Senior Official for APEC Ambassador Matt Murray On the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel to San Francisco, California for theAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week Meetings

Senior Official for APEC Ambassador Matt Murray On the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel to San Francisco, California for theAsia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week Meetings

MR PATEL:  Hey, everybody.  Thanks so much for joining us this morning for this preview call to preview both Secretary Blinken and President Biden’s visit to APEC.  This call will be on the record but embargoed until the call’s conclusion.  And joining us today we have the senior official for APEC, Ambassador Matt Murray.  We’ll have some questions at the end, but before we turn to that, let me turn it over to Ambassador Murray to make some opening remarks.

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Well, thanks, Vedant, and it’s good to be with all of you to preview what’s coming up in APEC Economic Leaders’ Week here in San Francisco.  The Leaders’ Week program is the culmination of our year as the host of APEC before we hand over the responsibility to Peru, the APEC host economy in 2024.  At the outset, I would like to note that we truly appreciate the strong collaboration and support from San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and other state and local leaders and stakeholders as they prepare to welcome delegates from the 21 APEC economies next – this week.  It’s going to be a great event due in large part to their outstanding efforts.

Our host year APEC theme, “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All,” and our key policy priorities – interconnected, innovative, and inclusive – have guided our agenda this year and underscore U.S. dedication to the Asia-Pacific region.  Despite challenges from conflict and natural disasters, APEC remains committed to economic cooperation in this dynamic region that represents 40 percent of the world’s population, nearly half of global trade, and over 60 percent of the global economy.  APEC economies unequivocally play an important role in ensuring global prosperity.

And the economic impact of our engagement in APEC translates into real opportunities and job growth here at home.  As of 2022, APEC members are the source of $1.7 trillion of investment into the United States, investment that provides jobs to 2.3 million American workers.  Likewise, U.S. exports to APEC economies in 2022 surpassed 1.3 trillion, with agricultural exports alone reaching $136 billion.  Over one-half – 55 percent – of all of our total exports were destined for APEC economies, and these exports support almost 7 million U.S. jobs, underlining the impact of our interconnected economies to communities all across the United States.

Throughout the year, we focused on key areas like the just energy transition, food security, disaster risk reduction, and the digital economy.  We’ve also worked to empower micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, women, indigenous peoples, and underrepresented communities in every region of the United States.  Our commitment to economic resilience is reflected in promoting good regulatory practices in APEC, implementing structural reforms, and combating corruption.

This week in San Francisco, we will hold our final two ministerial meetings.  The finance ministers meeting will be chaired by Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai will jointly convene their foreign and trade counterparts for the APEC ministerial meeting.  To conclude the week, President Biden will lead the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, establishing a strategic vision for regional collaboration in the coming year.

Leaders’ Week will also feature the APEC Business Advisory Council dialogue with leaders, the APEC CEO Summit, the inaugural APEC Multistakeholder Forum, the inaugural Sustainable Future Forum, and other events organized by the private sector, civil society, academia, and nonprofit organizations.  We’re proud of the progress that we’ve made this year through APEC and we remain committed to enhancing partnerships and engaging with stakeholders across the region as we continue working toward a resilient and sustainable future for all our people.

Importantly, APEC Economic Leaders’ Week is just the most recent example of our engagement with the region.  Even in the face of unprecedented challenges around the globe, our commitment to this agenda and our partners in the Asia Pacific region has never been clearer.  In the past few weeks alone, Secretary Blinken has traveled to Tokyo for meetings with our G7 partners to tackle some of today’s greatest challenges and to Seoul to strengthen coordination on a range of key issues.  Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is leading the U.S. delegation to the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands to reiterate U.S. commitment to addressing key Pacific priorities.  Secretary Austin is also visiting the ROK followed by meetings in Indonesia with his ASEAN counterparts, and this comes right after his 2+2 ministerial meeting in India with the Secretary last week.

President Biden and Vice President Harris have also been deeply involved in these efforts.  In October, President Biden hosted Australian Prime Minister Albanese for a successful visit.  In September, he hosted the Pacific Islands Forum Summit at the White House and upgraded our relationship with Vietnam to a comprehensive strategic partnership.  Vice President Harris traveled to Indonesia for the U.S.-ASEAN and East Asia summits the same month.  And we all have seen how the President is instrumentalizing our regional alliances when he hosted his Korean and Japanese counterparts at Camp David in August.  Both the President and Vice President look forward to welcoming APEC economic leaders to San Francisco this week to further highlight our longstanding economic ties with the Asia Pacific region.

