San Francisco to host 2023 APEC Summit, but Breed’s celebratory tone attracts critics

Mayor London N. Breed is celebrating news that San Francisco has been named the host city for the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit, or APEC, in November of next year. The announcement was made at APEC where Vice President Kamala Harris is attending the Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. San Francisco will welcome President Biden, various chiefs of states, heads of government, and other officials from around the world.

But some progressives are upset that Breed isn’t doing more to insist on the participation of California’s many indigenous communities and Tribal governments at the Leaders’ Summit, provoking accusations that Breed is effectuating the erasure of indigenous people from our defacto system of global governance.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in August, Mayor Breed made the request for the City and County of San Francisco to host the 2023 APEC Leaders’ Summit. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla also submitted letters in support of the City winning the bid to host the five-day event.

While Mayor Breed highlighted San Francisco’s extensive economic, cultural and academic connections to the Asia-Pacific Region, including the City’s recognition as the gateway to the Asia Pacific, which has positioned San Francisco as the primary destination for foreign direct investment from Asia — she failed to make any commitments regarding the participation of indigenous governments, whether from Canada or elsewhere.

First Nations governments in British Columbia and Alaska Native Villages have long been calling on APEC to include its governments and sovereigns at the annual conference.

“When China wants to finance pipelines in British Columbia, it’s because they want to steal our resources from under our feet — without us even having a seat at the table,” an indigenous leader from Vancouver explains.  “APEC is an instrument of western colonialism, and indigenous people have been entirely shut out — because the institution’s very purpose is our continued dispossession of our lands and resources.”

Established in 1989, APEC is an intergovernmental forum for 21-member economies in the Pacific Rim that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The countries that will be represented in next year’s APEC Leaders’ Summit include the United States, Canada, China, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

Labor interests and voters in the midsection of the country abhor the organization for accelerating the collapse of American manufacturing and causing economic devastation in the formerly industrial midwest.  The organization is widely seen as accelerating the outsourcing of American production process and moving manufacturing jobs oversees, for the explicit purpose of wanting abundant access to cheap labor. 

“We are honored to be named as next year’s host and ready to welcome leaders from around the world to our beautiful City. I want to thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for selecting San Francisco to host next year, as well as Speaker Pelosi and Senators Feinstein and Padilla for their unwavering support in this process. San Francisco has the infrastructure already in place to accommodate an event on the scale and scope of the APEC Leaders’ Summit,” said Mayor Breed. “Our economic recovery is ongoing, but our footprint is strong with over 34,000 hotel rooms, a newly renovated Moscone Center, iconic sites and cultural experiences, and a world-class culinary scene. This is an exciting opportunity for our City, its residents, workers, and visitors.”

Breed’s critics — among them powerful labor unions on both coasts — are planning anti-globalism protests that organizers are likening to the 1999 protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle.

“San Francisco has long been recognized as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific — and thanks to President Biden and Vice President Harris, we are proud to host the Leaders’ Meeting of the 2023 APEC Summit,” Speaker Pelosi said. “With San Francisco’s deep economic, cultural and academic connections to the region, I was proud to join the chorus in advocating for our City as the perfect host for this critical gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders.”

“I’m delighted that San Francisco was chosen to host the 2023 APEC Leaders Meeting and congratulate the city on its successful bid,” Senator Feinstein said. “California has long been an economic and cultural bridge between the United States and Asia, making our city the perfect choice to welcome the heads of state and other world leaders.”

Feinstein is planning to retire at the end of her current term in 2024.  If she vacates that office early, Governor Gavin Newsom is likely to appoint a diverse woman to fill the vacancy.  Close supporters of his have openly contemplated the appointment of an indigenous woman to such a vacancy, if it should occur.

Each year, the San Francisco Customs District logs $100 billion dollars from two-way shipping with APEC members. Northern California firms sell an estimated $60 billion dollars of goods and services to APEC buyers. The region continues to be a source and destination for massive investment flows.

In this Nov. 30, 1999, file photo, a Seattle police officer uses water to rinse the eyes of protester after making an arrest during demonstrations against the World Trade Organization meetings in downtown Seattle.  Nov. 30, 2019 marked 20 years since tens of thousands of protesters converged on Seattle and disrupted a major meeting of the World Trade Organization. The protesters’ message was amplified not just by their vast numbers but by the response of overwhelmed police, who fired tear gas and plastic bullets and arrested nearly 600 people. Two decades later, many of their causes are still relevant.   

“I’m thrilled that San Francisco was selected to host APEC next November. As one of the most significant cultural, commercial, and financial hubs in the United States, San Francisco is a great choice for a gathering of economic leaders from throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” Dominic Ng, Chairman and CEO of East West Bank and President Biden’s appointee as 2023 Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) stated. “As ABAC Chair, I look forward to working closely with the Biden Administration, the State of California, and the City of San Francisco on a successful APEC in 2023.”

“As the nation’s shining gateway to the Asia-Pacific region, San Francisco and the Bay Area are the ideal choice to host this important leadership summit,” said Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council President and CEO. “This selection represents a ringing endorsement of San Francisco as a place of unmatched global connections, dynamic economic activity and rich cultural vibrancy. I want to applaud San Francisco Mayor London Breed and her entire Administration for their great work in securing the APEC Summit.”

Protests of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 unified blue collar midwestern political factions with west coast environmentalists.

Asian Americans account for about a third of San Francisco’s total population, and San Francisco has Sister City relationships with cities throughout the region, including Osaka, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Sydney, and Shanghai. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the first in North America and one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. Additionally, the City currently hosts over 75 consulates, representing the government interests of virtually all major countries around the world. Additionally, many trade commissions have established offices in and around the City.

San Francisco is a major destination for business and tourism and leads the world in technology innovation. The City has a long history as a top destination for travel, conferences and seminars. In October, Salesforce brought Dreamforce back to San Francisco in person, attracting more than

40,000 people. The APEC Leaders’ Summit is estimated to generate nearly $37 million dollars in economic benefit to San Francisco.

“This is a big win for San Francisco” said Joe D’Alessandro, President & CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “APEC will bring global attention to the city, as well as thousands of international visitors that will help support our economic recovery and the hundreds of small businesses that depend on visitor dollars.”

This month Travel and Leisure magazine featured San Francisco as one of the 50 best places to travel in 2023 and the Wall Street Journal named San Francisco International Airport (SFO) the best large airport of 2022 thanks in part to the upgrade of its Harvey Milk Terminal 1, reliable flights and top-notch amenities. Virtually every major APEC city has direct or one-stop flights to SFO.

The San Francisco Bay Area has hosted major events in the past including the United Conference of Mayors in 2015, Superbowl 50 in 2016, and the Global Climate Action Summit in 2019. The last time the U.S. hosted APEC was in 2011. Additional details about the 2023 APEC Leaders’ Summit are forthcoming and will be released at a later date.

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