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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press briefing on the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship by Senior Administration Officals


Via Teleconference

2:08 P.M. EDT

MR. RHODES:  Thanks, everybody, for joining the call.  We wanted to take this opportunity to walk you through the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship that we’ll be hosting on Monday and Tuesday.  I'm joined by some of my colleagues here at the NSC, as well as the Department of Commerce and Department of State, which are hosting the call; and you’ll all have the opportunity to talk to them as well.  I'll just say a few words and give you the agenda for the summit.

To begin with, this was a direct commitment that the President made in his Cairo speech last June.  The context for it, of course, was the President was addressing a range of very important political and security issues that have really dominated the focus of the United States and many countries and particular regions around the world.

In the speech he addressed, for instance, our effort to defeat al Qaeda, the war in Iraq, Iran and its pursuit of a nuclear program, as well as, of course, the Arab-Israeli conflict.  However, he also made the point that even as we continue to work very aggressively to address these issues and to resolve these conflicts, that the United States wanted to build and deepen a set of partnerships with Muslim communities around the world on issues that are really fundamental to our own lives related to education and economic opportunity, and science and technology, and health, and that by building those partnerships we can serve our mutual interests and advance a more positive relationship between the United States and Muslim-majority countries around the world.

So we really see this as one of a series of steps that we’ve taken to do so, to fulfill the commitments the President made in Cairo.  I'll quickly walk through a few of them.

We’ve appointed several science envoys to travel to different regions of the world to deepen our scientific cooperation.  We’ve pursued a partnership with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio, which continues to be a great challenge in a number of Muslim-majority countries.  We’ve expanded educational programs and initiatives in particular countries around the world and are going to look to continue to do so, of course against the backdrop of working very hard in a very focused way onto political and security issues that are of great concern to the United States and to people around the world.

One of the commitments the President made was on entrepreneurship.  We believe entrepreneurship is a fundamental American value, and it’s also a force that has the ability to unlock opportunity for people around the world.  And some of my colleagues can speak in greater specificity to that.

So we believe that it’s both an area that over the very long term we can develop a set of partnerships around the world that can serve the interests of communities as well as the interests of the United States and countries around the world in unleashing economic growth and development.

This summit is just a part of that process.  We believe that it can serve the purpose of catalyzing action, and it already has, frankly, in private-sector follow-up, foundation follow-up, follow-up actions by other countries in many different regions of the world.  So we believe that this is an important opportunity for the United States to galvanize that action.

I would note, for instance, that the President hosted 47 leaders and heads of government at the Nuclear Security Summit just two weeks ago.  This of course is a different kind of engagement.  We’re hosting no government officials as a part of this.  This is a summit that is going to bring together entrepreneurs -- social entrepreneurs, people from various -- many different countries, and again my colleagues can speak to that -- around this question of how we can galvanize entrepreneurship on behalf of economic growth.

With that, I'll just walk through the agenda, and then let my colleagues speak to some more specifics.  The whole summit, by the way, will be live-streamed, so this will all be available to people around the world.  It will begin on Monday morning.  All the activities will be at the Reagan Building.  There will be a series of panels.  The panels will have several participants on them.  I'll just speak to the people leading the panels, that lead U.S. government representation on them, and then turn it over to my colleagues.

The first panel will be on perspectives on successful entrepreneurship.  It will be led by the Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke.  And it will bring together a number of successful entrepreneurs from different regions around the world who will offer their perspectives on the lessons that they’ve learned in pursuing successful entrepreneurship, how those lessons might be applied to open the door to opportunity for others around the world.

Then there will be a lunch focused on innovation and technology, where Jerry Yang, the CEO of Yahoo, will give the keynote, focused on the role of technology, which, of course, has the ability to unlock an extraordinary amount of activity related to entrepreneurship and economic opportunity in the 21st century.

Then there will be a panel in the afternoon led by Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of USAID, addressing the challenge of entrepreneurs getting access to capital in order to pursue their own ideas and opportunities.

Following that there will be a panel on catalyzing youth entrepreneurship.  This will be led by Shahid Ansari, the dean and provost of Babson College -- focused, of course, on the role of education and training in fostering entrepreneurship.  Many of the regions that will be highly represented at the summit -- Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia -- have extraordinary youth populations, and it will, of course, become increasingly important to be able to channel the promise of that youth towards entrepreneurship in a way that can create economic opportunities.

Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, will participate on that panel.

Following that, the President will address the summit, and it will be an opportunity for the President to speak to his commitment to building these kinds of positive partnerships around the world, to deepening our engagement around the world with Muslim-majority communities, as well as all of those who are interested in pursuing partnerships with the United States on behalf of issues such as entrepreneurship.

The next day we will begin with remarks from Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council.  He’ll be able to share his unique perspective on how entrepreneurship fits into modes of economic growth and partnership.

