Remarks by Vice President Harris Before a Meeting with Private Sector Leaders to Discuss Economic Development in the Northern Triangle

Vice President’s Ceremonial Office

4:06 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank this distinguished group of leaders for joining us this afternoon for this discussion.  We promise it to be a very productive discussion about how we can collaborate, how we can maximize opportunities in promise and hope and potential and resources.

And, as you all know, on March 24th, the President asked me to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts as it relates to the Northern Triangle and Mexico.  And as I’ve said many times over the past two months, the work that we are doing is guided by two fundamental principles: one, that most people don’t want to leave home.  They don’t want to leave their grandmother.  They don’t want to leave the language they speak, the culture they know.  And when they do, it is often for one of two reasons:  Because they are either fleeing some harm or because to stay home prevents them from satisfying basic needs for themselves or their family.

The second principle with which we are approaching this initiative is the — the real belief that we have the capacity to give people hope — and hope, in particular, in this case, that if they stay, that help is on the way.

And so these are the guiding principles for our work.  And in that vein, we also really fully appreciate that in order for us — as an administration, as the United States government — to really maximize the potential of our work, it has to be through collaboration and partnership — through public-private partnerships; through the work that we are doing with also reaching out to nonprofits and foundations; the work we are doing to internationalize this effort, predominantly through the work that we do with our allies in the U.N.; doing the work of engaging civil society; doing the work of understanding that the benefit of this effort will probably not evidence itself overnight, but will be well worth it.

But we do understand our work is in the context of longstanding issues that are both about acute factors and — and are about longstanding and deep-rooted factors that include issues of violence and corruption; that include issues of food insecurity; that include the impact that everyone around the world has experienced in terms of extreme weather conditions.

And so, the work we are doing is guided, though, with the dominant principle that when we work together, when we combine resources — limited, though they are, for each one of us — we can maximize the potential to give people in that region hope.  And — and in that way, also show what it means to be a good neighbor, because this is also in the context of the Western Hemisphere.  And in that way, we know that we are interconnected and, in many ways, interdependent when it comes to many issues.

So, today, we are launching our call to action for businesses to invest in the Northern Triangle.  And that is one of the specific reasons that I’ve asked these business leaders to join us today.  And so, this focus includes digital inclusion — everything from digital inclusion to workforce development.

I believe that the businesses — in particular, our private business sector — have a very significant role to play, as we all know, in creating jobs, in promoting economic opportunity, and in long-term development.

I am proud that we have companies already in the United States who have committed to act.  We have MasterCard, who intends to partner across sectors to bring 5 million people in the region into the digital economy and to support 1 million small businesses.  This is a commitment that’s already been made.

I’m excited to — to report that Microsoft will work with local partners to expand broadband access for up to 3 million people in the region in the next year.

I’m pleased to report that Nespresso will expand coffee-sourcing activities in Guatemala and start, in Honduras and El Salvador, supporting local communities and farming communities with a minimum of $150 million in purchases, in price premiums, and technical assistance.

So these are but a few examples of the commitments that have already been made.  But the call to action is to bring these leaders and others together so that we can do what I think we can do best, which is make a commitment to get something done and then see it through, understanding that giving hope is not about just having a dream of giving hope, it is about action that results in tangible benefit that gives people a sense of what is possible for themselves and for their families.

So, with that, again, I welcome you all.  I thank you for this time.  And I’m very much looking forward to our discussion today.

END  4:12 P.M. EDT