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San Francisco will host world leaders at the APEC conference

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Beginning next weekend, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization, or APEC, will hold their Leaders' Meeting in San Francisco. Tens of thousands of attendees from 21 countries will descend on the city to talk about regional economics, trade, infrastructure and much more. KQED's Rachael Myrow joins us now to set the stage for us. Thanks for joining us.

RACHAEL MYROW, BYLINE: Glad to be here.

RASCOE: So we gave a brief introduction, but tell us a little bit more about what APEC is.

MYROW: It's basically an annual economic summit with lots of government officials, CEOs and academics. They're all from the Pacific region, so not just China and Japan - the biggies - but also Mexico and Chile, to name just a few. Now, according to APEC, there are going to be 21 heads of state attending, including President Joe Biden. China's president, Xi Jinping is expected to be there, too, and hundreds of reporters.

RASCOE: So what's the big headline this year? Are there any major policy announcements expected?

MYROW: Well, Ayesha, these aren't trade talks, per se. We're not expecting a draft document for Congress to sign. This is more of an opportunity for a lot of mid-level government officials and academics to discuss collective strategies, to address everything from climate change to China. Now, there's an agreement in principle for Biden and Xi to meet. That's, without a doubt, the biggest story coming out of APEC this year. It wouldn't be the first time they've met as presidents and in person, but there are a lot of tensions between the two countries on trade, foreign policy, human rights and other issues. That makes people in politics and business very nervous.

RASCOE: So what's San Francisco expecting to get out of this as the host city?

MYROW: Well, these days, Silicon Valley dominates the news headlines to such an extent, I think it's easy to forget that one of San Francisco's biggest economic drivers is actually tourism. The mayor's office anticipates APEC will generate something like 55,000 hotel stays and more than $50 million in revenue. APEC is, like, a huge coup for San Francisco, which I think, no surprise, is struggling to overcome something some people have called a doom loop narrative dominating national headlines - the homelessness crisis, open-air drug dealing, major retail outlets abandoning downtown.

RASCOE: I mean, it sounds like this could be a PR liability for the city.

MYROW: Quite possibly. You know, this is a massive PR liability potentially sitting right outside the Moscone Center, where APEC is going to be held. City law enforcement and visiting security details like the Secret Service are planning to set up a so-called exclusion zone in a 4-block radius around the center. That's expected to keep out or reduce the numbers of local homeless people in the immediate vicinity of the conference. I imagine the mayor's office is worried about a lot of foreign journalists who are going to be assigned stories - about what happens when they walk out of those conference halls and onto the streets nearby because that could be one of the major takeaways from APEC - San Francisco's many issues seen up close.

RASCOE: KQED's Rachael Myrow, thank you so much for joining us.

MYROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Rachael Myrow