Secretary Antony J. Blinken and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai at the APEC Ministerial Meeting Opening Plenary Session
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. Welcome to APEC, welcome to San Francisco, welcome to the United States. It is particularly wonderful for us to be here in San Francisco, a city that for generations has linked people and economies of the Asia-Pacific. So it’s hard to think of a more fitting place to bring us all together for APEC.
And I want to begin by thanking my colleague and my friend, Ambassador Katherine Tai, for co-hosting these meetings with me. And I’m grateful to Dr. Sta Maria and the entire APEC secretariat for helping make this week possible.
We’re very proud to be hosting APEC for the unprecedented third time. They say third time’s the charm; we’re going to try to demonstrate that over the next few days. And we also look forward to passing the baton to Peru at the end of this week for APEC 2024.
As I think we can all see from the participants in this room, not to mention the many government, private sector, civil society leaders who are gathered here this week, APEC is a powerful forum to convene, to collaborate, to build consensus on the economic future for people across our shared region.
Our engagement with APEC underscores the United States enduring commitment to the vision that we all agreed in Malaysia in 2020: an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community, one that enhances the prosperity of its people and future generations.
The United States believes in that vision, a region where economies are free to choose their own path and their own partners; where problems are dealt with openly; where rules are reached transparently and applied fairly; where goods, ideas, people flow lawfully and freely.
We have made real progress toward that more prosperous future. Just since the creation of this forum three decades ago, GDP in the region has increased from $19 trillion to $52.8 trillion. Per capita income has grown roughly fourfold, lifting millions of people out of poverty, creating a thriving middle class. APEC’s 21 member economies now represent 40 percent of the world’s population. They generate half of global trade. They produce 60 percent of the world’s goods and services.
Here in the United States, APEC members have invested $1.7 trillion in our economy, and that supports 2.3 million American jobs. U.S. companies, in turn, have invested about $1.4 trillion in APEC economies. This is not a unique story. Each of us has experienced remarkable reciprocal benefits from greater trade and investment within the Asia-Pacific region.
At the same time, we continue to face many economic challenges. We’re still recovering from the dislocations of COVID, which devastated trade, it devastated travel, it devastated tourism. The climate crisis is exacerbating natural disasters and fueling extreme temperatures, upending supply chains, destroying crops. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further undermined food and energy security.
So we have to meet this moment head-on. That’s why the United States chose to focus our host year on creating a resilient and sustainable future for all. And we’re emphasizing three priorities in the days ahead, as well as for the year that’s just passed.
The first is interconnectedness. We’re working to build greater supply chain resilience, to invest in the high-quality, sustainable infrastructure that connects us and lays the foundation for broad-based growth. We believe that with the right adjustments, interdependence can remain a strength, not a vulnerability, for our economies.
Second is innovation. Taking advantage of APEC’s role in the – as an incubator of ideas, we’re working to advance new solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing the region and facing the world, from facilitating a just energy transition to shaping a digital economy that lifts up workers and businesses.
Third, we’re strengthening inclusivity and unleashing our people’s untapped potential, whether that’s creating more opportunities for women in STEM, giving indigenous entrepreneurs greater access to capital, or exploring low Earth satellite systems to expand connectivity to remote and rural areas. Each of us recognizes that inequality within and between our countries hinders the growth of our entire region, and that more inclusive economies are also stronger economies.
Across each of these lines of effort, APEC economies have made notable progress. At the same time, I think each of us sees in our own economies how much work we still have to do. One thing we’ve heard again and again throughout this year – from Honolulu to Palm Springs, from Detroit to Seattle, and now in San Francisco – we’ve heard that our citizens, the people we represent, are hungry to help build that more resilient, more sustainable, more connected future. They’re ready to work, to invest, to innovate, to drive the growth that will further strengthen our shared region. And our responsibility, our job, is to help them do just that.
And with that, let me give the floor to my co-host for today, Ambassador Katherine Tai.
AMBASSADOR TAI: Well, thank you so much. Hello, everyone. Fellow ministers, heads of delegations, it is my great pleasure to join Secretary Blinken in welcoming you to this APEC ministerial meeting. I’m especially excited to welcome you to this great Pacific city of San Francisco.