In closing, we look forward to welcoming representatives of the other 20 APEC economies to San Francisco, and certainly all – certainly invite all of you as members of the media to actively participate, whether in person or virtually, in the press conferences and briefings during APEC Economic Leaders’ Week.  Your reporting and perspectives are invaluable in amplifying the impact of APEC’s efforts across the country and across the Asia Pacific region.  Thank you, and I look forward to taking your questions.

MR PATEL:  Great, thanks so much.  Operator, could you please repeat instructions on how to enter the question queue?

OPERATOR:  Certainly.  Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.  You can withdraw that question any time by repeating the 1-0 command.  If you are using a speaker phone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers.  Once again, if you have a question, 1 then 0 at this time.

MR PATEL:  Let’s first go to the line of Josh Rogin with The Washington Post

QUESTION:  Hi, guys.  Thank you so much for doing the call.  I’m wondering if you could talk more about the IPEF economic forum interactions – what bilaterals might you have planned with members of that grouping, and can you preview any of the deliverables that might come out of it, and at the end of this what will you have to point back at to say that you made progress on the economic and trade and investment portion of this summit?  Thanks so much. 

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Sorry, the beginning of that was garbled.  Was it about IPEF, or what was the first part of the question?

MR PATEL:  Yes, it was on IPEF, Matt.

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Okay.  All right, sure.  So I think importantly APEC Leaders’ Week is also a great opportunity to be a platform for a lot of these other regional economic discussions.  The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, of course, is one, where the negotiations are being led by the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.  And we have 12 partners in common between IPEF and APEC, so certainly this week is a good opportunity to take advantage of counterparts from all of those APEC and IPEF members being in town at the same time, and being able to continue to hammer out in the negotiations some specific outcomes that they can be announced this week. 

We’ll also have an IPEF ministerial that will be ongoing, and I think that as we’ve seen with APEC and IPEF throughout the year, there’s a lot of complementarity between the topics that are being discussed in IPEF and the pillars on trade and on supply chains and on decarbonization and on anti-corruption and tax.  A lot of these issues are issues we also work on and focus on in APEC.  And so we certainly have been collaborating closely with our interagency counterparts who are leading the IPEF negotiations and look forward to what they’re going to be able to announce later in the week.  Thanks.

MR PATEL:  Thanks so much.  Let’s next go to the line of Gavin Bade with Politico.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Thanks for doing this.  I just wanted to follow up on the IPEF – specifically, we’ve seen some reports over the weekend and this morning that the trade negotiations, the trade pillar of IPEF, may not be finalized at the APEC summit here.  What are you all telling your trading partners right now on that?  I know there had been some concern in Congress about that specifically from Sherrod Brown.  Are we going to see a finalized trade pillar this week or not?

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  So on that I would defer – refer you to U.S. Trade Representative’s office as they’re leading on that discussion.  I think, again, the focus of myself and our team out here this week has been really on the APEC meetings that are – we’re going to be hosting this week, the ministerial and the leaders’ meeting, and all of the other things associated with that, including the CEO summit, a lot of private sector engagement, the outreach to stakeholders, and all of that. 

So on any specifics on where the negotiations are on the trade pillar for IPEF, I’d refer you to USTR.

MR PATEL:  Let’s next go to David Brunnstrom with Reuters.

QUESTION:  Yeah, hi.  Can you hear me okay?


QUESTION:  Okay, thank you.  I just wondered whether we can expect a final strong statement coming from the APEC countries.  I mean, given the divisions on issues such as the Middle East and Ukraine, is it really possible to have a joint statement that addresses those issues?  Thank you. 

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Thanks for the question.  We’re certainly working towards having a strong consensus statement in APEC for the leaders to be able to release at the end of the week.  As you pointed out, there’s been a lot of friction over the last couple of years with statements primarily due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.  Russia, of course, is a member of APEC, and many of the APEC economies have felt the detrimental economic impact of the war in Ukraine on the economies in the region, in terms of food security, energy security, macroeconomic instability, et cetera. 

So that has been certainly an issue that’s been difficult to manage in APEC.  But last year, Thailand hosted APEC and was able to announce a consensus Leaders’ Declaration, and we certainly want to try to do the same thing this year.  And we’re working very hard with all of our likeminded partners and economies, economic partners throughout APEC, to try to deliver that kind of result.

