Ivanka Trump sees Global Entrepreneurship Summit as testament to a strong India-US friendship

Influential first daughter says she very much looks forward to meeting Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, November 25, 2017 – Presidential advisor and daughter Ivanka Trump believes the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) co-hosted by India and the US is a testament to the strong friendship and growing partnership between the world’s two largest democracies.

Ivanka, considered the most influential first daughter in decades, will lead the US contingent to the Summit, the largest event of its kind, to be held November 28-30, in Hyderabad. The theme, ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’, is predicated on the core principle that when women are economically empowered, their communities and countries thrive.

In a press conference call, Ivanka said, “I am incredibly excited to be visiting India next week for the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. I was honored to have been invited by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to the White House in June and very much look forward to leading the US contingent on behalf of the White House and the State Department to Hyderabad”.

President Trump’s trusted advisor told journalists that the Summit “is a testament to the strong friendship between our two people and the growing economic and security partnership between our two nations. Entrepreneurship, domestically and abroad, is a key priority for this administration”, she said, noting that innovation and entrepreneurship are essential tools for job creation, economic growth and stability all around the world.

“The US and India will continue to work together to increase economic opportunities and inclusive growth”, Ivanka said.

She underscored that she is looking forward to her maiden India visit and meeting Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

A White House power player, Ivanka will participate in the inauguration ceremony with Prime Minister Modi on November 28, and will address the Summit. On the first two days, she will take part in panels on women’s entrepreneurial leadership and women in the workforce.

Joining her in the conference call to preview the visit were: Michelle Bekkering, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator and Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID; and Tom Vajda, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department. All questions by the press corps were answered by senior administration officials who requested anonymity.

When queried about a potential conflict of interest arising at the Summit from President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program, an official replied, “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”.

The official emphasized, “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”.

Recalling Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the White House, the official noted, “President Trump 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”. The Summit “is part of that goal of creating a stronger relationship”, the official underscored.

Of the 1,500 entrepreneurs attending the Summit from 150 countries and territories, 350 are from America representing 38 US states.  The participants range in age from 13 to 84 years with 31.5 percent being 30 years old or younger.

“I’m particularly proud of the fact that this is the first time that women will be the majority of participants at GES”, Ivanka told journalists, noting that 52.5 percent of entrepreneurs will be women, attending from 127 different countries.

Regarding the focus on female entrepreneurs for the very first time, a senior administration official said, “The importance of women’s entrepreneurship has always been some component of GES, but it’s never been the driver of GES”.

About the contingent from the US, the official affirmed, “It was very important to us to make sure that we had great and equal participation of female entrepreneurs. Supporting female entrepreneurship domestically and globally is a high priority for us”.

Bekkering stressed that the “GES really is the preeminent annual gathering of emerging entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers from all around the world”.

She saw the Summit as a “perfect platform” allowing participants to come together to discuss the challenges facing women entrepreneurs, the barriers, while identifying solutions and making the connections that are needed to help the innovators succeed.

Vajda told journalists that the Summit “will underscore the US-India partnership and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that our two countries share”.

He noted that the event will create an important platform for entrepreneurs and particularly women to pitch their ideas, build partnerships, secure funding, and find their target customers.

Regarding the diversity of the participants, Vajda pointed out that over ten countries, including Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, will be represented by all-female delegations.

“Both the United States and India are firmly committed to promoting entrepreneurship, not just in our own two countries but around the world, because we share the belief that entrepreneurship drives economic growth and creates jobs, establishing a foundation for a more prosperous world”, he said.

A journalist wanted to know how the US would address the issues of sexual abuse scandals here in America and sexual assaults against women in India. In response, a senior administration official pointed out that gender-based violence is “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 official said.

“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”.

When asked about the unprecedented roundup of beggars in Hyderabad ahead of Ivanka’s visit, an official noted “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”, the official said.

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