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No to APEC! No to WAR! US Militarism and “Free Trade”

In introducing the proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) last year, the Biden administration made the claim that IPEF will produce a “free, open, connected, resilient, and secure” Indo-Pacific. Yet as politicians and corporate representatives are meeting this summer to hash out the details of this agreement in secret, the US is aggressively increasing its military presence in the region. In response to these dealings, the Pacific Northwest People Over Profit (PNW-POP) coalition and Resist US-Led War recently hosted a joint webinar and in-person screening at the University of Washington to expose the links between “free” trade and intensifying militarism, and how we must organize against both.

Neoliberal trade agreements like the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) are advertised as promoting "clean energy” and “resilient supply chains.” Resist US-Led War organizer and webinar speaker Cody Urban explained why green energy and digital trade are key pillars of IPEF—and more specifically how they are two of the main drivers that greenwash and fuel the war industry. The CEO of the world’s largest weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin even went as far as to remark that “continued supplies of microchips are essential both to national security and to the health of the defense industrial base in the aerospace industry as a whole” in a March 2022 meeting with President Biden.

Clearly, renewable energy and access to high-tech semiconductors are critical to maintaining US military dominance and to bolstering the profits of corporations like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin. And with about 60% of global microchip manufacturing currently taking place in Taiwan (including approximately 90% of “advanced” microchips), the expanding US military presence in the Asia Pacific is all but required for these corporations to secure control of resources and labor needed for weapons manufacturers and shareholder profits to grow.

A screenshot of a presentation on zoom titled "The People vs. US-led wars of aggression" featuring photos from the G7 protests in Japan in 2023.
The No to APEC, No to War webinar highlighted recent mobilizations against global summits of imperialist powers, such as the G7.

Presenters shared how the goals of IPEF align with the goals of the US military. Just as the “Pivot to Asia” has meant both an economic and military realignment towards the Asia-Pacific, the negotiation of IPEF has coincided with intensification of provocative US military alliances and drills in the region in an effort to counter the growing power of China. As Rhonda Ramiro from Resist US-Led War explained: the US “always uses the military in order to enforce–and force–its economic agenda.”

Urban explained that the US has lost a lot of control over its supply chains compared to China, especially when it comes to the resources and labor necessary for green energy and digital technology. Thus, IPEF is about “reshoring” and trying to bring these industries back to a “friendly” zone where the US has more control. Along with security alliances like the Quad (India, Japan, the US, and Australia) and AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US), these agreements go hand in hand in priming the Asia-Pacific region for US-led plundering, war, and further division of resources, labor, and land.

The intensification of this “trade war” can only ever lead to open military conflict. The webinar also highlighted testimony of activists from Korea, Japan, and the Philippines who exposed the devastating consequences of US military presence in the region. Jang Chang-Wan of the World Anti-Imperialist Platform: Korean Committee pointed to the recent crash of an F-16 fighter jet in the country which destroyed a farmer’s land without apology or compensation. Angelica “Geli” Marcelino of BAYAN Philippines shared testimony as well: “It is infuriating that Filipino civilians are being dragged into a growing violent inter-imperialist war. The presence of US troops and bases in the country always results in rampant human rights violations, abuses of women and the destruction of livelihoods and the environment.”

“I believe that the US has already made up its mind that it is going to go to war with China,” stated Urban. What this campaign can do,” he concluded, “is to fight back against that narrative and to say that with that one phrase–People Over Profit–that can be a rallying cry against the push to the brink of nuclear war.”


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