Skip to main content

APEC Advances Indigenous Peoples’ Economic Priorities through Trade

2023 APEC Ministerial Meeting San Francisco, The United States | 01 December 2023

amm dialogue

In an effort to meet people where they are and respond to the call for including more diverse voices in policy discussions, the United States, chair of APEC 2023, hosted the first APEC Ministers’ Meeting Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples in San Francisco on 14 November.

“Our economies are more than just numbers and data sets,” said the United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai as she opened the dialogue joined by her minister counterparts.  

“Our economies are made up of people and so we need to make sure that our economies work for our people,” Ambassador Tai continued. “Not only for those that know the ins and outs of trade policymaking, but also for those who may have been traditionally left out of those conversations.”

“Not only must they have a seat at the table, their voices also must shape the work that we do and the work that we produce,” she remarked. 

The dialogue brought together diverse Indigenous panelists from across the Asia-Pacific to further learn how policymakers can make trade and investment more inclusive for Indigenous Peoples. 

Chief of the Mohegan Tribe and United States Treasurer Marilynn Malerba moderated the dialogue. She recalled that Indigenous entrepreneurship is unique and very personal in order to ensure the continued existence of their people. 

Malerba pointed out the role of Indigenous enterprises and trade agreements are additive not reductive, and how the success of tribes contribute to the success of the region.

“What really makes Indigenous economy stand out is because it is not about just wealth, but it is about taking care of the communities,” Malerba said.

The panel reflected on the current situation, underscoring that international trade and trade agreements are complex for many entrepreneurs and communities.  

Ambassador Justin Mohamed, Australian Ambassador for First Nations People, expanded the understanding about ways to improve engagement between government and Indigenous Peoples, stressing the need for a holistic approach that embraces the diversity and dynamism of different tribes and different communities across the APEC region.

Reflecting on the importance of international trade and what is now referred to as economic reconciliation, Dale LeClair, Director of Indigenous and Northern Affairs at the Canada Post Corporation Engagement, highlighted the need to address barriers to trade, especially intellectual property. 

Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr explained that while Indigenous Peoples have the capacity to engage in international trade, there is still a great deal of capacity building needed.

Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Greg Sarris emphasized how trade and cooperation has enabled Indigenous communities to maintain peace and healthy, sustained environments over the years. He underscored the importance for today’s businesses to incorporate social and cultural values, as well as environmental stewardship.

Ministers also heard from the panel that inclusive policy needs to be supportive and transparent, and that Indigenous Peoples need to be at the table and not just as an advisor but to take an active role in developing future policies.

Ambassador Tai urged her minister counterparts to contemplate ways to craft policies that deliver real benefits to more people across our economies especially the region’s Indigenous communities.

“Today is an exciting opportunity for me—and I hope for all of my fellow ministers—to broaden our understanding of Indigenous perspectives on trade beyond our own individual economies,” Ambassador Tai concluded. “And my hope is that this dialogue can remain a mainstay in APEC’s trade and investment work moving forward.” 


For further details, please contact:

Masyitha Baziad +65 9751 2146 at [email protected]
Michael Chapnick +65 9647 4847 at [email protected]

Subscribe to our news

Never miss the latest updates