MR PATEL:  Let’s next go to George Kelly with The San Francisco Standard.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  I wanted to ask if there’s anything that San Francisco, as a setting for the conference, has made either easier and more fruitful or difficult and more challenging in terms of convening dignitaries, diplomats, and executives.

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Thanks for the question.  San Francisco has done an incredible job.  I first came here for an advance visit in January and met with many of the city officials.  And of course, at that point in time, planning for APEC Economic Leaders’ Week was still in just its earliest stages.  To – I came back in June for some meetings and for – to do some outreach events, and then coming back in November and to see the progress the city has made in getting ready for this major event, which, as Mayor London Breed and has said, is going to be the largest gathering of international leaders here in San Francisco since 1945.  It’s truly been remarkable.

I think also, for us on the APEC team, our focus has been on the policy side of what we’re trying to deliver in APEC.  We talked about the theme being creating a resilient and sustainable future for all.  A lot of our focal points from a policy perspective are on sustainability and inclusivity, on the digital economy, and on resiliency.  And so when you look for a city to host a meeting like this, you want to find the best possible backdrop where you can highlight all of those policy priorities.  And I can’t think of a better place right now than San Francisco to be able to serve as that backdrop this week. 

So we’re very excited about the partnership we’ve been able to develop with the city in the planning for this, and we’re really looking forward to a terrific week here in San Francisco.

MR PATEL:  Let’s next go to David Akin with Global News.

OPERATOR:  Mr. Akin, your line is open, sir.

QUESTION:  Sorry.  I’m the guy who forgot to hit unmute on this particular call.  Thank you for taking our questions.  Very much appreciated.  Ambassador, I just wonder if you could sketch out what, if any, presence Russia has at this particular series of meetings.  Obviously, their leader’s not going to be attending, but is there any presence at any of the ministerial levels?  Just curious if you could sketch out that.

And also, India, of course, is not an APEC member, but I’m wondering as well:  Has India – have any sort of standing at any of these – for the ministerials, just to sort of exchange some views? 

And then finally, I just wondered:  As you were on your travels talking to other APEC member economies, I’m wondering what you got in terms of some of the priorities you saw.  Were some countries interested in climate?  Was it mostly trade?  What about security, the rise of China, gender issues, getting women in the workforce – I mean, there’s a whole host of things.  Maybe you could give us your sense, as you prepare the agenda, what was on the – what was on the priority list for some of the members that would be arriving.

So three questions there.  Sorry to give you so many.

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  No, thanks for the questions.  I’m going to hit the last one first, if that’s okay.  I think one of the things we’ve seen over the last year and a half, in coming out of the COVID pandemic, both Thailand’s APEC host year last year and in our APEC host year this year, is that there’s a – I think, in my view, a remarkable convergence across the APEC region in identifying the challenges that we all face and shared concerns that we all have. 

I mentioned a moment ago looking at issues around sustainability and digital economy and resiliency, and I think those issues come up in every single engagement, every single visit that I’ve certainly had around the region.  And that’s whether – I was in New Zealand at the beginning of the year in the middle of a cyclone, where there’s a lot of discussion about the sustainability issue at that time.  I was in Singapore within the last year talking about supply chain resiliency and some of those issues.  I was in Peru a couple months ago in preparation for their host year, and certainly we were talking a lot about issues around economic inclusion.

And so as you travel around the region, all of these things come up a lot.  And a big one, too, is how small- and medium-size enterprises can be successful.  That’s a real key point across the region right now as well and how they can be connected to supply chains.  And you mentioned women’s economic participation and women’s economic empowerment as well.  I think there’s a really strong convergence across the region on the importance of these issues.

I think the challenge in APEC – or any international fora – is while the concerns are all shared and the identification of the problem set may be shared, the view on what to do about it differs from economy to economy.  I think that’s true whether you’re talking about sustainability or digital resiliency or whatever.

So for me, that, I think, is why APEC is a really important forum, because it does allow us to convene leaders, ministers, senior officials, experts in various fields together across a whole year.  We’ve had meetings already in Honolulu, in Palm Springs, in Detroit, in Seattle, and now San Francisco to try to come up with consensus-based, non-binding ways to really share best practices and be able to collaborate on these issues.  So I think that’s how I would kind of describe the current state of play there. 

