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U.S. promotes opportunities in Pacific islands

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U.S. promotes opportunities in Pacific islands

The federal government is encouraging firms from Hawai'i to take advantage of business opportunities in seven U.S.-affiliated islands mostly in the southern and western Pacific.

The companies have been invited to participate in the 2004 Business Opportunities Conference, a U.S. Department of the Interior-sponsored event scheduled this fall in Los Angeles. The aim is to promote opportunities in Guam, American Samoa, the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The main objective of the initiative is to move the islands' economies closer to self-sufficiency, said David B. Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, who was in Honolulu to promote the conference.

At the same time, businesses, especially those based in Hawai'i, could benefit, he added.

"We want to provide a forum where the right people come together and pursue opportunities," Cohen said. "And Hawai'i is in the best position to take advantage of these opportunities."

Hawai'i is the closest state to six of the islands, with an established business community and strong educational institutions, he said.

Cohen addressed concerns that having U.S. companies expand overseas might have an adverse impact on the U.S. economy.

"It is clearly not our intention ... that businesses close up operations in the U.S. and move to the islands," Cohen said.

A wide variety of industries could flourish in these islands, he said, including, construction, environmental technology, education, and travel and tourism.

For example, a hotel chain from California could open a resort in American Samoa, creating jobs in the island and opportunities for U.S.-based contractors.

Or an educational institution in Hawai'i could open up a satellite school in the Northern Mariana Islands to teach U.S.-style business management catering to Asian and Pacific Islander students. That would take advantage of Hawai'i's location and the unique legal status of the island, which would allow foreign students to learn American-style management without the headaches of obtaining student visas to enter the United States.

These potential opportunities will be discussed at the conference, scheduled for Sept. 23 and 24. Last year's conference

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