. It can best be assessed for what we make of it in the longer term as a launching point for our Asia-Pacific and global strategy.
In that light, though the work of the Host Committee and many others, Hawai‘i reestablished our unique credentials as:
- A world leader in the hospitality industry and highly competitive in the management of international meetings and conventions,
- Innovators in the application of clean energy technologies,
- A Pacific center for higher education and advanced research utilizing State and private universities and the East West Center, and
- A unique and vital place to do business.
In short, we effectively carried out the vision of President Barack Obama, who said he:
“… could not imagine a more fitting place than my home state of Hawai‘i. Here we are literally in the center of the Pacific. Here we’re reminded of the progress that’s possible when people of different backgrounds and beliefs come together…. Here we’re a single ‘ohana, one family.”