Background Briefing on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Special Briefing

Senior Administration Officials
Via Teleconference

November 21, 2017

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. And with that we’ll take your questions and —

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: And may I just add, before we jump into questions, one thing I just wanted to highlight on background – it’s [Senior Administration Official One] speaking – this is the first time that this conference has ever been co-hosted. It’s also the first time the conference has ever been themed. So we are really excited about the theme. The importance of women’s entrepreneurship has always been some component of GES, but it’s never been the driver of GES, so I think that this is – I think that this was very important to us, and it was very important to us to make sure that we had great and equal participation of female entrepreneurs in terms of the contingent that was coming from the United States.

So we think it’s a great opportunity to highlight these issue and furthers a lot of the conversation that we’ve been having through other great programs either being run by the State Department, by USAID, or that we’ve launched – for example, WEFI, the Women’s Entrepreneur Finance Initiative at the G20 that we were the founding partners of with the World Bank. So supporting female entrepreneurship domestically and globally is a high priority for us, and we’re all very excited about this opportunity.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And I believe our operator is going to re-up the question, telling folks how they can ask a question. Operator?

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press * and then 1 on your telephone keypad. You’ll hear a tone indicating you’ve been placed in queue. You may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the pound key. Once again, if you wish to ask a question, please press * and then 1 at this time. And one moment please for our first question.

The question comes from Betsy Klein of CNN. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi there. My colleagues in India have reported that there has been an unprecedented roundup of beggars in the streets of India ahead of your visit. Have you heard those reports? What’s your reaction to that?

MODERATOR: [Senior Administration Official Three], go right ahead.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: So we are surprised by those reports but really for comment refer you to the State of Telangana. But I should say that we know that the Indian Government is really firmly committed to raise individuals out of poverty, to create economic opportunity for its large and diverse population; and we think they’re making great progress, although obviously there are still strides that it needs to take. But we understand and believe it’s firmly committed to that path.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: The question comes from the line Seema Sirohi with Economic Times. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. My question is to [Senior Administration Official One]. President Trump has said “Hire American,” and he has said “America First.” And Prime Minister Modi has said “Make In India.” How do you see these two programs sort of gelling with each other? Do you see a kind of a conflict there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: This is [Senior Administration Official One] speaking. I think when Prime Minister Modi came to the White House, the President expressed the sentiment that India has a great friend and partner in the United States, and that we would like to grow our economic and our security partnership. And this is – this is part of that goal of creating a stronger relationship, but also going into the world and recognizing the important impact that our leadership has, and the importance of investing in entrepreneurship to create economic opportunity in our own country and abroad. And we’ve seen that consistently. I mentioned the World Bank initiative that we launched to support female entrepreneurs in the developing world. So we’ve been consistently seeking to do that.

But “America First” is not at the exclusion of the rest of the world. Most governments prioritize the people of their country, but that doesn’t mean that they operate in a vacuum and aren’t very engaged in the rest of the globe. And clearly, the U.S. is a leader in that capacity and has remained a leader in that capacity.

Mark Green and his team at USAID can speak to it. But there – and the State Department, of course, as well. But we continue to be very engaged all over the world. And having an “America First” philosophy is not exclusive of collaboration, partnership, and strong economic security and social relationships around the world.

MODERATOR: [Senior Administration Official One], I know you have to run so we will take it from here. Thank you so much for joining us. [Senior Administration Official Three] and also [Senior Administration Official Two] will still stick around. And [Senior Administration Official One], I know everybody looks forward to seeing you in India. So thank you for your time today.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: I very much look forward to it. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. You’re welcome.

Let’s call on Tolu from Bloomberg News.

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Tolu at Bloomberg News. My question was for [Senior Administration Official One], but maybe one of you can answer it as well.

MODERATOR: All right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No problem. The U.S. is currently sort of dealing with its own sexual abuse scandal or reckoning or whatever you’d like to call it. But it’s clearly something that is – that much of the populace is focused on. India has dealt with or has been dealing with questions of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and I just wonder how the U.S. Government will address both of those issues during this – during the summit, because obviously sexual abuse and sexual harassment is something that can make it harder for women in the workplace and for women entrepreneurs.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: So, yeah, thank you for that question. I mean, it – GBV, gender-based violence, some of the other issues you raised, obviously it’s truly a global problem and India faces those challenges just as we do and as a number of other countries do. The fact is that India has a very vibrant civil society. A number of NGOs and others are firmly committed to improving the condition of women and supporting women’s entrepreneurship. The Indian Government itself is committed to those goals, was firmly committed to or rapidly endorsed the notion of building the theme of this GES around women’s empowerment, which I think again demonstrates that commitment. Again, it’s a broad challenge for India and for Indian society, just as it is for us, but it’s one in which we are looking to continue to partner with the Indian Government in improving the lives and the conditions and the opportunities available to women.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: And – thanks for that, [Senior Administration Official Three]. I can build upon that. And as [Senior Administration Official Three] mentioned, this is something that does affect the workforce, and a lot of our programming, I think, to USAID – as I mentioned earlier, we’re really looking at what are those particular barriers and constraints for women in this field, and gender-based violence continues to be one of those. And it’s not just in the workplace. We – we’re aware that women are subject to gender-based violence and harassment even when it comes to borders, to – when they’re doing commerce, when they’re at registries, when they’re in the marketplace. And so it’s really looking there and also in school settings and other places to make sure that there are these safe opportunities for women to either – to learn, to earn their income, or to be involved in greater trade. And so it is something that we hope with this great platform of investors, of entrepreneurs from around the world, to really dig into what have been the best practices to – frankly, to eliminating these issues for women.

