(In progress) APEC High-Level Policy Dialogue on Women and the Economy, and it is a great pleasure for me to have the honor of chairing this first ever high- level policy dialogue that focuses on opportunities for women and the ways we can try to create greater economic growth in our nations. It’s not often that we can call a meeting historic, but that word does apply today.
In the past, when the members of APEC met at the ministerial level, the role that women play in our economies was often not discussed at all, or if so, only as a minor agenda item. But today, we are focused directly on this critical issue, both because of all the ways that women are already driving economic growth, but because of the possibility that we can do even more by removing the barriers that hold women back and by replacing them with active investment and engagement.
As I said in my remarks a few minutes ago, this idea will require a fundamental transformation in how our governments make and enforce laws and policies, how our businesses invest and operate, and how people make choices in the marketplace. The declaration that we will adopt at the end of this session will set the framework in place and help us move in the right direction. The four areas it identifies go directly to the concerns held by many women in our economies: first, access to capital; second, access to markets; third, opportunities to learn valuable skills; and fourth, to lead in the workplace.
Upon the adoption of this declaration, we will deliver it to the APEC Leaders Meeting in Honolulu this November and work to begin implementing the policies and programs that can turn this declaration into lasting progress. The declaration is just one step toward unleashing the full economic potential of women, but it is an important step. And as I said earlier, I think because of the economic success of the APEC region, many other parts of the world will look to this declaration and be inspired by it and move to replicate it in their own regions as well.
Now, before we get into the discussion of policies including all of you, I’d like to invite U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and Donna James, Chair of the National Women’s Business Council to speak about the policy partnership on women and the economy meeting that took place earlier this week.