Hawaii occupies a strategic position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, allowing a unique level of access to Pacific-Rim markets including China, Japan, Korea, Russia and Canada. According to the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, Hawaii offers a range of tax incentives and exemptions to attract foreign investment, stimulate economic growth and help existing businesses thrive. Hawaii’s mid-Pacific location also allows for communication with both the U.S. eastern seaboard and Asia in the same business day, providing a unique opportunity for rapid deal making between foreign business partners.
Hawaii operates special Enterprise Zones allocated for the purpose of promoting economic development by offering special tax incentives that encourage companies to stimulate business activity and create jobs in under served portions of the state. Hawaii is also home to Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9, where reduced or delayed tariffs on imported goods, materials and components used by domestic manufacturers reduce the cost of doing business, and help spur growth.
These factors help make Hawaii a prime destination for international businesses seeking operational locales in the US, as well as US companies looking for easier access to booming foreign markets in the Pacific Rim. It is these very same factors that are prompting more business students in the state to declare international business as their major, as they recognize the potential for better opportunities as the state further establishes its position as a significant player in international trade.
Hawaii’s International Trade Partners
As an island nation, Hawaii’s economy has always been uniquely dependent on foreign trade. According to the International Trade Administration’s last publication in 2011, Hawaii exported goods and services totaling $909.2 million to foreign markets around the world. The wealthy nation of Singapore is Hawaii’s number one trade partner, receiving $136 million in merchandise from Hawaii in 2011. Australia was number two with $125 million in Hawaiian goods, followed by Canada with $123 million. The explosive growth of China has affected Hawaii’s international trade base as well, with the resource-hungry Asian nation importing $100 million in finished goods and materials from Hawaii in 2011.
While the state’s largest international export is transportation equipment, Hawaii also exports petroleum and coal products, computers, and food products. Hawaii’s agricultural sector recently received a boost from the passage of the U.S.-Columbia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) which has expanded the export market for both goods and services and reduced costs associated with tariffs, all while promoting foreign investment among corporations based in both Hawaii and Columbia.
Hawaii’s agri-business community is in an especially good position to benefit from the CTPA, according to the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from some of America’s largest corporations. While Hawaii is one to the country’s largest exporters of fruits and nuts, these products currently face stiff tariffs in the Colombian market. The CTPA will immediately eliminate this tariff, which is expected to increase exports of these food commodities by 31.6%.
International Business Jobs in Hawaii
Many foreign-owned companies take advantage of Hawaii’s strategic mid-Pacific location, multi-lingual population and favorable trade zones. According to the International Trade Administration’s most recent 2009 report, foreign-controlled companies provided 26,400 jobs in Hawaii.
The First Insurance Company of Hawaii, a Japanese affiliate, has a corporate staff of over 300 in its Honolulu headquarters, including actuaries, auditors and accountants familiar with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
BAE Systems of the United Kingdom is one of the largest multinational corporations with a presence in Hawaii, and one of the top employers in the state, with more than 900 workers and corporate staff between Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks.
Kotobuki Industries of Japan, a machinery manufacturer, is one of the state’s top employers of international business management specialists, trade compliance officers, logistics and supply chain managers and international market research analysts.
Making International Business Contacts in Hawaii
Hawaii promotes international business opportunities and trade partnerships through a number of organizations: