Opposing paradigms converge on Hawaii

Jon Letman from Kaua’i wrote a good overview of the conflicting worldviews represented by the upcoming APEC summit and the Moana Nui peoples’ gathering for Al Jazeera English:

Opposing paradigms converge on Hawaii

Hawaii is centre stage for a meeting between the all-business APEC and international environmental conference Moana Nui.

Jon Letman

Speaking earlier this year on US National Public Radio, Intel CEO Paul Otellini suggested that the global power shift that occurred from the United Kingdom to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century is now replaying itself, as power moves away from the United States to the Asia-Pacific region, specifically China.

If that’s true, then Hawaii is well poised to serve as the place where the proverbial baton is handed off. This November (8-13), Honolulu will host the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) 2011 summit where 21 member economies will discuss region issues.

Founded in 1989 as a forum for “facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region”, APEC comprises some of the world’s largest economies including the US, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Australia – as well as developing economies from Vietnam and the Philippines to Mexico and Peru.

APEC’s primary focus is on what it calls the “Three Pillars of APEC”: Trade and investment liberalisation, business facilitation and economic and technical cooperation.

As a single economic body representing 40 per cent of the world’s population, 54 per cent of global GDP (about $34 trillion in 2008) and approximately 44 per cent of world trade, APEC is enormous, so it’s no wonder Hawaii’s state government and local business leaders thrill at hosting such a big fish.

Yet APEC will take place alongside an equally important, though far less well-known international conference called Moana Nui.

Moana Nui (the name means “Great Ocean” in Hawaiian) will convene in Honolulu (Nov 9-11) to discuss issues vital to the well-being of Asian-Pacific peoples with an emphasis on protecting indigenous rights, local economies and fragile ecosystems that are often disproportionately impacted by resource exploitation, militarisation and free trade policies such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, currently under negotiation among nine APEC members.


“I think there is a real danger of Moana Nui being overshadowed,” says Moana Nui participant Kyle Kajihiro, acting coordinator for Hawaii Peace and Justice. Kajihiro, along with activists representing Guam, Okinawa and Jeju island, South Korea, will be conducting a workshop on the impacts of militarisation.

Kajihiro says Hawaii is an apt location to discuss these issues because “Hawaii was one of the early casualties of global capitalism … and it experienced a loss of sovereignty in exchange for trade with America”.

“David and Goliath is a suitable metaphor for Hawaii or any Pacific nation where APEC powers are converging. They pick small places because they think we are easy to control and they use us to dominate others. The small islands are really strategic in building power and control around the planet.”

Militarism meets tourism

Kajihiro and others say Hawaii is attractive to APEC because its remote location reduces the potential for outside protesters and, with its huge military presence, is easy to secure.

“It’s a weird confluence of militarisation and tourism,” Kajihiro says. “On one hand APEC is promoting the myth of Hawaii as a welcoming, compliant venue to hold meetings, but it is all buttressed by an infrastructure of state violence that exists here.”

Local Hawaii media and groups such as Kajihiro’s have reported on and questioned the millions of dollars being spent on APEC security that could install or convert as many as 260 surveillance cameras and an arsenal of tens of thousands of dollars worth of crowd control equipment – from pepper spray and Taser guns to long-range loud speakers and other “non-lethal” devices.
Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz is the lead state official for APEC. He says: “We are a free speech nation which means we’re not going to diminish anybody’s ability to express an opinion that may be contrary to the mainstream about APEC. I think that attitude will serve the event well and keep whatever dissenting voices there may be from feeling alienated to the point of violence.”

“We feel confident that we have the appropriate security measures in place and that the conference will be safe and successful.”

Kajihiro, however, suggests the funds could be better spent: “We could use some of that (security) money to bring more people affected by the APEC agenda to have a more inclusive dialogue.”


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