WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump threw his weight behind his daughter's latest White House effort Thursday, backing her initiative to provide an economic boost to women in the developing world.
The president on Thursday launched the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, a governmentwide project led by senior adviser Ivanka Trump. The initiative involves the State Department, the National Security Council and other agencies. It aims to coordinate current programs and develop new ones to assist women in areas such as job training, financial support, and legal or regulatory reforms.
Calling it a "historic step," he signed a national security memorandum to officially launch the effort, framing it as a way to promote stability around the world. He was joined in the Oval Office by Ivanka Trump, elected officials, Cabinet members, business leaders and women who have benefited from such programs.
The initiative aims to help 50 million women in the developing world get ahead economically over the next six years. It will draw on public and private resources, with the U.S. Agency for International Development initially setting up a $50 million fund, using already-budgeted dollars.
Trump has twice tried unsuccessfully to slash USAID's budget by a third, and his "America first" foreign policy has sought to limit the United States' role as an international leader. But his daughter told The Associated Press that the women's initiative was in keeping with administration goals, arguing it was a strategic investment that promoted security.
"We're proud of our legacy of being a generous nation, looking to uplift others around the world. But we want to do so in a fiscally responsible way," she said, promising "rigorous" efforts to track progress. Among those she has consulted for the project is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Ivanka Trump, who will attend the Munich Security Conference next week to promote the project, stressed that she sees this as a national security priority. "We think women are arguably the most under-tapped resource in the developing world for accelerating economic growth and prosperity," she said.
As part of the launch, USAID and Pepsi Co. announced a partnership aimed at women in India, and USAID and UPS an agreement designed to help female entrepreneurs export goods.
The initiative builds on previous White House efforts to help women internationally. The Obama administration established an Office of Global Women's Issues at the State Department and established an ambassador-at-large for global women's Issues. That position has been vacant since Trump took office — drawing criticism from some advocates — but the White House said it now has a candidate lined up for the job.
Since she joined the administration in early 2017, Ivanka Trump has focused on women's economic issues. She previously led an effort to launch a World Bank fund to help drive women's entrepreneurship. And she recently advocated for the Women's Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which bolsters efforts focused on women by USAID.
Ivanka Trump said her hope is that this effort has staying power beyond the current administration. Past global initiatives she has studied include the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, started under President George W. Bush in 2003.
"This is not an initiative that we think should stop at the culmination of the administration," she said. "We think it's something that should sustain itself over time, and we're going to work really hard to show that this is a great use of foreign development assistance."