Where's the conversation on APEC, globalization and local economy?

Nov 13, 2011 by Carmille Lim | Story Popularity: 6

There are many sustainability-minded organizations in Hawaii that promote ideologies and encourage the weaning off of global products – whether it’s fuel, food, or clothing items. However, I was surprised that most of these organizations -- or individuals active in these circles -- haven’t started a conversation surrounding the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and a deeper discussion on globalization. When I say this, I’m not implying that local “green” organizations and its active members should join the APEC craze, or take a harsh stance against it and adopt some type of “localization” campaign; however, I was at least hoping to see some type of discourse encircling APEC’s potential and impacts initiated – rather than jumping into protest.

The APEC summit focuses on a global economy. Many in Hawaii were thrilled to hear that our state would be hosting the 2011 APEC summit. This opportunity was seen to have the potential to generate millions of dollars into our local economy – an estimated $100 to $120 million according to APEC’s Hawaii Host Committee Chair, Peter Ho (1). Larger local businesses were vying to get some limelight in front of these economic and corporate leaders in hopes that one of the big global corporations represented at APEC would want to invest in their own business. Through this, many projects were initiated (and by extension, had monies spent), to try and highlight these larger local companies in front of potential investors. While I am pleased to say that many local businesses were awarded contracts with the APEC summit (from website design, to public relations, and beyond), I can’t help but wonder: If most of our for-profit sector is comprised of small businesses – approximately 98% (2)-- why were we not doing more to encourage our small businesses’ success using local consumers during this time period?

The state of Hawaii is at a current $71.6 million shortfall for FY2011, (3) and the Honolulu City Council narrowly missed its predicted $100 million FY2011 deficit (4). As I watched full-grown trees being erected along Nimitz highway, and the vast amount of human resources and time being put into moving Honolulu’s homeless population, and hear of altered and enhanced traffic control by the Honolulu Police Department, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the resources we expended on APEC preparations. Where did we get the money to implement these new programs and instant landscaping? How was the cost of APEC preparations determined? If we wanted to present the best Hawaii possible, we would take care of the land, infrastructure and people, instead of concealing its flaws.

In the months prior to APEC, I’ve eagerly searched the web and media for coverage on both sides of the APEC coin, or at least highlighted alternative-APEC conversations (rather than coverage on anti-APEC events). On October 7, Aljazeera, a leading Arabic-English news network, published an opinion piece titled “Opposing paradigms converge on Hawaii: Hawaii is centre stage for a meeting between the all-business APEC and international environmental conference Moana Nui” (5). I was disturbed to see that local printed and online media did not cover the Moana Nui Shadow Summit until November 2, when Civil Beat published its “Moana Nui Speaker Says APEC is ‘Colonization Today in Real Time’ (6)* – almost an entire month after Aljazeera's "Moana Nui" post was published. On the other hand, for the last 6 months (at least), our Hawaii residents have been inundated with frequent and constant APEC coverage – whether it was promotion, preparation, or mentions in evening news. Further, most alternative-APEC media coverage has been focused on protests and the Occupy demonstrations – The media has done very little to cover alternative-APEC forums and encourage public dialogue surrounding these issues. To my knowledge, the first conversation surrounding other facets of APEC and its impacts was highlighted in PBS’s Insights on November 3 (7). If ever the question of how “fair” or balanced local news media coverage has been post-mergers, I think this is a perfect example of how media mergers enhance propaganda and washes out room for discourse.

The name, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is somewhat misleading in itself. While many of Asia’s leaders are heavily represented in the conference, where are and how often are leaders from the Pacific Islands represented? Or perhaps the question to ask is why are they not adequately represented? Could it be lack of political and global business clout; or maybe it’s disinterest (or even heavy opposition) to free trade, militarization, industrialization and other globalization matters? How often do the representatives of APEC’s 21-member economies engage in economic-development dialogue (as a whole), with leaders from the Pacific Islands absent from the APEC summit?

A common conception is that if one isn’t on a larger, global playing field, then (1) that entity is not competitive, or (2) that entity is not “good” enough. With that in mind, I ask myself: what is really more difficult for Hawaii – to be seen as a global player, or to be economically self-sufficient? Personally, being that we are a group of secluded islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I think that the latter is more difficult, and thus, working toward that goal would be an impressive and competitive goal in itself.

