MODERATOR: Good morning. Thank you for joining today’s on-background call. We’re pleased to have senior administration officials here today to discuss the travel of Deputy Secretary John Sullivan and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump to Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay. Please note they will be providing background on the trip, not itinerary details.
For your reference purposes only and not for reporting, we welcome [Senior Administration Official One], hereafter known as Senior Administration Official Number One. We also welcome [Senior Administration Official Two], hereafter known as Senior Administration Official Number Two. We will have brief remarks at the top and then we will open for questions. A reminder that this call is on background and embargoed until the conclusion of the call. So with that, we will turn it over to Senior Administration Official Number One.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Good morning. Thank you for joining today’s call. In support of the administration’s renewed agenda of engagement with the Western Hemisphere, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, joined by a high-level U.S. interagency delegation, will travel to Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay from September 3rd through the 6th.
In July, USAID and Advisor Trump announced 14 new projects with more than 200 public and private sector partners across 22 countries to support the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, the W-GDP. This trip will further strengthen U.S. partnerships in the region on women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in support of the W-GDP.
Through various bilateral meetings and events, we will also deepen our collaboration with three key like-minded countries – Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay – on regional and global challenges, with a focus on strengthening cooperation on counternarcotics and citizen security, continuing collaboration to address the crisis in Venezuela, and expanding economic development in our countries and the broader region.
Deputy Sullivan’s visit is an example of the department’s commitment to the region. Secretary Pompeo has made 16 trips to countries in the Western Hemisphere, including the first visit to Paraguay by a sitting secretary in over 50 years, the first visit by a secretary to El Salvador in 10 years, and the first to Ecuador in nine.
We’ll hand it over to the next official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Hi, everyone, and good morning. We’re excited to tell you a little bit today about the high-level delegation that’ll be leading the charge on women’s economic empowerment next week in South America. As [Senior Administration Official One] noted, this will be a robust, three-country itinerary, with impactful bilateral meetings and new partnerships and deliverables that will be announced during the trip.
This will be the second international trip that Advisor Trump has led in support of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, or W-GDP. In April of this year, she also traveled to Africa, where she visited Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire. That trip, which spanned four days and included a robust U.S. Government delegation, included 13 events, meetings, and site visits; eight new deliverables launched in support of WGDP; a commitment to mobilize a billion dollars for women across the continent through 2X Africa; a new deliverable in support of women in the cocoa industry in Cote d’Ivoire; loans for female-owned coffee businesses in Ethiopia; a joint communique with the African Union; and a letter of intent to support a loan through a women-run textile company in Ethiopia, so a broad and robust set of deliverables furthering the W-GDP agenda.
During that trip, Advisor Trump also pushed in her bilateral meetings for meaningful legal reform. She met with leadership in Cote d’Ivoire to discuss how best to promote women’s legal rights there. Subsequent to the trip, in July 2019, we were encouraged to see new legislation passed in Cote d’Ivoire that supports changes to the country’s marriage law and now allows women to have equal management of household assets, so a major step forward for women in that country and one that was great to see coming out of that trip and those meetings.
Looking ahead to next week, you can expect to see a similar level of engagement, powerful dialogue, and new commitments during the trip to South America. The women’s economic empowerment effort codified through W-GDP was formally launched by the President in February of 2019 through a national security presidential memorandum, which established W-GDP as the first whole-of-government effort to advance women’s economic empowerment in the developing world. The national security presidential memorandum that established W-GDP also specifically set up a new W-GDP fund, which is housed at USAID and which has supported a number of new and important efforts to further the overall goals of the initiative.
We have more than 10 departments and agencies that are actively involved in this initiative and who, for the first time, are working together in concert to promote women’s economic empowerment across the developing world. There are three pillars within the initiative to focus those departments’ and agencies’ efforts, which include vocational education and skill training for women, entrepreneurship training and access to capital, and then third, addressing the legal and cultural barriers that impact women’s economic participation. Through work of the U.S. Government and our partners across those three pillars, we aim to economically empower 50 million women across the developing world by 2025, a goal that we expect to not only meet but to exceed.
The initiative has garnered bipartisan praise and support since its launch and through to today. As former Secretary Condoleezza Rice said, “I’ve often said that if I could wave a magic wand and do one thing, I would empower women. Not just because it’s the right thing to do – though it is the right thing to do – but because it would solve so many other problems.” And that’s certainly core to the philosophy of W-GDP and all the work that we’re doing today.
