In 1945, an international gathering led to San Francisco being known as the site of a major diplomatic milestone. Now, the diplomacy occurring here extends into the business realm, with long-term effects that also will be far-reaching.
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The City hosted the United Nations charter conference in 1945, which created the international organization. San Francisco is now in the midst of hosting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings — part of a series of assemblies that bring together cabinet secretaries, government officials, diplomats, business representatives and economic experts.
The APEC conference is estimated to draw in 5,000 people during its two-week stint, which started Sunday. Of the attendees, 3,500 are delegates, with top U.S. officials that include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
In the short term, San Francisco will receive a major economic boost from this month’s meetings. In the longer term, organizers say the APEC talks are of huge importance to California, where nearly two-thirds of all exports are consumed by APEC’s 21 member countries around the Pacific.
“California has more jobs tied to the Asian-Pacific region than any other state,” said Paul Oliva, director of the California APEC 2011 host committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and the California Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really almost an unthinkable opportunity to have all of these people here who have such a profound ability to impact our economy and our livelihoods.”
Perhaps the biggest event will be the Women and the Economy Summit, which is chaired by Clinton and focused on ways to increase the participation of women in APEC economies. While the issue has been discussed at previous meetings, Clinton’s presence and the size of the summit will bring it to a new level of prominence, said Chandre Alexandre, vice president of the Bay Area Council Foundation and an event organizer.
“It’s never been this visible, this high-profile before,” Alexandre said.
LaHood and Chu will also host a joint energy and transportation meeting as well as separate events in their fields. The meetings are a chance for local companies to share best practices from around the world and bring in new business, said Ron Sege, CEO of San Jose-based smart energy grid technology leader Echelon and a member of the California APEC steering committee.
“APEC economies are the next big opportunity for us,” Sege said. “I am quite confident that over the next 10 years, the Asian-Pacific region will be the next big market for smart grid technologies and California will be a principal beneficiary for that.”
Melody Meyer, president of Asia-Pacific exploration and production for San Ramon-based energy giant Chevron, will be participating in both the Women and the Economy Summit and in meetings on energy and trade as a member of the APEC 2011 private-sector host committee. Meyer said Chevron is the largest oil provider in the Asia-Pacific region and has a long-standing history in the area.
“We hope that the APEC meetings being hosted in the USA will provide momentum on priority areas for U.S. business, including regional economic integration, energy security, a favorable investment climate and sustainable economic growth,” Meyer said.
While most of the meetings will take place in San Francisco, the FedEx Express Hub at Oakland International Airport will play host to the APEC Innovative Technologies in Sustainable Transportation Exhibition, showcasing alternative fuel technologies. FedEx itself will display key vehicles helping toward a goal of reducing emissions 20 percent by 2020.
“Trans-Pacific trade is one of the fastest-growing engines in the global economy. It’s essential for creating more good jobs here in the Bay Area,” said FedEx Chief Operating Officer Michael Ducker, vice-chairman of the U.S. APEC host committee. “And it’s helpful that this growth in trade be green, keeping emissions in check.”
Other topics to be discussed during the meetings include competitiveness of small and medium businesses, green technology, economic integration and international trade, emergency preparedness, health care, information and communication technologies, and food security.
This is the first year APEC has met in the United States since 1993. The gatherings in San Francisco are part of a series of annual meetings that will culminate this year in a conference involving President Barack Obama and other heads of state in Hawaii in November. Previous meetings took place in Washington, D.C., and Big Sky, Mont.
While the talks will include high-level diplomacy, they will also have concrete, immediate results in the form of trial programs, agreements, funding for specific goals and information sharing. Oliva noted that in the post-9/11 world, the need for constructive dialogue and exchange with other nations is greater than ever.
“It’s essential for us to focus on peace through trade, and APEC is a way to do that,” Oliva said.
By the numbers
21 Nations represented
40% World’s population contained by APEC economies
55% Global GDP accounted for by APEC economies
58% U.S. exports purchased by APEC economies
43% World trade accounted for by APEC economies
2.7 billion Consumers in APEC economies
$84 billion Total value of shipping between San Francisco and APEC economies
7 Top 15 U.S. trading partners in APEC
17 APEC economies with consulates in San Francisco
7 Sister cities San Francisco has in APEC economies
1993 Last year that U.S. hosted APEC meetings
Two-thirds Portion of California exports consumed by APEC economies
$303 billion Total value of California exports and imports with APEC economies
$422 billion Total value of shipping between California and APEC economies