It had all the trimmings of a large-scale international trade show: prominent public speakers--including Gov. George Deukmejian and former Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel--seminars, luncheons and flashy exhibits.
But the inaugural run of the Pacific Rim Expo, being held in Long Beach this week, got off to a sleepy start Tuesday.
Sponsored by a consortium of businesses as well as by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the exposition drew only a few hundred people to the spacious halls of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center--and many of them were participants who spent much of their time talking among themselves or reading their own brochures.
"It's too quiet here," said Kathleen Hughes, a sales manager for Air New Zealand. "We're going to be giving out New Zealand beer and cheese later on. If that doesn't entice them to come down, nothing will."
Nonetheless, some 250 exhibitors representing 28 countries that sit on the Pacific Ocean turned out Tuesday to exchange ideas and business cards. Steamship companies, airlines and banks were among those displaying their wares and services--all hoping to jump on the burgeoning bandwagon of foreign trade between the nations that line the Pacific.
"This is an excellent forum to bring together the key players in the Pacific Basin," said Jim Rinehart, deputy director of California's Office of Business Development, which helped coordinate the four-day event. Rinehart noted that California last year exported $25.2 billion in goods to Pacific Rim countries and imported $41.8 billion.
Hammering away on the theme that the Pacific is the ocean of the future, Kenn George, director of the Commerce Department's U.S. and foreign commercial service, said: "The Pacific Rim is the largest trade area for the U.S. . . . It is the future of the way business will be done."
And the present, too:
"My name is Key," said the soft-spoken representative of a giant Korean steel company as he handed his card to an American salesman from Southern Pacific Transportation Co. "Nice to meet you."
Nearby, representatives of the People's Republic of China set out cans of Tsingtao Beer, Loashan Mineral Water and a host of rubber products, including bicycle tires and a bathing cap.
"We hope to sell more of our beer to America," said an upbeat S. T. Sung, who works out of the Los Angeles office of China America United Inc. "The U.S. market is big. I hope to get more sold here."
Despite the small turnout Tuesday, organizers of the event are confident that the show will expand in coming years. Plans to travel to Pacific Rim countries to recruit more business participation for the 1986 trade show already are in the works, according to Pacific Rim Expo and Long Beach Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Marcia Hanscom. "In order to get these people involved, we've got to meet them face to face," she said.
Hanscom added that the 1986 budget will be in excess of $750,000, more than double this year's.
As for the first annual Pacific Rim Expo, which winds up Thursday, many exhibitors spent Tuesday hoping for a bigger crowd.
"We expected there would be a little more people," said Pete Martin, a marketing salesman for a California metal-finishing company. "Maybe tomorrow."