The Pacific basin economies are booming these days--as a subject for consultants, seminars, lectures and books.
Endless flyers tout conferences on business opportunities in the Pacific. In one recent three-week period, the University of California, Berkeley; the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Gov. George Deukmejian each sponsored a conference on the subject.
It's difficult to put a dollar figure on the burgeoning learn-about-the-Pacific industry, but spending ranges from a $50-a-year newsletter to conferences at exotic sites supported by expense accounts. Topics range from the basics of how to do business in the area to monetary policy and exchange rates. Attendees include chief executives of U.S. corporations, entrepreneurs and farmers.
"It's a tremendous growth industry. People are trying to get on the bandwagon of giving inside tips on how to do business in Asia, how to attract Asian investors to your state, county and city," said Richard Drobnick, director of USC's 10-year-old International Business Education and Research Program. "All kinds of consultants have hung out their shingle. More and more schools are having international seminars on Pacific Rim trade or business."
The phenomenon is largely centered on the West Coast, particularly Los Angeles. More than half of all U.S. trade with the Pacific passes through California, and the ports of Los Angeles are fast becoming the gateway to the Pacific.
The Pacific basin, however, is receiving more attention from U.S. corporate planners and business people because it is widely perceived as the future center of worldwide economic growth and influence. Tokyo's stock market has wide repercussions on U.S. markets, as witnessed during the past few weeks. Most see the area--comprised mostly of Asian countries and Australia, though some include Mexico and Pacific coast countries of South America--as a potentially lucrative new market, a new region of prosperity.
Already, funds from Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan are flowing into various U.S. investments. And an increasing number of companies, from law firms to manufacturers, have set up divisions to handle business across the Pacific. The American Management Assn., which has European headquarters in Brussels, is considering establishing a Pacific division in Taiwan.
"The Pacific rim is the most rapidly growing area," said Lawrence B. Krause, professor at the new Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. "It has the single most
powerful economic country--Japan. It has the population concentration in China. It may not last forever and forever, but for the next 25 to 50 years, the Pacific basin is where action is."
Robert D. Paulson, director at the Los Angeles office of the consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., says: "The Pacific Rim has been a topic intermittently for the last 10 to 15 years, but now it is a constant subject that probably represents a two- to threefold increase in the last five years."
The Pacific rim boom is even being reflected in fiction as well as nonfiction, according to Fredrica Friedman, a senior editor at Little, Brown & Co., which published David Aikman's "Pacific Rim, Area of Change, Area of Opportunity," one of the first of the growing spate of nonfiction books on the subject.
She says Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo are becoming "popular settings in novels," joining London and New York. "That reflects what's really happening in the financial world," she says.
"There is tremendous interest," says Mike Van Horn, a San Rafael, Calif., business consultant who is writing a book titled "Pacific Rim Trade." "Look at the number of seminars and conferences coming out of San Francisco and Los Angeles. I get flyers every week for some kind of conference. But there is a tremendous range in quality."
Countries in the Pacific basin are vastly different in language, culture and history from Europe, with which the United States has had a long kinship. Seminars and conferences typically offer one- or two-day programs providing historical, cultural and economic overviews of various countries including Australia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
Sometimes the programs focus on one country. The American Management Assn., for example, took a look at Taiwan at its first conference on an Asian country in New York City last June. It will hold it again in San Francisco next March by popular demand, said Natasha Wolniansky, international program director.
AMA's Amacom book division, which will release Van Horn's book next year, decided to go ahead with the project based on Little Brown's experience with Aikman's book. "We figured this (Aikman's book) was the first signpost that the market was ready for the how-to issues" of the Pacific area, editor Nancy Brandwein said.