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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2004

Airport issues unresolved as forum ends

Staff writer

KYOTO -- The Kansai region's top business leaders concluded their two-day annual Kansai Economic Seminar on Friday, calling for further regional cooperation aimed at attracting industries and promoting tourism and conventions.

But some critics dismissed the talks, saying there was little discussed this year that had not been discussed in the past.

They stressed that more pressing and controversial issues -- such as those involving Kobe Airport, a second runway at Kansai International Airport and competition from Chubu International Airport -- were avoided.

"There's little in the way of new initiatives," said one Japanese participant from Kyoto.

"They've been trying to promote Kansai as an Asian gateway for at least a decade. There's always a spirit of optimism at these meetings, but we need to discuss concrete problems, like the three-airport problem, more openly."

Yet Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Yoshihisa Akiyama was more upbeat with reporters Friday afternoon.

"This was a seminar with results," he reckoned.

With both Kobe Airport and Chubu International Airport scheduled to open next year, many participants viewed this year's seminar as something of a last chance saloon for debate on the impact these two airports may have on the troubled Kansai International Airport. Yet, as Akiyama admitted, there was no discussion of either issue.

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The Japan Times

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