top of page

History of APEC and Resistance


Since 1989, monopoly capitalist interests have driven the seminal APEC summits, which have grown from informal economic sessions into multilateral policy-driving political struggles - worsening the conditions for workers, migrants, women, indigenous people and land defenders across the Pacific rim.


The people have consistently responded to the crisis by saying no to APEC - leading to the cancellation of a past summit and part of the greater contribution to ousting US imperialism influence of multinational corporations and their puppet leaders!



Founding Members of APEC

Founding Members of APEC

  • Australia

  • Brunei Darussalam

  • Canada

  • Indonesia

  • Japan

  • Republic of Korea

  • Malaysia

  • New Zealand

  • Philippines

  • Singapore

  • Thailand

  • United States

1989 - APEC Summit

Creating a crisis: First APEC Summit in Canberra, Australia in 1989.

APEC is formed; Rising US power builds tensions

In January 1989, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke proposed the idea to form the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. The suggestion came from the successes of the recent Western Pacific Rim of Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) ministerial conferences, which showed that regular meetings of ministers from different countries could help advance economic agreements and cooperation. The United States was the largest trade partner of the ASEAN countries and ensured that it, along with Canada, were included as members of APEC.

This is one of the few convenings of SEA leaders and the US. Through APEC, politics and economy become impossible to separate, despite the fact that human rights and security are not points of discussion at these meetings. The economic ministers of these countries begin "non-binding" agreements and "networking events" among multiple countries at a time.


Billionaire and non-government business representation strengthens

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan join APEC, represented by "heads of economy." APEC becomes one of the few forums in which China and Taiwan collaborate as economic entities. To appease China, the One China Policy ensures that Taiwan is seen as Chinese Taipei, a Chinese territory– not a sovereign government.


As such, the member "economies," instead of "nations," select retired politicians and billionaire CEOs to represent them, such as the former chairman of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp, Morris Chang who represented Taiwan at APEC from 2018 to 2022.


APEC is legitimized as an "informal" forum, with increasing influence from the business elite

The APEC Secretariat and Eminent Persons Group (EPG) is formed, with the current headquarters established in Singapore. Both bodies primarily consist of the business elite, increasing their advice and influence over APEC leaders. 

The emphasis on business over political leaders legitimizes APEC as less formal than other forums. Committees begin to form that focus on different areas, such as women and the environment, in further attempts to justify APEC's existence for the betterment of society.


The peoples' fight against APEC takes root in the PNW

A police officer riding a horse yanks on the poncho of a protestor in downtown Seattle, in 1993.

A Seattle police officer grabs protestor Duane Glaesman on November 18th, just two days before the APEC conference. Glaesman was part of a group of homeless people who marched from the Washington Convention Center to the Westin Hotel to expose the rotten interests of the ruling elite attending APEC  - such as richest man in the world at the time, the Sultan of Brunei. (MOHAI)

Heads of State and the National Center for APEC give more "political teeth"

President Bill Clinton hosts APEC's first heads of state meeting at Blake Island, Washington, just west of Seattle. By inviting national leaders, the US readily transforms APEC from solely an "economic convening" to something with more "political teeth." The National Center for APEC is also established in Seattle, which further solidifies the US' institutional stake in APEC.

1993 - Seattle Protestors holding signs outside Westin Hotel. One large sign says "Trade 'with' AIDS," another says "USA for Sale under NAFTA!"

On November 19th, protests continue against APEC, demanding action on the AIDS crisis and decrying the US' aggressive role in other uneven trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (MOHAI)


1994 APEC Bogor Declaration

The Bogor Declaration, also known as "Bogor Goals," drives the future of policy-writing between APEC economy leaders. The declaration aims to reduce trade tariffs and other restrictions between all APEC members by 2020. 

The Bogor Declaration: Militarization, economic imbalances, and loosening of government controls worsen

At the Bogor, Indonesia APEC summit, the business elite of the EPG advise a firm timeline for "unilateral liberalization." The Bogor Declaration established policy-driven goals for "developed" countries to be fully liberalized by 2010, and "developing" countries would be fully liberalized by 2020. This meant the loosening of the nations' government restrictions to supposedly spur economic growth and "reduce the cause of conflict" between economies. Though it might sound like a positive, in reality this causes dire consequences such as the justification of US intervention in "stabilizing Asia" through increased militarization. 

