Leaders at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. (AP)

Leaders at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. (AP)

Latin America Meets with U.S. and Chinese Leaders at APEC Leaders' Meetings

By Chase Harrison and Jennifer Vilcarino

Chilean, Colombian, Mexican, and Peruvian leaders are among those in attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco.

From November 11 to 17, representatives from the 21 member countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, are gathering in San Francisco for the annual Leaders’ Week. For the final two days, heads of state will partake in high-level activities and meetings on the sidelines. With heavyweights like the United States, China, Russia, and Japan in APEC, the bloc accounts for about half of all global trade.

While headlines have focused on the meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Latin America is present as well. The presidents of the three Latin American members of APEC—Gabriel Boric of Chile, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, and Dina Boluarte of Peru—are among the leaders attending. It’s a rare international summit appearance for López Obrador, who five years into his term, will meet with many world leaders for the first time. Meanwhile, Boluarte will take over as the chair of APEC by the end of the week.

A fourth Latin American leader, Gustavo Petro, will be present at the summit. Colombian presidents have attended the summit frequently since the country first tried to join APEC in 1995, but there is a moratorium on new membership to the organization.

AMLO goes to the Bay Area

López Obrador, better known as AMLO, is attending the Summit for the first time since he took office five years ago. Known for rarely leaving Mexico, this will mark AMLO’s seventh trip abroad during his term and his first major non-Latin American summit. His focus, per Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena, will be trade, border infrastructure, and migration.

AMLO has scheduled meetings with leaders from many of the summit’s largest economies, such as Japan and Canada. But it’s his meetings with the United States and China that are attracting the most attention.

AMLO, along with top Mexican secretaries, met with Xi Jinping on November 16, in the leaders’ first-ever official encounter. During the meeting, Xi committed aid to help in recovery efforts from Hurricane Otis in Acapulco. While the full meeting agenda was not revealed as of the time of this report, AMLO may have echoed his own calls from April for China to help fight the fentanyl trade. During Biden’s own meeting a day earlier, China signed agreements with Washington to reduce the flow of the opiate into the United States.

AMLO is also meeting with Biden on November 17* to discuss bilateral issues, including migration. The two leaders last met in Mexico City for the North American Leaders Summit in January 2023.

Peru to take on the chair

Peruvian officials, including recently inaugurated Foreign Affairs Minister Javier González-Olaechea, will take over as the chair of APEC on this trip. As such, Peru will host the next APEC Summit, which will mark the third time the country has done so. Holding the presidency in the past helped bring investment into Peru to the tune of $9.4 billion.

China is Peru’s biggest trading partner. In meetings with Chinese officials, Peruvians spoke about the free-trade agreement with Beijing, which has already undergone five rounds of negotiation toward a yet-to-be-ratified upgrade. Peruvian officials also met with U.S. officials about updating the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement.

During Boluarte’s November 16 meeting with Xi, she invited him to visit Peru in 2024. They also discussed the Chancay megaport, a $3.6 billion project mostly funded by Beijing that Boluarte says will boost free-trade agreements and investment in Peru.  

Chile pushes climate leadership

The Chilean delegation, represented by Boric and Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren, is bringing a climate-themed agenda to APEC. In meetings, officials are pushing for ocean protection, including managing debris and combating illegal fishing. Boric will also partake in a session to promote wind energy.

*Editor's note: This article originally stated that AMLO would meet with Biden on November 16. The meeting is scheduled to take place on November 17.