Protestors interrupt APEC seminar on energy policy

Nov. 6, 2023, 11:55 p.m.

“Say No to APEC” protestors interrupted a Wednesday seminar at Encina Hall on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)’s impact on energy policy in the Pacific.

Protesters’ chants outside the building sometimes made it difficult to hear the presenters. Protesters held signs concerning several issues, like “Our Planet is NOT private property,” “From Palestine to the Philippines, stop the U.S. war machine” and “No to APEC.”

APEC is an intergovernmental forum of 21 countries surrounding the Pacific Rim with a primary goal of creating a stable economic environment in the Asia-Pacific region. The annual APEC conference meeting involves the heads of all 21 countries and will meet in San Francisco later this month. The Stanford Asian American Action Committee (SAAAC) launched a “Say No to APEC” campaign at a teach-in last month that drew dozens of students. The committee joins a coalition of over 100 organizations across the country in opposing APEC.

Around 50 audience members attended Wednesday’s seminar, which was a part of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center’s fall quarter seminar series. Some audience members expressed visible annoyance at the protest taking place outside.

The primary issue of the protesters was to dissent against “the falsity of APEC as something that improves the [participant] nations’ economies — in reality, it exists only to reinforce neoliberal policies that do nothing for the people,” said Pilipino Association committee co-chair Amanda Altarejos ’26.  

Altarejos said the specific demand of the protesters was for APEC “to address real human rights issues” in countries like the Philippines.

At the SAAAC teach-in last month, Terry Valen, an International Migrants Alliance organizer and the director of San Francisco’s Filipino Community Center, said that APEC’s commitment to neoliberalism would lead to rising global wealth gaps and ecological collapse. According to Valen, APEC puts profits over people, citing examples like making it difficult for Filipino farmers to profitably grow and sell their own rice faced with imported rice from Thailand.

When presenter Larry Greenwood, former U.S. Ambassador to APEC, spoke to the room, he was met with shouts from outside the building. When asked during the seminar about the protesters, Greenwood said, “I don’t think they have any idea what APEC is.”

Greenwood spoke on the history of APEC and its continued importance in the geopolitical sphere, particularly its focus on energy security such as disruptions in the oil market and stockpiling. He noted the importance of APEC creating a chain of communication when governing and influencing energy policy in Ukraine, and spoke on how the ongoing war in Ukraine affects global energy supplies.

Environmental and resource economics professor Larry Goulder, whose remarks centered around China’s role in global warming, opened the event. Goulder said that China’s nationwide CO2 emissions trading system could make an “important contribution” toward meeting the Chinese CO2 emissions abatement goals.

In order for China to meet its 2060 net-zero target, “considerable further tightening of the current emissions standards seems necessary,” Goulder said. China is currently the largest emitter of CO2 of the APEC countries.

The subject of rising tensions between the U.S. and China was not mentioned during the seminar. However, shortly after the seminar, Thomas Fingar Ph.D. ’77, an affiliated scholar at the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions, told The Daily that although a conflict involving China and the United States is “extremely unlikely … the perception that war is a possibility [is] leaning toward likely.” That fear, he said, “severely restricts the possibility for cooperation and coordination.”

According to Goulder, in order to make a significant dent in global CO2 emissions, China must play an important role.

Gita Wirjawan, former Indonesian trade minister, said reaching a global net zero is particularly challenging for developing countries like Indonesia whose economies are not as “modern” as those of countries like the U.S. He expressed skepticism over net-zero goals for 2030 and said that 2040 or 2050 would be more pragmatic.

After Wirjawan’s remarks, demonstrators outside the building dispersed around 10 minutes before the event’s scheduled close. 

“Energy issues are central to a whole nexus of developmental and environmental issues,” Fingar said. “Sharing information on that level can happen randomly, but it can happen much more efficiently because APEC exists.”

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