You’ve seen it since the launch of the initiative in February, since the trip to Africa in April. For instance, Advisor Trump was also at the G20 in Japan at the end of June, where she joined Japan’s prime minister, Prime Minister Abe, to be a keynote speaker at a special session for leaders on these issues. She had the opportunity to speak with leaders about W-GDP, about the three pillars and our goals, and to work to really put these issues at the heart of the G20’s agenda.
As she herself has often said, we’re all united by a shared goal: We believe that women’s inclusion in the economy is not solely a social justice issue; it’s also smart economic policy and smart defense policy. If women participated in the labor market equally to men, global annual GDP could raise by an estimated $12 trillion by 2025. So again, we just see tremendous opportunity to really further economic growth as well as stability and security. Research has also shown that states with higher female participation in the labor force are less likely to use violence or military force to resolve conflict.
And yet, we still have a number of barriers today, which is really the focus of W-GDP and what we’re seeking to address. In more than 100 countries today, women still don’t have equal rights under the law. For instance, they’re still not able to work in the same professions or the same sectors as men or they’re not able to open their own businesses or access capital or inherit and manage property.
And that really – those inequities are what drove the initial focus on women’s economic empowerment, really dating back even before the launch of W-GDP to earlier efforts in the administration, including the launch of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or We-Fi, a facility at the World Bank, which was formally launched two years ago at the G20 in Hamburg and which has gone on to mobilize more than $2.6 billion for women-owned small-and-medium-sized enterprises across emerging markets.
We’ve since, through W-GDP, mobilized a number of similar efforts. I mentioned the NSPM, or national security presidential memorandum, that established the initiative, and that included a W-GDP Fund. As [Senior Administration Official One] noted, that fund included 14 new projects at a recent announcement with more than 200 public and private sector partners across 22 countries, so a significant amount of reach.
Beyond the fund itself, the national security presidential memorandum also set a minimum funding floor of $300 million for the U.S. Government to dedicate to these purposes each year, and that does not – doesn’t even count the initial dollars that we would mobilize from partners and others, whether multilateral donors, NGOs, private sector, universities, et cetera. So we’re hopeful that through work with those entities – continued work and partnership with those entities will continue to support the three pillars and make progress towards the goal of reaching 50 million women.
So we’re definitely just getting started, but we’re committed to delivering real results that create transformational change for women across the developing world that helps them prosper in the workforce, succeed as entrepreneurs, and achieve the legal and regulatory changes we need to see for them to have the ability to participate freely and fully in their economies.
I’ll note particularly on legal and regulatory reforms, because that is really a core part of W-GDP, there are five foundational types of laws that we’re especially focused on with respect to women’s economic empowerment. These are the types of laws that really absent these – absent the existence of these or protections for these – we think there’s just tremendous lost opportunity in terms of women’s ability to participate in the economy. And those five types of laws include women’s ability to access institutions, to build credit, to own and inherit property, to travel freely, and to work in the same sectors and jobs as men.
And while they sound quite foundational, as I mentioned earlier, more than half the countries in the world still have laws on the books that deny women these same rights as men. And so, again, it really is an opportunity for us all to come together in support of that.
So to quickly turn back to the region a bit more before I wrap up, as I think many folks are aware, this won’t be the first time that Advisor Trump and Deputy Secretary Sullivan are traveling together in South America. They were there about 18 months ago, along with Vice President Pence, to launch W-GDP’s 2X Americas initiative, which was a commitment to mobilize $500 million for women-owned, women-led, and women-supporting businesses in Latin America, and we’ve seen great results from that program so far.
On the trip, we’ll also see some similar financing commitments in Colombia and Paraguay that they roll out as part of their announcements. We’ll also see sort of continued development of bilateral relationships between the U.S. and Colombia, U.S. and Argentina, and U.S. and Paraguay, all of whom are strong friends and strong economic partners in the region. We think it’ll be a great opportunity to continue to promote and highlight the United States commitment to promoting economic growth and stability worldwide, especially through women’s economic empowerment.