For many Americans, myself included, San Francisco captures our imaginations as the physical place where we encounter the Asia-Pacific region. The famous Fisherman’s Wharf is just about three kilometers from this very convention center, so it is fitting for us to draw our U.S. host year to a close in San Francisco – this city with its enormous bay you see in the photograph behind you here, multiple ports, and rich tapestry of diverse cultures and backgrounds. It embodies the trade connections that have linked our economies and our cultures and our peoples for generations.
More importantly, we share the deep people-to-people bonds, and our histories tell a greater story of collective resilience and strength. Time and time again, through disasters both human-made and natural, our economies have come through together for our people and our prosperity. And I am optimistic that we will once again emerge stronger as a region, even as we meet at a time of great uncertainty and challenges. Fragile supply chains, growing inequality and growing economic insecurity, a worsening climate crisis, increasing geopolitical tensions – these hurdles in our midst do pose a threat, but they also present an opportunity to assess where we are, to think creatively, to bring our strengths together, to sketch out the future that we want to see and experience, one that is resilient, sustainable, and inclusive for all of our people.
Like the artisans that I met in Vietnam earlier this year, who are handmaking gourmet chocolates, or the women entrepreneurs that I spoke with in Indonesia and the Philippines, or the small business owners right here in our country in Philadelphia – we may look different, we may speak different languages and have different upbringings, but we have much more in common than we might think. We all want peace. We all want to provide for our loved ones. We want a tomorrow that is better than today.
These stories give us important perspective. As policymakers, we can sometimes fall into the trap of talking about and formulating trade policies in a vacuum, but we must remember that the decisions that we make today will have real impacts on real people – the workers that power our factories, teach our children, make our clothes, and care for our sick. Only when we put real people at the heart of what we do can we truly use trade as a force for good.
This is why it was important for us to host the inaugural labor session in Detroit in May, and it is also why I am so pleased that so many of you were able to join our first-ever AMM Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples this morning. This is how we, together, build a durable, inclusive trade policy that empowers more people across our societies regardless of their gender, their race, ethnicity, age, ability, or location.
We are not building from scratch. We have a solid foundation to work with thanks to our recent hosts: Malaysia with Putrajaya Vision 2040, New Zealand with the Aotearoa Plan of Action, and Thailand with the Bangkok Goals on Bio-Circular-Green Economy. But we also know that we have a lot of work ahead, especially as we continue to implement the outcomes arising from those host years. I am truly grateful for my fellow trade ministers and for the work that we have done together during this APEC year.
I’m especially thankful that we have been able to make such good progress in further embedding the concepts of inclusivity and sustainability as benchmarks of the trade and investment work we do within APEC. This includes technical assistance workshops and reports focused on issues like promoting sustainable solutions for the environment, incorporating inclusive elements in trade agreements, empowering women and indigenous peoples, and expanding stakeholder outreach.
We are also continuing to work toward a set of principles that would provide economies with practical ways to incorporate inclusivity and sustainability into their trade and investment policies. We have great momentum, and I am looking forward to a good discussion tomorrow in our trade-focused session. Let’s continue to focus on the different and innovative ways we can implement sustainable trade and investment reforms, particularly those that are relevant to women and those with untapped economic potential within our societies.
Let’s also take stock of our work at the World Trade Organization. Our economies were able to deliver important outcomes at the 12th Ministerial Conference, and as we are moving rapidly towards MC13, we should build on those successes and channel our focus to reforming the WTO to better respond to today’s needs. I’m especially looking forward to continuing to learn from your experiences and your best practices in this regard.
And before concluding, I would like to thank all of the officials from APEC economies who have worked hard and who may still be working hard on our draft statement for this meeting and for the meeting of our leaders, and on so many other aspects of preparations for Leaders’ Week. Secretary Blinken and I look forward to updating you as soon as possible on the successful conclusion of the AMM statement negotiations.
I also want to make sure to thank our ABAC chair, Dominic Ng, for all of ABAC’s work throughout this year. Thank you for your partnership and your valuable input.
Let me once again welcome each of you very warmly to San Francisco. I’m looking forward to a productive time together. As my friend, the trade minister from Australia, reminded me last night, Tony Bennett sang this great, memorable song about leaving his heart in San Francisco. I hope all of you will, through these engagements with us, leave a part of your hearts here in San Francisco, and I challenge Minister Farrell to at some point over the course of these days perhaps sing that tune for us. (Laughter.) Thank you so much.