In November 2023, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies sponsored a group of UW student activists to attend the counter-summit for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) at San Francisco State University. APEC is known for promoting free trade policies among its 21 member economies under the principles of neoliberal capitalism. The organization follows the three pillars of trade and investment liberalization, business facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation to make decisions. However, APEC’s structure is undemocratic and bypasses any public approval or government oversight. This enables business representatives to mingle with unelected government officials from the Department of Commerce in the US and craft policies that favor businesses while being detrimental to labor.

APEC held their annual gathering to discuss the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). This is a US-led economic initiative that includes 14 countries, accounting for 40% of global GDP. Unfortunately, the United States insisted on a confidentiality agreement for signatories, making it impossible to know what IPEF contains. Nonetheless, it is clear whose interests were represented at the negotiating table: US-based multinational corporations such as Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Chase, and Chevron, as well as the economic elite who benefit under neoliberal capitalism. This type of capitalism is characterized by deregulation and privatization, which along with the insatiable appetite of capitalism for new markets, have led to inhumane wealth gaps and instability around the world.

“In particular, our presence at the No2APEC counter-summit was motivated by our staunch opposition to Boeing. Our UW Cut Ties with Boeing campaign, based on our affiliation to UW and belief that war has no place in education, is part of a broader anti-war vision. Since Boeing was literally given a seat at the IPEF negotiating table at the 2023 APEC summit, we wanted to attend in opposition.” – UW Against APEC Coalition

The No2APEC Coalition counter-summit was held during the same week and featured a diverse range of events and workshops, including those hosted by notable organizations like Resist US-Led War, Palestinian Youth Movement, Clown Bloc, Anakbayan USA, AFL-CIO, and many others. During the counter-summit, the audience enjoyed a captivating cultural performance by the Palestinian Youth Movement, Gabriela Oakland, and an inspiring speech from Brandon Lee. Lee is a brave activist who was tragically paralyzed by the oppressive military of the Philippines. He was targeted for his firm dedication to safeguarding indigenous land rights and protecting the environment. The students joined thousands in a peaceful march against the ongoing APEC forum, moving in solidarity from the Harry Bridges Plaza to the Moscone Center.

“Hearing from the panel at the counter-summit was so inspiring! I loved hearing about how so many different people, from Starbucks workers to Palestinian youth organizers, are impacted by and organize against US imperialism in all its manifestations.” –Zho Ragen

“Physically uniting en masse with thousands of other organizers from across the world was an incredibly inspiring experience. It’s so motivating to remember that we are all united in our struggle and that we are capable of shaping the world in a way that serves us and not our oppressors.” –Sofia Torres

Following the No2APEC event, the UW Against APEC coalition renewed its efforts with newfound insights. The Resist US-Led War Seattle group demonstrated their opposition to imperialism by attending a speaking engagement featuring Christopher Johnstone, a former senior NSC and DoD official with a focus on the Asia-Pacific. Additionally, United Students Against Sweatshop and Starbucks Workers United formed a unified front to encourage UW President Ana Mari Cauce to cut ties with Starbucks due to their involvement in union-busting and association with exploitative coffee farms.

“...working with a broad group of people, organizations, and collectives is an important way to win gains in bringing about a better world. To do that, we need to make sure that we understand the material ways imperialism operates and create coalitions by sharing our knowledge in a way that’s accessible and agitating to people.” –Zho Ragen

Watch Confronting Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Neoliberalism with ANAKBAYAN UW on YouTube:

View the student-made No2APEC zine here