So we’re very much looking forward to sharing more about W-GDP with you next week, particularly as we roll out some new and exciting deliverables and announcements. And we want to note from the White House perspective that we’re especially appreciative of the Deputy Secretary and his team for this trip as well as Secretary Pompeo, who has been a major supporter of W-GDP and made it a top priority for the department.
And with that, I’ll wrap up. Thanks so much.
MODERATOR: Thank you. With that, we’ll open for questions.
OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating that you’ve been placed into queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up your handset before pressing the number. And please limit yourself to one question.
Our first question is from Tracy Wilkinson from The L.A. Times. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Couple questions. I know you don’t want to talk about itinerary, but could you explain why the trip includes Jujuy in Argentina? That was sort of a surprise to me. And second, more broadly about W-GDP, could you tell us a little bit about the process of selecting the recipients, exactly how that happens, who does it, that kind of thing? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think for the Jujuy portion of the Argentina stop, again, we have women’s empowerment – strong women’s empowerment programs ongoing in that province with strong support from provincial leaders. And this is a part of our continued ongoing engagement with Argentina on – from various fronts through our America Crece or through our OPIC engagement. And it’s another opportunity to highlight some specific women’s empowerment programs in one region of Argentina.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Lara Jakes from The New York Times. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much. I was wondering if the delegation is going to address the call – the new call to arms in Colombia and its links to Maduro and Venezuela, and what deliverables might be announced to help each country address this? Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the U.S. really stands resolutely with the Government of Colombia and with President Duque and the Colombian people in their efforts to secure the just and lasting peace and security that the people deserve there. And we really repudiate the recent call by some individuals to abandon the FARC’s commitments under the 2016 peace accord and to – for them to engage in further terrorism and violence. So again, Colombia has been one of our strongest ongoing partners in the region, and we believe that continued adherence to and implementation of the 2016 peace accords is vital to sustainable progress on security.
OPERATOR: The next question is from Rafael Mathus from La Nacion. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. Thank you for this opportunity. I wanted to know if there is any plans of Ms. Ivanka Trump to meet with President Macri, who’s facing a tough election ahead of – in October, and I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what kind of engagement might be with the Argentinian Government to show support at this time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: We are not announcing potential bilats or meetings at this – on this call, but we’ll be providing further details early next week during the course of the trip.
OPERATOR: Our next question is from Juliana Toral from W Radio. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My question will address the agenda in Colombia specifically. My question is when do they arrive and with whom will they meet exactly?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: This is [Senior Administration Official Three]. So the delegation will arrive early next week, and as we said, it spans September 3rd through September 6th. And logistical details will be provided to media who are interested in following via the White House line that we sent out two days ago. So if you have not seen that, please reach out to the White House press office, and we can get you on the distribution list for further updates.
OPERATOR: The next question is from Ariel Moutsatsos from Televisa. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I would like to see if you could go a little bit more in deep into the cities that Ms. Trump is going to visit, and how are they split over the course of the three days, please?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Hi. Thank you for that question. We are not in a position to discuss the exact locations of the itinerary at this time, but we’ll be providing media that guidance early next week.
OPERATOR: Next question is from Conor Finnegan from ABC News. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hey, thank you. Some of the women’s development programs we’ve been talking about were up for cuts under the OMB rescission package. And it’s my understanding that they’re still capped now at 2 percent spending each day by OMB. What message do you think that says about the administration’s commitment to this issue? And can you guarantee that all these programs will be fully funded?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I think we refer specific budget questions to OMB, but I think whatever current discussions are ongoing on budget issues, that the U.S. Government and the Trump administration has been very strongly committed to women’s issues and women’s empowerment programs throughout its tenure. And again, having the senior advisor travel to the region to promote ongoing and new programs, I think it’s just another example of our strong demonstration of commitment.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Andrew Feinberg from Breakfast Media. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hey, thank you for doing this call. I’m just wondering, what kind of message do you think it sends to people who are really interested in women’s empowerment that our chosen representative for this issue is Ms. Trump, who is in her job not by virtue of having any particular expertise on global women’s issues, but because she is the President’s daughter? Do you think that sends a good message?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: We’re not going to dignify that question with a response.
