Why I’m Protesting APEC

Graphic by Sophie Reichert / GRAPHICS CENTER

In light of recent events, I have struggled to pretend that everything is fine when corporations and politicians continue to support and fund a country that commits war crimes and continues its genocide of indigenous Palestinians. Many people have become jaded or come down with “boycott fatigue,” and carry on as if nothing is happening, leading me to feel alienated and overwhelmed. That’s why I’ve been mobilizing in protest of the high profile, week-long summit happening here in San Francisco this week — the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC). 

You may have noticed the advertisements on MUNI bus stops stating things like “APEC will be epic.” If you look on the Office of the United States Trade Representative website, you’ll see that the meeting is set to facilitate “trade and investment, economic growth, and regional cooperation.” These vague descriptions hide the much more sinister plan to eliminate labor and environmental protections, tariffs and taxes, according to a political analysis put out by the JMS Study Movement. The people who will bear the greatest consequence of these policies and capitalist developments are the communities of color in the global South. They are especially vulnerable due to the longstanding effects of resource extraction, colonization, and the lack of protection against climate disasters. All of this is “justified” under the guise of “free trade” and “economic wellbeing.” 

On the surface, APEC makes a strong statement with their 2023 theme of  “creating a resilient and sustainable future for all.” Those who are pro-APEC argue that this summit will have many achievements, including shortening the length of time it takes for goods to cross borders and “[making] it easier for students, businesspeople, and tourists to travel around the [Asian-Pacific] region.”

The website even goes so far as to claim that the 21 member economies aim to “create greater prosperity for the people of the region” — but who gets to prosper? In the Philippines, ever since the U.S. occupied the country in 1898, large corporations have ownership over the means of production and the two governments save money by being lax on trade regulations. This extraction, privatization, and deregulation is what leads to many Filipinxs’ displacement, underemployment, and poverty. 

The conference will also impose on the daily life of San Franciscans. From Nov. 11 – 19, commuters will experience significant disruptions in transportation. The conference will be held in the South of Market (SoMa) and Nob Hill areas and an “exclusion zone” will be enforced. MUNI routes will be altered, off-ramps will be closed, highway lanes will be closed, as well as roads, pedestrian and bike paths around the conference. If you look at the SFMTA website, you can find only vague descriptions of these changes. This will add time to everyone’s commute. Additionally, small businesses around the exclusion zone will be affected, as the public will have restricted access to storefronts. They have received little to no support from the city to prepare for the week of reduced foot traffic.

Not only will San Francisco residents lose time and freedom of movement, APEC is also a burden on taxpayer dollars. According to BBN Bloomberg, “San Francisco has set aside another $10 million in taxpayer funds, mostly for extra policing.”

If you’re sick of seeing governments and corporations around the world destroy lives, land, and entire communities without repercussions, I urge you to get involved with me. The NO to APEC Coalition comprises more than 100 grassroots organizations that are working together to disrupt the summit and shut down APEC. If you want more information about what APEC is and its negative effects, I urge you to head over to the website and peruse the many resources. 

Shutting down APEC won’t solve the issues that capitalism and free trade agreements create. However, it will send a strong message to its 21 “member economies” that we see through their self-proclaimed goals for “balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth” and will fight for our and the rest of the working class’ rights to a peaceful and healthy environment. It is also a great opportunity for groups to organize around a common goal, for people to learn about different organizations they can join, to inspire more people to get organized, and build momentum in the streets. This is a moment when more people, including USF students, can realize their power and exercise it in order to change history.


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