On Russia’s participation, they’ll be represented by their deputy prime minister in the leaders’ meeting.  We have been pretty consistent all year long in saying that, while we were very excited to be hosting APEC, we would do so within the laws and regulations of the United States, including with respect to sanctions.  And so Russia will have officials here but they will be non-sanctioned officials.  I did – was in meetings earlier this week with my senior official counterpart from Russia, and we – there will be Russians in various meetings, but not at the same level because of the sanctions issue. 

And then with respect to India, we’ve invited India to be one of the guest economies this year, and so we’re expecting Indian participation at the ministerial level on Thursday.  And we should be confirming the name of India’s participant in that very soon.  Thanks.

MR PATEL:  Let’s now go to Morgan Chalfant with Semafor.

QUESTION:  Thanks so much for doing this.  I just wanted to ask you about AI.  There are some reports about a potential agreement on AI between the U.S. and China coming out of the Biden-Xi meeting.  I’m wondering if you can confirm that this is the case.  Can you talk a little bit about what that might look like and what the thinking behind it is?

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Sure, thanks for the question.  I don’t have any information on an AI agreement between the U.S. and China coming out of the bilat.  I will say that, just generally speaking across, again, the APEC arc of meetings throughout the year, AI has come up in a number of different ways.  And certainly, there’s obviously a growing interest around the region in how we can collaborate in this area. 

We’ve talked about AI in APEC meetings, at the Human Resources Development Working Group in terms of how AI factors into the future of work.  We’ve talked about AI and responsible use of AI through some of the digital meetings, particularly in Seattle in August.  And there are certainly going to be events happening this week in which AI is going to be discussed.  But I don’t think we’re at a point, at least in APEC, where we’re ready to announce some broader agreement or broader understanding on an outcome related specifically to AI.  I do think, though, that this year has been a very good opportunity for us to advance discussions in that area, and we want to continue to do so as we move forward in APEC and also in other fora, and certainly bilaterally.

MR PATEL:  Great, thanks so much.  And let’s go to Demetri Sevastopulo from the Financial Times.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Can you hear me okay? 


QUESTION:  Great, thanks.  Matt, I’m curious – of all the announcements coming this week, what do you think is going to resonate most with the average layperson who’s not steeped in these issues to the point that they’ll go, oh, that’s very interesting, that’s significant? 

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Thanks for the question.  I think that as we look at a big summit like APEC, and we’re hearing about this a lot this week in San Francisco in – particularly with how does it relate to average people.  I think one of the things we’re very pleased about with the direction of APEC over the last couple of years that – it’s become a much more comprehensive discussion where, for example, sustainability and inclusion are really key topics of conversation. 

One of the things that we did in collaboration with the city of San Francisco earlier this week is myself and my senior official counterparts from Australia and Thailand, we did a press conference for high school students from the Bay Area, from public schools here.  And I was really struck by their questions really being all about the topics around sustainability and inclusion.  So I think from the APEC perspective specifically, the degree to which we’re able to announce some progress on the sustainability and inclusion front I’m very hopeful will be – will resonate with regular people, with students, with other stakeholders. 

We also this week held a multistakeholder forum for the first time, which was hosted by Commonwealth Club and World Affairs Council here in San Francisco.  They put together the program.  They invited members of civil society and students and journalists and others from around the APEC region to come here for a three-and-a-half-day program on the just energy transition.  And I was pleased to be able to participate in the opening of that, and really, again, that issue really resonates right now in so many ways for people, whether they are focused on the clean energy piece or climate change or labor issues or whatever it might be.  So I think that our discussions in that area, our outcomes in that area are also very important. 

I think secondly, I would just say, again, APEC is a great platform for a lot of things to happen, and a lot of the bilateral engagements that are going happen here, a lot of the other activities that are going to happen here – I remember first hearing about APEC as a student and being very interested in its just convening power.  And so to have this situation in 2023 where we’re able to convene all these leaders and ministers and get to some specific outcomes in those meetings, we certainly hope that that will also resonate with the public as well.

MR PATEL:  Great, thank you so much.  That’s all the time we have for questions today.  Again, I want to thank everyone for joining.  As a reminder, this call was on the record and embargoed until the call’s conclusion, which will be momentarily.  Thanks for joining. 

AMBASSADOR MURRAY:  Thank you, everyone.

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