Nov 14, 2023 - Business

Fostering cross-cultural opportunities during APEC

Photo of an "APEC is going to be EPIC" sign on a lamp post along the street

APEC Economic Leaders' Week kicks off at Moscone Center in San Francisco on Nov. 11. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

A companion event to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit this week aims to connect local businesses with overseas networks and highlight California's role in advancing global policy conversations.

Driving the news: Titled "The Future Starts in California" and organized by economic development organization Global:SF, the full-day event Tuesday is set to feature programming on topics such as sustainability, AI, energy, life sciences, health care and food security.

  • Guest speakers include government officials like state treasurer Fiona Ma and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Jonathan Kaplan, as well as industry voices like AI scientist Mark Nitzberg, AMEC Partners CEO Alexis Wong and former Mayor Willie Brown.

Why it matters: With APEC spotlighting San Francisco on the international stage, it's critical that the city and California more broadly live up to their legacy as a hub for innovation, Global:SF's executive director Darlene Chiu Bryant told Axios.

Between the lines: The event, meant to bolster San Francisco's reputation as an entrepreneurial city, comes as local officials struggle to address issues like homelessness and the drug epidemic.

What they're saying: California has long led the rest of the country on issue areas like climate tech and equity, yet "nobody was showcasing what was going on," Chiu Bryant said.

  • She said she wanted to create a space that would promote dialogue and economic collaborations between locals and people visiting from Asia.
  • The event is co-hosted by the state treasurer and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), who chairs the California Asian American & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.
  • "APEC is the biggest thing that's happened in San Francisco since the 1945 UN accords signing," Chiu Bryant said. "Instead of complaining about the doom and gloom ... the residents, the businesses should really look at this as an opportunity to help the city shine and say that we're open for business."
  • Global leaders are converging in San Francisco because they know that "no place on the planet is better equipped than California, the most diverse state with the world's hub of technological advancement ... to develop and find solutions to the most challenging issues we face," Low said in a written statement to Axios.

The big picture: The San Francisco Bay Area has long maintained ties with the Asia-Pacific region — in part because of its Asian American population — and is largely considered a gateway to the Asia Pacific and foreign direct investment.

Of note: Protests in the city are still planned throughout the week, something Chiu Bryant acknowledged as a frequent occurrence at high-profile summits like APEC.

  • That includes demonstrations against Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the Biden administration's response to the Israel-Hamas war.

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