Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the Opening Session of the APEC Ministerial Meeting

As Prepared for Delivery

Hello, everyone! Fellow ministers, heads of delegations—it is my great pleasure to join Secretary Blinken in welcoming you to this APEC Ministerial Meeting.

I am especially excited to welcome you to this great Pacific city of San Francisco.

For many Americans, myself included, San Francisco captures our imaginations as the physical place where we encounter the Asia Pacific region—the famous Fisherman’s Wharf is just about three kilometers from this convention center.

It is fitting to draw our U.S. host year to a close in San Francisco.

This city, with its enormous bay, multiple ports, and rich tapestry of diverse cultures and backgrounds, embodies the trade connections that have linked our economies and cultures together for generations.

More importantly, we share deep people-to-people bonds, and our histories tell a greater story of collective resilience and strength.

Time and time again, through disasters both human-made and natural, our economies came through together—for our people and our prosperity.

I am optimistic that we will once again emerge stronger as a region, even as we meet at a time of great uncertainty and challenges.

Fragile supply chains. Growing inequality and economic insecurity. A worsening climate crisis. Increasing geopolitical tensions.

These hurdles in our midst do pose a threat, but they also present an opportunity to assess where we are. To think creatively. To bring our strengths together. To sketch the future we want to see and experience, one that is resilient, sustainable, and inclusive for all our people.

Like the artisans I met in Vietnam, hand making gourmet chocolates. Or the women entrepreneurs I spoke with in Indonesia and Malaysia. Or the small business owners in Philadelphia.

We may look different, speak different languages, and have different upbringings, but we have more in common than we think. We all want peace. We all want to provide for our loved ones. We want a tomorrow that is better than today.

These stories give us important perspective. As policymakers, we can sometimes fall into the trap of talking about and formulating trade policies in a vacuum. But we must remember that the decisions we make today will have real impacts on real people.

The workers that power our factories, teach our children, make our clothes, and care for our sick. Only when we put real people at the heart of what we do can we truly use trade as a force for good.

This is why it was important for us to host the inaugural labor session in Detroit in May. And it is also why I was pleased that so many of you were able to join our first-ever AMM Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples this morning.

This is how we—together—build a durable, inclusive trade policy that empowers more people across our societies, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, or location.

We are not building from scratch. We have a solid foundation to work from, thanks to our recent hosts.

Malaysia, with Putrajaya Vision 2040. New Zealand, with the Aotearoa Plan of Action. And Thailand, with the Bangkok Goals on Bio-Circular Green Economy.

But we also know that we have a lot of work ahead, especially as we continue to implement the outcomes arising from those host years.

I am grateful for my fellow trade ministers and for the work we have done together during this APEC year.

I am especially thankful that we have been able to make such good progress in further embedding the concepts of inclusivity and sustainability as benchmarks of the trade and investment work we do within APEC.

This includes technical assistance workshops and reports focused on issues like promoting sustainable solutions for the environment, incorporating inclusive elements in trade agreements, empowering women and Indigenous Peoples, and expanding stakeholder outreach. 

We’re also continuing to work toward a set of principles that would provide economies with practical ways to incorporate inclusivity and sustainability into their trade and investment policies.

We have great momentum, and I am looking forward to a good discussion tomorrow in our trade-focused session.

Let’s continue to focus on the different and innovative ways we can implement sustainable trade and investment reforms, particular those that are relevant to women and those with untapped economic potential. 

Let’s also take stock of our work at the World Trade Organization.

Our economies were able to deliver important outcomes at the 12th Ministerial Conference. And as we move rapidly towards MC13, we should build on those successes and channel our focus to reforming the WTO to better respond to today’s needs.

I am especially looking forward to continuing to learn from your experiences and best practices in this regard.

Before concluding, I would like to thank all of the officials from APEC economies who have worked hard on our draft statement for this meeting and for the meeting of our Leaders, and on many other aspects of preparations for Leaders Week.

Secretary Blinken and I look forward to updating you soon on the successful conclusion of the AMM Statement negotiations.

I also want to thank our ABAC Chair, Dominic Ng, and all of ABAC’s work throughout the year. Thank you for your partnership and your valuable input.

Let me once again welcome each of you very warmly to San Francisco. I’m looking forward to a productive time together.