APEC 2023 Kicks-Off, With Two Superpowers Committing To Diplomacy And Avoid Surprises

U.S. President Joe Biden took the stage in San Francisco on Thursday to outline a renewed and interconnected vision for the pan-Pacific region, just one day after a closely watched meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Despite growing tensions between the two superpowers over trade, human rights concerns, and Beijing’s relationship with Iran, Biden reiterated that the gathering with Xi was a success, calling it a “good, straightforward meeting.”

Biden repeated that the two countries agreed to resume military-to-military communication channels to “reduce the risk of accidental miscalculation” — which drew heavy applause from the crowd of CEOs, business leaders, and dignitaries inside Moscone Center. Biden cracked that the venue was bigger than his home state of Delaware.

Biden stressed that the U.S. doesn’t see “conflict” with China, though he admitted their relationship “is not all Kumbaya,” citing that he has “real differences with Beijing when it comes to maintaining a fair and level economic playing field and protecting your intellectual property.”

“In critical global issues such as climate, AI, counter-narcotics, where it makes sense to work together, we’re committed to work together,” he said. “We’re going to continue our commitment to diplomacy. To avoid surprises, to prevent misunderstandings.”

“A stable relationship between the world’s two largest economies is not merely good for the two economies, but for the world,” he added.

But beyond the historic meeting — the first time the two leaders met on U.S. soil — Biden, in his 20-minute address, also outlined the United States’ role and reliance on the 21 member economies that make up APEC, which represent 60% of global GDP.

Biden began his remarks by praising San Francisco, calling it the “natural place” to host the annual conference.

“This is a city synonymous with innovation, breaking barriers, where collaboration and coming together have always been the key unlocking our potential,” he said. “It’s a city who’s been shaped by centuries of deep ties in the Asian-Pacific region, by contributions of people of Asian Pacific Islander heritage.”

Biden lauded The City as a “world-renowned hub of innovation,” specifically citing the AI startup Anthropic, which is headquartered in San Francisco. “The world is at an inflection point, where the decisions we make today, this is not hyperbole, are going to shape the direction of the world for decades and decades, just think of AI,” he said.

Biden celebrated American’ economic growth, which he said is spurring investments across the pan-Pacific region. The president said companies from APEC’s member economies have invested $200 billion in the U.S. since the start of his administration, leading to tens of thousands of jobs.

“Our economies are sustainable and resilient and the bridges that connect our people open a Golden Gate of opportunity to create the lives of hope,” Biden said.

Biden championed the U.S. as a “pacific power” and said he told Xi that because of the U.S., there’s been peace and security in the region.

“He didn’t disagree,” Biden said, adding that “(the) United States remains vital to the future of the region. And the region is more vital than ever to the United States of America.”

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