Furthermore, the economic imbalances between Global North countries and Southeast Asian nations/the Global South worsens via "open regionalism," which encourages APEC members to extend their economic benefits to non-members. Countries like the US and China strengthen their superpower statuses while SEA nations nosedive deeper into economic, social, and political crises. 


Tensions increase as China, US, and Japan consolidate as world superpowers

The US and Japan sign a military agreement in a show of escalating competition and rising tensions against China. President Lee of Taiwan nearly attends APEC in Osaka, Japan, but one week before defers to Koo Chen-fu, the chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, a de facto embassy to China.


Police attack student protesters at APEC Counter Protest in British Columbia, CA.
A movement quickly gains momentum

In Vancouver, Canada, University of British Columbia students peacefully protest APEC's presence on their campus, condemning APEC's neoliberal policies, oppression of human rights, and inclusion of Indonesian dictator Suharto. The police respond by attacking the students with pepper spray. To that, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien jokes "For me, pepper, I put it on my plate." He then admits he doesn't think APEC "will ever have human rights on its agenda."


This protest sparks the tipping point of an anti-neoliberal, pro-human rights movement in the US. This includes the WTO Conference protest in Seattle 2 years later. 

Suharto was ousted the following year, as the people of Indonesia continued to wage a mass movement against his militarization against the people through neoliberal policies and political repression.

Financial crises hit South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and more

The economic development gaps between Global North nations like the US and China and Global South countries like the Philippines and Indonesia widen. The Asian financial crisis exposes the state as unable to regulate the forces of globalization and pressures from international actors – results directly from APEC.

Police officers pepper spray protestors at UBC campus in 1997. A sign says "I didn't vote for APEC"

Students, labor organizers, and human rights defenders are pepper-sprayed by Canadian Police at University of British Columbia's campus while APEC meetings take place inside the UBC Museum of Anthropology.


2003 Thailand 3.jpeg

Thai police surveil anti-APEC protestors in Bangkok, Thailand (Getty)

Thai leaders displace thousands of urban poor from Bangkok to make way for state leaders at APEC summit

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra deploys more than 20,000 Thai police forces to displace ten thousand urban poor, detain and deport hundreds of refugees from Cambodia and Laos, and deny journalists and activists entry into the country and city. Even stray dogs were swept from the streets of Bangkok.


It was revealed that the operation was facilitated by Thailand’s concealed Counter Terrorism Intelligence Centre, which received $20 million USD annually through partnerships with the CIA to suppress mass movements in Thailand fighting for just living conditions and basic rights.


Farmworkers say no to globalization, no to US Imperialism in Busan, South Korea

Over 10,000 people were met with barricades and water cannons as they marched against APEC, neoliberalization, and the presence of US President Bush in South Korea. The farmworkers rejected the government’s globalization policies, which included opening the rice market in Korea to foreign imports.


As a result, an average of $200 million of rice is imported into the country each year, and the Korean rice industry continues to shrink, but a crisis of rice overproduction and worsening quality of life continues for the Korean farm workers whose livelihood is reliant on their crops.

Anti-APEC protestors in Busan, South Korea face a mass of militarized police forces in 2005.

Anti-APEC protestors in Busan, South Korea face a mass of militarized police forces in 2005. (Flicker/augenzuppler[at]flickr)


Protests in Lima, Peru

Protestors gather in a major city square in Lima, Peru to protest APEC in 2008.

 Lima, Peru in 2005 (Flicker/fokus Lima)


APEC emphasizes its supposed concern for special issues for women, the environment, health, and other sectors
to justify its existence

APEC continues to make concerted efforts to display a seemingly genuine concern for special issues with its first ministerial meeting on small and medium enterprises and integrating women into the economy. However, APEC and its consequent policies actually oppress and exploit Southeast Asia women for their cheap labor, extracted by developed countries.


