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Bay Area Pasifika Leaders Invited to 2023 APEC Summit Meanwhile Pasifika Says No2APEC

By Tonga Victoria Fakalata



The 2023 Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation took place in San Francisco the week of November 10 -19. Representatives from 21 world economies were invited to deliberate on economics, trade and the infrastructure in the Asia Pacific region. The annual summit functioned on three tracts – the Multistakeholder Forum, the Leaders’ Meeting and the CEO Summit. Thousands of people attended, including U.S President Joe Biden, China’s President Xi Jinping, and of course, hundreds of reporters. 


Historically, APEC was formed in 1989 in Australia as an informal forum where member nations could discuss solutions around free trade and economic cooperation along the Pacific Rim. Since its founding, APEC, has grown to include a roster of countries that share the same concerns around the future of the region. 


As San Francisco residents and the wider Bay Area anticipated the arrival of world leaders and diplomats, there was a strong presence of local activists who convened in protest of the Economic Cooperation. Known as the “No to APEC Coalition” on Instagram, the protestors mobilized throughout the week, as a global action against APEC to “demand true solutions to issues of poverty, corruption and development – and to oppose the blatant corporate schemes being promoted by APEC heads of state.” (See No2APEC , Instagram). 


According to a No2APEC Coalition’s spokesperson, the group planed a massive rally and protest on November 12 as well as a “counter summit” with the theme of “People and Planet over Profit and Plunder.” The Coalition received growing support from organizations, unions, and student groups, as well as a contingent of Pacific Islander activists, who headlined their support against APEC as “Pasifika Says No to APEC.” According to Pacific Islander activists, APEC is “a group of the wealthiest and elitist countries and corporations in the world deciding what happens in the Pacific Rim … without our Pasifika’s consent.” The Pasifika-led demonstrations were in-direct response to the underrepresentation and complete absence of Pacific Islander nations at the APEC table. 


The messaging on the ‘Pasifika Says No to APEC’ flyers, which circulated around the Bay Area, a region with a heavy population of Pacific Islanders, stirred some unnecessary controversy. The Bay Area is home to the largest Tongan population in the State of California and a predominant number of Samoan, Fijian and Chamorro populations. 


Many Pacific Islander community leaders, who serve in their respective communities in the diaspora, simultaneously serve their communities back home in their country of heritage. 


Especially in the Tongan and Samoan communities, individuals may be bound to serving their communities back home through village titles, land or family rank, so the uniqueness in their service to both diaspora and the Pacific region entitles them to contribute effectively in summits like APEC. 


According to an exclusive source, there was a strong delegation of Pacific Islander community leaders, who were in attendance at APEC to learn, connect and contribute meaningfully to the conversations taking place. 


The 17-member delegation of Pacific Islanders, who attended APEC, served the Bay Area community for over one hundred years combined, and a majority of them also serve their communities back home in the Pacific region. 


These people have been the connectors between the Pacific and the diaspora for more than three decades, and attending the annual APEC Summit to meet privately with key stakeholders and senior officials was an opportunity to bring philanthropic efforts to the Pacific grassroots community in an unprecedented manner. 


“There has never been an opportunity like this for our community, and we are so happy to occupy this space on behalf of organizations back home in the Pacific.” One source shared. “To be at this table means that the work we have been doing in the Pacific, alongside other amazing leaders can be shared with and amongst people, who have the ability and capacity to support local efforts in a valuable way.”


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