The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum provides opportunities to engage a wide range of domestic stakeholders, and as APEC host in 2023, the U.S. APEC team is focusing on stakeholder engagement under the theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All,” and policy priorities for an “interconnected, innovative, and inclusive” Asia-Pacific region.
As I told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser interview in December, “We don’t want to just be the State Department and APEC team coming into a place – this isn’t worth anything if we’re not supporting our communities, our constituents, our people.”
In March, the U.S. APEC team took the domestic outreach effort to the next level by launching “APEC Connect,” a campaign aimed at explaining our U.S. APEC 2023 host year to the American public and engaging with stakeholders from diverse sectors across the United States.
In 2023, whether at APEC meetings the United States is hosting in Honolulu, Palm Springs, Detroit, Seattle, or San Francisco, or on the road in places like Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Rockville, the U.S. APEC team at State, together with interagency partners, is aiming to advance Secretary Blinken’s message that “our domestic renewal and our strength in the world are completely entwined.”
Why APEC Connect
Each year, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting receives the lion’s share of attention, as leaders from the 21 APEC economies – accounting for half of global trade – get together to discuss an agenda focused on trade and investment, innovation and digitalization, and strong, balanced, secure, sustainable, and inclusive growth.
However, APEC is much more than high-level diplomacy. Rather, it is an ongoing process involving a diverse set of representatives of governments and publics from across the Asia-Pacific region, covering a broad range of economic issues. We want our APEC host year to pay dividends for the American people, working with other APEC members to advance policies to improve people’s livelihoods.
The U.S. APEC team’s focus is on removing trade and investment barriers and obstacles, creating a favorable business environment, attracting investments to the United States, and generating export opportunities and jobs.
One of the real advantages we have taken from APEC as a well-established platform is that it already has built-in stakeholder engagement with the private sector and through policy partnerships. Our first three APEC Connect trips to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Rockville that are perfectly aligned with the 2023 APEC priorities – Innovative, Interconnected, and Inclusive – are a means to strengthen the existing collaborations.
We launched APEC Connect in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where we engaged with almost 70 stakeholders from various sectors. Pittsburgh is a great example of a resilient American city that has successfully transitioned from an old to a new, innovative economy with global connections to the APEC region.
Pittsburgh was an excellent location for discussing globally relevant topics such as technology, women’s economic empowerment, sustainable growth, entrepreneurship, and inclusive industrial and community development, as well as a place to engage students as our future leaders.
APEC Connect’s second destination was Atlanta, Georgia. With the world’s busiest airport facilitating connections in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as world-class logistics infrastructure, Georgia ranked 11th among U.S. states in terms of export value in 2022.
Small businesses represent over 85 percent of Georgia’s exporters. Georgia’s export to the APEC region is $22 billion and its top trading partners include numerous APEC economies – China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand.
Given the high level of interest, it was perhaps no surprise that we also were able to engage stakeholders at Kennesaw State University’s Symposium on ASIA-USA Partnership Opportunities (SAUPO), which is one of the United States’ largest Asia-focused business conferences.
Rockville, a hub of Asian-American and other minority-owned businesses tied to APEC economies, has the second largest Asian population across Maryland as of 2023 — 20% of the city residents. With U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health nearby, Rockville is also a cluster of biohealth, biotech, life sciences, and medical tech communities. Over 170 of Montgomery County’s 350 life sciences companies have a Rockville address.
The Rockville we experienced was a microcosm of the APEC region. The business owners we met were great examples of immigrants with all different backgrounds from the world – South Korea, China, and Vietnam – who are successfully settled in Maryland with their innovative entrepreneurship. In addition, we joined the first APEC Medical Product Supply Chain Dialogue co-hosted by U.S. Pharmacopeia and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Leveraging APEC as a Platform for Outreach at Home
Following the leadership of Secretary Blinken and Senior Official for Public Diplomacy Liz Allen, the U.S. APEC team will continue to “take our show on the road” across the United States. One of the most important elements of each trip is learning from stakeholders what they would like to see the State Department accomplish in multilateral economic fora like APEC, and APEC Connect has reinforced that we still have lots to learn from voices across our country.
Please stay tuned for our next APEC Connect trips. Meanwhile, follow us on our website and and don’t hesitate to contact us at DOSAPEC@state.gov for more information.
About the Author: Matt Murray is the Senior Official for APEC in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). In this role, Matt coordinates U.S. participation in APEC and also oversees the Office of Economic Policy in EAP.