SAN FRANCISCO: The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) started on Sunday (Nov 12) with a gamut of scenes, including rallies and dragon dances in San Francisco’s famous Chinatown that attracted both locals and visitors.
While authorities were busy beefing up security in the city with lane closures and barricades for the meeting as APEC Economic leaders will start arriving on Nov 13, hundreds took to the streets protesting on Sunday evening on various issues, including the call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Meanwhile, delegations from the 21 member economies have started arriving since late last week for the Senior Officials Meeting.
It is to be noted that Malaysia is among the countries that have been championing the Palestinian cause. The relentless Israeli airstrikes and brutal ground operations in Gaza have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, a majority of them women and children.
A lively group of protestors marched from the plaza in front of San Francisco’s ferry building, the gateway to the city, and moved towards the Moscone Centre, where the APEC-related meetings were taking place.
Besides the protest, dragon dances in Chinatown over the weekend also attracted onlookers and visitors, especially media personnel covering the 30th APEC meeting here.
According to reports, San Francisco, which is the commercial, financial, and cultural centre of Northern California, is set to see an influx of about 20,000 visitors for APEC.
“There has been a mixed view by people here,” said Hussein Abdel, 69, who is of Lebanese origin and has resided in San Francisco for more than 40 years.
“Some are uncomfortable with all the security, detours, and inconvenience as many streets around and leading to the Moscone Centre are closed, and there is also a shutdown of transit lines.”
But, on the positive side, he said the city has been cleaned up.
“I have not seen the city as clean as these before. They should bring such big meetings more often here,” Abdel said in jest.
“Besides, if you look around, there are a number of shop lots that are empty. It was the pandemic, and many businesses here went bust.”
With the kind of exposure the city is getting, it is possible that the businesses will prosper and more will open, Abdel said during an impromptu conversation with Bernama.
The city proper is the fourth most populous city in California.
Among the highlights of APEC 2023 is the meeting between United States (US) President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC.
The anticipation of the meeting between leaders of the world’s two biggest economies has been widely reported, with both sides keeping tight-lipped on the agenda.
APEC is home to close to three billion people, 62 per cent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 48 per cent of world trade in 2021.
As the APEC Chair for 2023, the US will host the AELM for the third time, after 1993 and 2011, in Blake Island and Honolulu, respectively.
This year, Biden will chair the AELM and is expected to lead in-depth discussions with APEC Leaders on topics centred around strengthening economic ties, enhancing inclusivity and sustainability, and bolstering economic resilience and complexity, in line with the theme of APEC 2023, “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All”.
The 30th AELM is expected to adopt the APEC Leaders’ 2023 Golden Gate Declaration.
The US and Malaysia are among the 12 founding members of APEC. The others are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and Papua New Guinea followed in 1993. Chile acceded in 1994, and in 1998, Peru, Russia and Vietnam joined, taking the full membership to 21.–Bernama