Pacific Rim


PACIFIC RIM refers to the countries around the edge of the Pacific Ocean and more specifically to N America, the countries of western S America, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and Southeast and East Asia—the so-called Asia–Pacific region. As Canada's Pacific province, BC is most influenced by changing relations with the Pacific Rim. The region has always been an important destination for BC products; for example, furs were exported to China (see FUR TRADE) and the first shipments of wood products went to Australia. By the early 19th century the Hawaiian Islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands, were an important stopover for trading ships from the coast bound for China and Europe. But after WWII, and particularly since the 1960s, trans-Pacific trade has exploded and now exceeds trans-Atlantic trade. As a result of this shift VANCOUVER has become the second-largest port on the Pacific Coast of N America in terms of total tonnage handled (after Long Beach, CA). Japan has become the second most valuable trading partner, after the US, for both Canada and BC. In 1996, 25% of BC's exports went to Japan, and a further 11% to other Asian countries, more than any other province and much more than the country as a whole, which ships only 9% of its exports to the Pacific Rim. Wheat, COAL, sulphur and FOREST PRODUCTS are the main exports. At the same time the BC economy attracted Asian investors, particularly the Japanese, who invested heavily in coal mining, PULP AND PAPER, the FOREST INDUSTRY and financial services. This 2-way traffic in goods and capital was hit hard by the Asian economic crisis of 1997–98, delivering a serious blow to the BC economy, which had become so dependent on Asian markets.

The last 3 decades of the 20th century saw a huge increase in the movement of people across the Pacific as well as goods; this trend became even stronger in the 1990s. Early in the century public attitudes and public policy opposed immigration from Asian countries (see ASIATIC EXCLUSION LEAGUE; HEAD TAX). This situation changed, however, and during the 1960s the final special restrictions on Asian immigration were removed. In 1991 about 33% of all immigrants coming to live in BC were from Asian countries. By 1996, 80% of Vancouver's immigrants were from Asia and the Pacific, while for Canada as a whole the percentage was only 55%. In hosting tourists from Asia, BC also grew to surpass any other part of the world except the US. Most Asian tourists to BC are Japanese (306,000 in 1996) and Japanese investors are heavily involved in tourist-related services such as hotels and golf courses. Again, this trend slowed in 1998 as economic problems in Asia led to a reduction in the flow of Asian tourists. Still, the Asia–Pacific region is expected to be the major contributor to BC's economic growth and cultural diversity in the 21st century. See also ASIA PACIFIC ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION; CHINESE; ECONOMY; JAPANESE; PEOPLES OF BC; SOUTH ASIANS; TOURISM.