[Incheon Fair] Incheon Hosts Summit of Asia-Pacific Cities
By Do Je-hae
More than 1,000 representatives from 150 cities gathered in Incheon Tuesday for a three-day networking forum aimed at strengthening strategic partnerships and sharing visions for the development of creative cities.
The Asia Pacific Cities Summit 2009 (APCS) brought together mayors, heads of local and regional governments, business and industry delegates, professionals and academic experts to participate in conferences, workshops and business meetings in New Songdo City, Incheon.
The APCS Summit is a biennial event and is increasingly recognized as the premier government and business networking forum for the Asia-Pacific region.
Korea’s trademark port city of Incheon has been preparing for the event since 2007, in cooperation with Brisbane, Australia, a preceding host of the APCS.
“Situated at the heart of the world’s fastest growing region, the city is being positioned as the gateway to Northeast Asia and an international hub for transport and logistics,” Campbell Newman, lord mayor of Brisbane, Queensland, said.
Since 1996, Brisbane has hosted the APCS four times. Other previous hosts have included Seattle, the U.S., and Chongqing, China.
“The Incheon Free Economic Zone, established in 2003, makes the city the perfect platform to support trade and investment opportunities between cities,” the mayor added.
The APCS 2009 is held on the sidelines of the 2009 Incheon Global Fair and Festival, which has been taking place in Incheon since Aug. 7 for an 80-day run.
“The summit will provide an interactive platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise on successful cases of urban development in the Asia-Pacific,” Incheon Mayor Ahn Sang-soo said.
The participation of cities outside the Asia-Pacific region in recent years highlights a growing interest in the APCS on a global level, Incheon city officials said.
Cities from the United States, Italy and Russia among others are also taking part in the summit this year.
The APCS is aimed at developing business, cultural and trade opportunities for the leaders and decision-makers in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the opening day of the APCS on Tuesday, noted scholars engaged in active dialogue about the challenges of “creative urban development,” with a focus on diversity, sustainability and innovation.
Jacques Attali, a noted French economist and Richard Florida, a specialist in urban studies, have been invited as keynote speakers.
Attali stressed the establishment of a “new governance” network to tackle global economic hardships.
“Governance is the driving force of urban development. In the past, cities needed a cultural vision, an elite class, and technical and financial capacity for growth,” Attali said.
Major cities such as Amsterdam, Geneva, London, Boston, New York and Los Angeles were developed with the full use of these elements, he said.
“Cities across the globe are faced with unprecedented financial and environmental challenges, among other issues. Asia is fully prepared to meet these challenges,” the economist added.
Attali proposed seven governance principles for urban success ― self-respect, vision, consensus, flexibility, creativity, balance and re-invention.
Attali is a former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and currently serves as head of a presidential commission for French growth.
Professor Richard Florida of Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, lectured on the significance of place in the global economy.
“More than one-fifth of the population is concentrated in 40 mega regions around the world. They also generate two-thirds of new births. These regions are engaging in fierce competition for the best pool of talents,” he said.
Mayor Ahn presented the latest developments surrounding the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) and renewal projects of older parts of Incheon.
The mayors of Suwon, Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan and other Korean cities also presented their examples.
Heads of free economic zones currently being built in Daegu and along the Yellow Sea also took part.
Other speakers will include Sasaki Masayuki, professor of the department of urban and cultural economics at the Graduate School for Creative Cities at Japan’s Osaka City University and Gino Van Begin, vice secretary-general of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
Mayors from home and abroad will jointly present an “Incheon Declaration” today, reconfirming their commitment to common prosperity and continued partnerships among participating cities.
Mayor Ahn hopes that the summit will be an opportunity to renew Asia-Pacific attention on the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), currently under construction in the adjacent Songdo, Cheongna and Yeongjong areas.
New Songdo City, the venue of the summit as well as the Incheon Fair and Festival, is being built as the centerpiece of the IFEZ project.
The city will serve as an international business center to be developed on 6 square kilometers of reclaimed land along Incheon’s waterfront, and connected to Incheon International Airport by a 12.3-kilometer highway bridge, the Incheon Bridge. The bridge will open for traffic next month.
Located 65 kilometers west of Seoul, New Songdo City is the largest development project of its kind in Korea, and touted as Northeast Asia’s new multicultural center of business and education.
City officials projected that by 2014, IFEZ will house more than 300 Northeast Asian business headquarters, 30 international organizations, including those affiliated with the United Nations, and extended campuses of 15 foreign universities.
As a side event of the Incheon Global Fair and Festival, the summit is also expected to generate enthusiasm for the world’s first exhibition on urban development models.
The exhibition was first conceived by Incheon City around 2004 as a way of sharing with the world its roadmap for the IFEZ as well as its experience in redeveloping the older parts of the city, Mayor Ahn said in a recent interview with The Korea Times.
More than 100 cities around the world will participate in the exhibition, which the city perceives as a springboard to emerge as one of the world’s 10 must-visit cities in the next five years.