What is APEC?: summit brings global politics to San Francisco

The eyes of the world will be on San Francisco as the city hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting or APEC. This will be the largest gathering of world leaders in San Francisco since the founding of the United Nations in 1945. 

"APEC was founded in 1989 because the Asia-Pacific economic trade was increasing," said Chris Tang, faculty director of UCLA’s Center for Global Management. "They needed to find an inter-governmental forum to discuss how to actually work together to facilitate, stronger trades within these countries."

There are now 21 APEC member economies, including the United States. The group accounts for nearly 40% of the global population, nearly 50% of global trade and more than 60% of U.S. good exports. 

"As of 2021, APEC members are the source of $1.7 trillion in foreign direct investment into the United States," said Matt Murray, U.S. ambassador to APEC. "Investment that provides jobs to 2.3 million American workers."

The U.S. is the 2023 APEC chair. Meetings this year have been held in Honolulu, Palm Springs, Detroit and Seattle. 

San Francisco is the site for both the "Economic Leaders Week," a gathering of world leaders like President Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping; and the CEO summit, a meeting of business leaders. 


"This year – 2023 – is the 30th anniversary of the first-ever leaders’ meeting that took place in 1993," said Murray. "During that time we’ve now seen lots of challenges in the global economy, whether those were brought on by the Asian financial crisis or the global financial crisis or most recently COVID, and so – and certainly war and conflict around the region as well.  And APEC has still been a place where it could – economies could work together to advance economic partnerships."

APEC members have discussed a wide range of issues this year including sustainability, food security, trade, healthcare and regional economic issues. The theme for the US host year is "creating a resilient and sustainable future for all, with a focus on issues of climate change, supply chain resilience and connectivity. 

MORE: APEC, where world leaders will meet face to face, gets underway Saturday

"In terms of inclusion, we need to be aware of the developments of AI in China and US," said Tang. "It’s very advanced here, but some less-developed countries, they need to catch up. There’s a digital divide."

Expect road closures, commute impacts, protests and tight security, especially around the Moscone Center.