OPERATOR: And we’ll move to Maria Pena from Telemundo. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you for doing this. I was wondering if you could give us an update on a recent proposal that was – I believe Ivanka Trump was involved in that – in promoting maternity, paid maternity leave in the U.S. Women in the U.S. still face income inequality and unpaid maternity leave compared to other industrialized countries. And I think there was a proposal recently about this. Can you give us an update on that, given that she’s going on a tour promoting women’s equality when the U.S. doesn’t have it for women here? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Happy to discuss, although it’s a slightly off-topic – that is a domestic legislative priority here for the administration, for the White House. And with – thanks to Ivanka’s trusted relationships working on both sides of the aisle, and the President’s commitment to paid family leave, not just for women but for working parents to make sure that they have the ability to spend time with their child at the earliest stages and while maintaining workforce security, we have made it a priority through the President’s budget, through his State of the Union address, talking about it every – before the joint Congress and all three sessions to make sure that this legislation moves forward in a way that can be passed in a bipartisan manner.
For many, many years it has failed to move, but now we’re seeing true bipartisan collaboration around this front, and we’re very encouraged by that. The latest step was at the beginning of August prior to recess, Senators Sinema and Cassidy released the first bipartisan framework on paid family leave, and the White House expressed its encouraged sentiment about the direction that this is headed in, wanted to make sure that Congress works together to find a bipartisan proposal that can pass.
That’s where we are at this stage, and eager to see Congress return in September and take this issue up with great momentum. That’s obviously an area in which we want to make sure through the W-GDP initiative that women have the opportunity to work in the workforce equal to men, and make sure that there is that framework of legal and regulatory systems that support the women in the workforce.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Tracy Wilkinson from the LA Times. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks for coming back to me. My second question wasn’t answered, so I’m going to repeat it. Could you tell us a little bit about how the recipients are chosen in this program – the process, the criteria, et cetera? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Yes, Tracy, sorry, we tried to get back to you, but [Senior Administration Official Two] can answer that question.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Sure, absolutely. So with respect to the recipients and the 14 projects we mentioned that were funded in this first round of incentive funding through the W-GDP fund, they were selected through a rigorous progress whereby USAID missions around the world applied with innovative and impactful proposals for how they would seek to further W-GDP’s three pillars, as well as its target to reach 50 million women. They were assessed based on how well they supported the three pillars, the extent to which they were able to leverage outside partners, including the private sector, and the extent to which they brought in other U.S. Government departments and agencies.
While the fund sits at USAID, it is really the signature piece of an overall whole-of-government initiative really with the intent of bringing together multiple government agencies, each with their own expertise and activities. And so where there were proposals that brought in best practices from one agency along with another, we prioritized supporting projects as well. And then more generally, as I mentioned, really supporting the three pillars and having some diversity in terms of the types of sectors and projects, as well as the countries where they were active. And so that was how we ultimately selected the 14 projects across 22 countries.
OPERATOR: Our next question is from Patsy Widakuswara from Voice of America. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking this call. So as you seek to economically empower millions of women across the world through this W-GDP initiative, can you just explain: How do you navigate around the administration’s restrictive reproductive health care policies? Do you just completely avoid the subject when you’re choosing recipients, for example? Any explanation would be appreciated. Thanks.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: Well, Patsy, this is obviously an area that is focused entirely on the workforce and the women who have restrictions on the ability to do the same jobs as men. It is a narrow focus because we want to make sure that it has tangible results, and we want to make sure that it is focused on economic growth. So it does not dive into the important health issues across the developing world, but obviously there are many, many U.S. programs invested in family planning and women’s health that are doing incredible work, and the administration supports that.
But in terms of the W-GDP initiative, it is entirely focused on economic empowerment issues and supports the National Security Strategy that the administration released in the first year, in 2017, to help foster an environment in which women have equal access to capital and vocational training, and the ability to own property and have access to the same types of workforce opportunities that men do. It’s something that, as we said, will provide estimated $12 trillion of global growth if women were able to participate equally in the economy as men do around the world by 2025.
MODERATOR: We have time for one last question.
OPERATOR: And that question will come from Paula Lugones from Clarin. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. I know you can’t be very specific about the agenda in Buenos Aires, but can you give us any details of the agenda?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: At this time we’re not going into specifics of those visits, but as we said, please sign up for the updates and we will be providing frequent and consistent guidance for media so that you can cover this trip in great detail and in real time.
MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us for today’s call. The embargo has lifted. Have a great rest of the day.