Deputy Secretary Sullivan and I just returned from a trip to Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay September 2-6 alongside Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump to promote the key role women play in the economies of the region. The delegation traveled across the continent to meet with women entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and government officials to strengthen our partnerships on women’s economic empowerment in support of the White House’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). This trip underscored the importance of women in the economy as drivers of opportunity, growth, and security and throughout our meetings, we witnessed firsthand that when women prosper, their families, communities, and countries prosper as well.
In Bogota, Colombia, our delegation participated in an inspiring event to launch the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in Colombia, which will provide hands-on training to 40 small business owners. We also joined the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Inter-American Development Bank at a Fund Mujer event where the group discussed a new gender-focused investment fund supporting investment strategies focused on women-owned businesses.
In our visit to Cucuta, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, we announced over $120 million in additional humanitarian assistance to address the refugee crisis caused by the Maduro regime. We met with Venezuelan women political leaders and Venezuelan refugees and we saw witnessed the human toll of the crisis and the need for the emergency food and health assistance the United States is providing vulnerable Venezuelans in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and across the region. Advisor Trump, the Deputy Secretary, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and each member of our delegation expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan people in their struggle to restore democracy in their homeland and gratitude to Colombia for accommodating more than 1.4 million displaced Venezuelans.
In Argentina, we were proud to announce the approval of $400 million in financing from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance institution, to rehabilitate and expand the Corredor C Toll Road, an essential trade route for Argentina’s economy. The delegation had a lively conversation with female entrepreneurs working with OPIC activity in the province of Jujuy on the challenges they face and the opportunities they see. Likewise, in Paraguay, Deputy Secretary Sullivan participated in a panel discussion to highlight how the United States is advancing women’s economic empowerment globally. During that event, Advisor Trump announced OPIC is doubling its commitment under the 2X Americas initiative, to invest more than one billion dollars across the region in small and medium female-led enterprises. From this trip I know that women entrepreneurs are hungry for such opportunities, and I’m proud that we can provide them.
Finally, in our meetings with Colombian, Venezuelan, Argentine, and Paraguayan counterparts, we highlighted the United States’ positive economic agenda in the region, including support for economic development and energy investment to advance prosperity in all countries and in the hemisphere. The United States shares the region’s vision for investment and business rooted in transparency, good governance, and sustainability that brings with it strong labor and environmental standards. We expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan political leaders and democratic actors pressing for a democratic transition. The Deputy Secretary and I also expressed appreciation for Colombia’s, Argentina’s, and Paraguay’s continued calls for democracy in Venezuela and their leadership in the Lima Group.
We are in a transformative moment for U.S. engagement in the Western Hemisphere, and on this trip I was inspired by our progress in reinvigorating our partnerships and supporting women entrepreneurs across the region.
About the Author: Julie Chung serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.