President Joe Biden has delivered a speech at the George R. Moscone Center in San Francisco, a place he quipped was probably bigger than his home state of Delaware.

Biden arrived in the Bay Area this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leadership summit. The president met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in an exchange he described in Thursday’s speech as “a very good, straightforward meeting.”

Biden described the symbiotic relationship between both countries through trade and the “open flow of commerce.”

“That relationship goes both ways,” he said. “United States remains vital to the future of the region, and the region is more vital than ever to the United States of America.”

I acknowledge there’s a disconnect between the numbers and how people feel about their place in the world right now. We still have work to do.

Pres. joe biden

Biden began by laying out what he considered positive economic trends under his watch, citing an unemployment rate under 4 percent and what he said was the lowest inflation rate of any advanced economy in the world. He also said that in the last quarter, the U.S. economy grew by 4.9 percent, “the highest growth rate in two years.”

“I acknowledge there’s a disconnect between the numbers and how people feel about their place in the world right now,” said Biden. “We still have work to do.”

Biden told the crowd that issues such as climate change, supply chains, sustainable economic growth and natural disasters have all been on the table during talks among APEC leadership, since all of these issues impact economies.

The president brought up labor standards and how there is still “work to be done” on that issue, but said his administration had just launched a new global labor strategy, “to ensure that workers’ rights are the centerpiece for economic strategy internationally as well as domestically.”

‘Not all Kumbaya’ in US-China talks

As for his relationship with the Chinese leader, Biden said it’s “not all Kumbaya,” but they did speak candidly to one another and the president told Xi that the U.S. “does not see conflict” with the global superpower.

U.S. President Joe Biden goes to Chinese President Xi Jinping to shake hands after the opening remarks for the APEC Leaders’ Informal Dialogue with Guests at Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. (Michaela Vatcheva for The San Francisco Standard/POOL via Pagransen)

However, differences between the two countries on intellectual property protections, the influx of fentanyl, artificial intelligence concerns, the climate and “fair” economic playing fields exist, the president said.

Overall, Biden stressed that the globe is at an important stage in history.

“The world is at an inflection point,” he said. The decisions we make today — and this is not hyperbole — are going to shape the direction of the world for decades to come ... and I would argue each of us as a player has a role to play in writing that future together.” 

A toast to unified ‘possibilities’

On Thursday night, Biden and other world leaders attended a dinner at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum as part of the final night of the APEC summit.

According to pool reports, Biden arrived at the museum on the west end of the city amid pouring rain.

Biden gave a toast at the meeting that said history will be written in the Indo-Pacific region in the years to come and raised a glass to “possibilities of all we can do together,” the pool reports said.

The pool reporter did not see Chinese President Xi Jinping but said Xi was on the attendee list given by the White House. The two had held a bilateral meeting in Woodside earlier in the week.

Biden will depart from San Francisco International Airport on Friday afternoon after a planned bilateral meeting with Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and then an event where he will officially transfer the APEC chair position to President Dina Boluarte from Peru, which will host the next version of APEC in 2024.

Note to readers: This story has been updated to include information on President Biden's additional APEC summit activities on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.

Dan McMenamin is the managing editor at Pagransen, directing daily news coverage of the 12-county greater Bay Area. He has worked for BCN since 2008 and has been managing editor since 2014 after previously serving as BCN’s San Francisco bureau reporter. A UC Davis graduate, he came to BCN after working for a newspaper and nonprofit in the Davis area. He handles staffing, including coaching of our interns, day-to-day coverage decisions and management of the newswire.