Lastly, in this day and age, globalization seems inevitable. While I still believe in striving toward self-sufficiency for our islands, because of our modern times, I think complete self-sufficiency is impossible. However, I think the goal then, should be: how much of globalization can we ‘consume’, without our economy being too reliant? As I question this, I am eating mass-produced and imported Ores, checking text messages on my iPhone and typing on a laptop that was definitely not made in Hawaii. Would it be feasible – or even possible – to become 100% self-sufficient in a time when our city and informational infrastructure has been established largely because of globalization’s influence? Which existing industries and businesses in Hawaii can we currently grow, what effective and necessary items can we import with minimal impact, and what untapped industries do we have the potential to grow in Hawaii?

This post was not intended to criticize the inaction of “green”-organizations, nor was it intended to criticize APEC. I wrote this to initiate discussion amongst my peers – fellow consumers and members of our state’s economic society. We need to look past current practices and markets, and imagine, innovate and create our way to a truly diversified and sustainable local economy -- one that accepts globalization in necessary amounts, but does not over-consume or over-relies.

* Excluding a September opinion piece published in Civil Beat titled “How APEC Hurts,” which briefly mentioned the Moana Nui Shadow Summit at the bottom of its piece.

(1) Talk story with Peter Ho: http://www.hawaiibusiness.com/Hawaii-Business/April-2011/Talk-Story-with-Peter-Ho/, Hawaii Business, April 2011.

(2) Nearly all Hawaii businesses are small businesses: http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2011/11/02/nearly-all-hawaii-businesses-are-small.html, Pacific Business News, November 2, 2011.

(3) Hawaii state budget: http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Hawaii_state_budget , Sunshine Review, June 2011

(4) Honolulu City Government Deficit: http://www.civilbeat.com/topics/honolulu-city-government-deficit/#title-1 , Civil Beat, 2011.

(5) Opposing paradigms coverage on Hawaii: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011102103355380144.html, Aljazeera, October 7, 2011

(6) Moana Nui Speaker Says APEC is ‘Colonization Today in Real Time’: http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/11/02/13476-moana-nui-speakers-say-apec-is-colonization-today-in-real-time/, Civiil Beat, November 2, 2011.

(7) Insights on PBS: APEC: Policies and Protests: http://www.pbshawaii.org/ourproductions/insights_programs/insights20111103APEC1.htm , PBS Hawaii, November 3, 2011.


Archived Comments

Comments posted prior to adopting Facebook comments.

  1. Joannie Pan says:

    At a quick glance, this is what I wanted to post but three folds more planned out.
    Sis, thank you for taking charge and following your gut. It is easy to live on auto-pilot and just follow what convenient new sources for what is reported and not question, "hey is what matters to me really being covered?" I will be back to read more thoroughly and checked the shared resources. Wanted to get in my appreciation for your entry first. But no heavy stuff for me before bed.. personal rule that I try to follow :)


  2. thanks for your post Carmille! I was not pleased that so few seemed to take interest in learning about what APEC is beyond a traffic nightmare. The main concern for me is holding the APEC reps accountable. They make decisions that could affect the Pacific Islands in devastating ways, especially during this critical time for climate change action. There is always talk about sustainability and preserving local communities, but big business goals (read neoliberal policies putting corporations' rights above the state) may win out. It can feel powerless, but conversation and education are probably the best first steps towards ensuring accountability.

    And...Civil Beat actually did post this http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2011/09/20/12899-how-apec-hurts/ by the Moana Nui organizer back in Sept.

  3. All great points. Just FYI, yesterday KHON ran an hour-long locally produced Inside APEC show hosted by Honolulu's Charlene on Green and focused in part on small and sustainable businesses. I was on a business owner panel in the studio and it featured interviews from the small business showcase at APEC. There could/should have been more organizational and media focus overall on small business, but my understanding is that small businesses had country-specific meetings to do just that. But your larger point about the island focusing on self-reliance rather than getting caught in the import/export game is sensible.

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