In 2015, protestors march on the streets in Manila Bay Philippines, holding a series of cards that spell out, "PH fight APEC!".

Manila, Philippines in 2015. (Reuters)

Anti-imperialist, labor, and Indigenous groups in the Philippines protest APEC

in Manila Bay

Protesters gather and mobilize to protest the 2nd ever hosting of APEC in the Philippines. The police try to suppress the people by blasting them with water cannons. 

The relationship between the US using APEC in its escalating conflict with China is increasingly recognized and condemned, with League of Filipino Students chairperson Charisse Bañez stating "[it's] no surprise that Obama started out his visit here by fanning the flames of the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines. Obama is challenging China and taking advantage of APEC in order to advance the US’ deployment of troops and war material in its policy of pivot to Asia."


Peruvian fisherfolk, students, and workers protest Obama's presence

In Lima, 500 fisherfolk and their families take to the streets to protest APEC. These fisherfolk were barred from accessing fishing waters for several days while a warship patrolled the Pacific Ocean. Alongside them include students and workers protesting President Obama's presence in Peru. 


People across multiple different sectors continue to come together in a united effort against APEC, which negatively oppresses them all.

A Peruvian protestor holds a sign that says "FUERA Obama! La bestia capitalista" (Oust Obama, the capitalist beast)!

Lima, Peru in 2016 (Reuters)


In 2017, hundreds of protestors in Chile waving flags and banners crowd a statue in the middle of the city.

Santiago, Chile, in 2019 (Carlos Figueroa)

APEC is successfully shut down
from Chilean protests

In Santiago, the Chilean people begin to protest against skyrocketing metro fares. The resistance gains momentum to fight against the selling out of public essentials to the private sector (privatization), rising inequality, unsustainable cost of living, and rampant corruption. Over 7000 people are arrested and 20 people are killed from police retaliation. An estimated 1 million Chileans took to the streets of Santiago. 


The widespread growth and righteous anger of the Chilean peoples resistance forces President Piñera to cancel APEC, the first time in its history.  This is the first demonstration of the vulnerability of APEC and the power of the people to successfully shut it down.


Thai protesters expose PM Prayuth and call out greenwashing policy

Protesters expose and oppose PM Prayuth, who in 2014 seized power via a military coup and passed free speech suppression laws. Prayuth also established a so-called "green policy" in the name of the environment, called the Bio-Circular Green Economy Model. Like other greenwashing policies, this model does not actually uphold protecting the environment, but instead prioritizes incentives to large corporations to further exploit and plunder the earth.

Protestors in Bangkok, Thailand hold signs that protest APEC's presence in 2022.

Bangkok, Thailand in 2022 (Reuters/Chalinee Thirasupa)


Marchers bearing the No to APEC, Defend & Fight for the rights of workers, women and migra

Seattle, WA in July 2023 (PNW-POP/Benneth Sison)

The Peoples' Summit and Mobilization fights for the rights of workers, women & migrants confronting APEC's Third Senior Officials Meetings in Seattle, WA

Over 500 people marched through downtown Seattle, Washington to disrupt the kick-off weekend of APEC meetings at the Seattle Convention Center.

The struggle to defend and fight for the people and planet continues as the coalition of organizations in the national No 2 APEC coalition will be there to fight back against APEC's Heads of State Summit in San Francisco in November 2023! 

Impact of IPEF

Impact of IPEF

IPEF would see a major increase in the power of multinational corporations, more offshoring of jobs during an already intense unemployment crisis, easy access to personal data by corporations and governments for surveillance and profit motives, deregulation of price and product quality standards, and the further erosion of democratic governance in the US and around the Pacific. We must not let this deal for the rich pass without a fight!

No to APEC! No to IPEF!

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) is coming to Seattle in August to establish major international trade deals. The ministers and businesses involved prioritize corporate profits over people's needs while crafting agreements that will impact over 3 billion people around the world.

The trade deal that will be the focus of these trade talks is called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). IPEF already includes fourteen countries, and between them, would set rules governing approximately 40% of the global economy. More countries are expected to join IPEF, too, and it could become the template for new trade deals around the world.

bottom of page