MODERATOR: Okay. Next question goes to Lalit. Lalit, you there?

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this call. I have a question for [Senior Administration Official Three]. How does this help in strengthening India-U.S. relations? Can you give us people-to-people or business-to-business perspective of this summit?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: So as I noted at the outset, the President himself has stated just how strong the United States-India partnership is, and clearly one of those fundamental, foundational pillars of that relationship is our economic and commercial ties. So two-way trade between the U.S. and India has hit a record of just – of over 114 billion, foreign direct investment stocks in both directions are about 40 billion. The President and the prime minister firmly committed to expand that bilateral trade relationship but to make sure that it was expanded in a fair, balanced, and reciprocal manner to address some of the market access impediments that U.S. firms have. We’re thrilled to see that India has begun purchases of U.S. crude. They’re planning to buy U.S. LNG and such.

So we think that there’s – the potential for this economic partnership is really enormous. Many of the American companies are household names in India, and Indian companies are increasingly looking to invest in the United States, which we obviously welcome in that regard. I’m pleased to report that just yesterday I was at the Mahindra plant opening. Mahindra is a leading Indian conglomerate. They opened the first automotive manufacturing factory in southeast Michigan in 25 years, so they’re creating a lot of jobs and a lot of opportunity in Michigan, and they’re doing a lot of engineering and design services really to support Mahindra’s operations back in India, so it’s great example of, I think, the synergies between the U.S. and India and the benefits that our bilateral trade and investment relationship can bring to both our countries.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Julie McCarthy from NPR.

QUESTION: Hi there. My question was for [Senior Administration Official One], but she’s gone, and it was a rather pointed one toward her, so I have a —

MODERATOR: Apologies.

QUESTION: — sort of a different – no, it’s related to you all, and it has to do with life in India. Here in India, the whole idea of dissent – political dissent, social dissent, any kind of – expressing a different point of view – is increasingly met with hostility. And I’d like to know how the – how the U.S. Government will be – will you be discussing this when you’re here? Because it’s not getting looser, it’s getting tighter, and how does that play into the kind of security that will obtain there in Hyderabad?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE: So – yeah, this is [Senior Administration Official Three]. So I would just say, as I said really in the earlier context, that India really does have a rich heritage of cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity; it has a very vibrant civil society, strong democratic and judicial institutions. And some of the issues that you raise I know are subject to vigorous public debate in India, issues around freedom of expression, religious intolerance.

We have documented in our Human Rights Reports and others some of the concerns that we have, and these are issues on which we regularly engage the Indian Government. But I think the key to focus on is the fact that these are issues that are of importance to Indians and issues that the Indians obviously raise themselves, and they’re the ones, obviously, who are going to drive important change within their country.

MODERATOR: Okay. [Senior Administration Official Two], did you want to ask that? We can go on to the next question. Reena from CNBC.

QUESTION: Hi, this was again for [Senior Administration Official One]. But just wanted to ask about what has made the United States Government to accept Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation? And if we talk about the wage gap, it continues to be significant and it’ll take decades to close when we talk about the gender gap. What can be – what is going to be done to address this in this particular summit?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL THREE: So I can speak to the first question. So as I noted in my remarks, it was the President and the prime minister when they met in June when they jointly announced that the two countries would co-host the GES in India this year. And I think it’s a natural – a natural really result of the economic and strategic partnership that the two countries have and the fact that entrepreneurship, innovation, is a hallmark of both our societies, so it was just a natural – a natural fit and a natural outflow, I think, of where we are in our partnership with India.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And to address the comment about the gender gap, I think it’s really important to note that there was never a question on what the topic of this year’s GES would be. As [Senior Administration Official One] alluded, this was actually the first year where we had the GES specifically focused on women’s entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment in this field. And it recognizes, frankly, that there is a gender gap around the world. Some of the recent statistics that came out on the global gender gap were that there remains to be globally a 58[1] percent gap when it comes to men and women and economic empowerment.

And so the whole idea of having this summit and bringing together – as mentioned earlier, we have over 50 percent of the participants women – is to really talk very strategically about what are the – what are the ways that we can work together to overcome this. And I think if you look at the lineup of who we have there, both investors and entrepreneurs, this will be a great incubator for us making progress in achieving those goals.

MODERATOR: Okay, final question. Kathryn from CBS.

QUESTION: My question has been taken. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us. Remember – please remember the opening comments are on the record; everything else is on background to senior administration officials. The embargo has now been lifted. Thank you for calling in and have a great day.

[1] The gap is 42 percent.