Action at APEC CEO Summit demands ‘People and planet over profits’ and ‘Cease-fire in Gaza’

Protest at APEC Summit in San Francisco, Nov. 15, 2023.

By No to APEC Coalition

San Francisco 

Nov. 15. Members of the No to APEC Coalition engaged in a civil disobedience action by blocking access to the site of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit at the Moscone West Convention Center in defiance of the hyper-militarized structures erected by the local and federal government. This action is the latest effort by the No to APEC Coalition during its months-long campaign to highlight the global and local harms of free trade and global free market agendas while demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. 

“We know APEC and IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity) do not represent the interest of the people or the planet,” said Rhonda Ramiro from the No to APEC Coalition. “We are fighting for a different world. A world where all workers have pay and workplace protection, where all working people have the right to unionize and organize, where value is what you contribute to the community. We call on the people to join us in shutting down APEC!”

Today’s scheduled APEC CEO Summit included panels on sustainability and climate which featured Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods, as well as heads of state, including Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. While demonstrators locked themselves together to block entrances to the CEO Summit and called for “War criminals out of San Francisco,” almost 200 gathered outside the Ritz Carlton to protest against Marcos Jr for “greenwashing” and selling out the Philippines to foreign investors. 

“They call it free trade,” said Suzanne Ali from the Palestinian Youth Movement. “In reality, it is forced migration; it is destruction of the environment; it is destruction of our people; it is the depletion of natural resources; it is the fueling of war and genocide; and ultimately at the heart of it, is bloodthirst for profit.”

Will Wiltschko from Bay Climate Action said:  “Young people everywhere are angry at world leaders not taking action on climate change. The Indo-Pacific trade deal they’re expecting to announce this week ignores the climate reality that people around the world are facing. This ongoing collusion between APEC leaders and huge corporations won’t be tolerated.”

APEC’s anti-worker agenda

Organizations are condemning the anti-worker agenda of APEC which they claim will especially harm women. “The big tech agenda on women claims to advance women’s equality, when in reality these jobs pigeonhole women into low-paying, exploitative jobs,” explained Katie Comfort of the International Women’s Alliance, “all while they make record-breaking profits and expand to new markets in these Asian countries.” 

Conny Ford, a participant who risked arrest, explained: “I am participating today, because many of us workers have been through the last free trade deal for the southern hemisphere, and it was a disaster. It was a disaster because no worker organizations were there at the table, and it meant low wages, extreme exploitation and jobs shipped to the cheapest locations.”

Many of the corporations represented at the CEO summit, including GM, Amazon and Kaiser, have recently seen massive worker strikes and walkouts demanding better pay and working conditions. “Big tech seeks to offshore and outsource jobs for AI generation, customer service and development on women, so they can pay them unlivable wages and string them along with contractual work — all while they make record-breaking profits and expand to new markets in these Asian countries.”

“My family lost their house during Hurricane Maria, and thousands of Puerto Ricans lost their lives. Our lives are threatened by the climate crisis that corporations like Exxon created and banks like Citi continue to finance,” said C.J. Acevedo with Climate Defenders. “That’s why this morning we performed a symbolic wedding to denounce the union between the CEOs of Citibank and ExxonMobil, who are sponsoring this event.”

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, organizers are expressing concern that APEC’s profit-driven agenda will only breed further militarization and war in the Pacific Rim. Cody Urban with the Resist U.S. Led War movement warns, “Biden’s complete disregard for the calls from the world for a cease-fire in Palestine and an end to the genocidal Israeli assault proves the White House only serves to keep the war industry alive.”

Over 150 organizations internationally — including unions, environmental justice groups and migrant communities from APEC countries — have united under the No to APEC Coalition’s banner call of “People and Planet Over Profit and Plunder.” In the lead up to the APEC Summit, the No to APEC Coalition’s efforts culminated in a resolution that passed unanimously within the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which dedicated $10 million towards local communities and small businesses who have been severely hampered by the APEC conference.

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