Then there will be a panel on promoting entrepreneurship and enabling business that will be led by Karen Mills, the Administrator of the SBA in the United States, who will of course be able to offer a unique perspective on the kinds of capacity that can be provided the help people around the world overcome challenges to starting their own businesses.

Then there will be a panel on social entrepreneurship led by Sonai Shah, who is the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.  Social entrepreneurship is of course a growing trend in many parts of the world and has the ability to foster community development, to address specific challenges in communities while also expanding opportunity.  It’s something that has galvanized a lot of action among young people in particular.  So we’ll be able to address social entrepreneurship through this panel.

Then there will be a panel led by Pradeep Ramamurthy, a Senior Director for Global Engagement here at the White House, will address the cultural factors that can encourage and discourage entrepreneurship and how to marry a commitment to entrepreneurship with distant cultures around the world.

Then at lunch there will be a discussion on mentoring and giving back, led by S.A. Ibrahim, the CEO of the Radian Group.  He will be able to discuss the ways in which those of us who are more fortunate can foster the next generation of entrepreneurs.

And then, finally, there will be a panel on unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs.  The President obviously, as he said in Cairo, believes strongly that when women are able to live up to their full potential it can both empower women, but also unleash the potential of communities and economic opportunity in many different parts of the world in a way that can serve all of our mutual interests.  This panel will be led by Farah Pandith, the State Department Special Representative for Muslim Communities.  Valerie Jarrett, of course a very close senior advisor to the President will join us as well, given her longstanding interest in these issues.

And then, finally, the summit will be closed by remarks from Secretary Clinton.  We’ll be able to put a wrap on the lessons that have been learned at the summit and the commitment of the United States to these issues going forward.

The only thing I’d say before I turn it over is that we’d expect there to be some specific announcements related to projects that the U.S. government will undertake going forward on entrepreneurship, from a range of departments from USAID to the State Department to some of the other USG entities -- Commerce and others who will be represented at this summit.  We will hold those of course until Monday, but we expect to have a series of announcements related to what the U.S. government will be doing going forward in this area.

Beyond that, though, I would also say that we believe that a key function is not simply what our government is doing, but more importantly frankly, the kind of action it can galvanize by other governments, by private sector, by foundations.  And so what we hope to be doing with this is using the convening power and leadership of the U.S. government and the President to galvanize action across a range of areas and by a range of different actors so that going forward there’s greater momentum behind this particular issue and these partnerships that we’re building.

So with that, I'll turn it over to my colleague who can discuss how we invited some of the participants and then turn to our colleagues from Commerce and State who are co-hosting the summit to speak to their role.

MR. RAMAMURTHY:  So I just want to touch briefly just on kind of the processes that got us here and the diversity of the participants and some of the unique features.

The summit is very much kind of part of a process for us, both there’s been a huge process leading into it and we’ve already got kind of a sustainable way to make sure the conversation on entrepreneurship continues.  Beginning almost the week after the Cairo speech, our embassies around the world started holding roundtables with students, government leaders, business leaders, religious leaders -- everybody that I think we would want to reach out to -- to get their perspective on areas where they saw opportunities for partnership that would be mutually beneficial.

And one of those areas that shown through was entrepreneurship, economic growth, and issues like that.  And so we’ve since had a series of more focused conversations about entrepreneurship specifically.  Our embassies have done similar things -- held roundtables, town halls.  USAID recently held a virtual listening session that reached -- where about 7,000 participants from, I think, over 150 countries participated in that, and entrepreneurship was a focus there.  We’ve also held listening sessions in concert with other international organizations in places like Cairo.

So the agenda, the people that are invited, kind of the projects that we’re thinking about are developed based on a very robust kind of effort to listen, which was one of the things that the President talked about in Cairo.

And the participants themselves, it’s been mentioned, there’s about 250 of them from -- I think we’re approaching 60 countries.  It’s a very diverse group.  We have business entrepreneurs from virtually every sector you can think of, from kind of real estate to technology, the people that are working on incubation and venture capital.  We have social entrepreneurs that, you know, are spanning from people like Muhammad Yunus -- who obviously has almost a global presence in terms of microfinance, microcredit -- to people that are really working at the grassroots level.  For example, we’ve got someone from Central Asia who’s organizing people that are producing handicrafts, to take the profits from the sales of those to reinvest in their communities.

And we have a very diverse age range, from I think 29 -- 20, sorry, the youngest, and the oldest, I think, is 79.  And this is I think a very unique gathering in the sense that it bridges both kind of the business and social entrepreneurship communities but also the people that are relevant to advancing entrepreneurship more generally -- educators, investors, people that are in the foundation world, obviously from our side, from the government -- and I think it’s just a unique example of kind of how our convening power can bring together a lot of different people, then, as my colleague said, catalyze activity.

I think we’ve already seen some of that the days after the summit.  There are, I think, over 30 related events that independent organizations are hosting.  I think we’ve seen some organizations take advantage of the summit to make their own commitments in how they’re going to advance entrepreneurship.

And the last point I'd make is that in terms of how we’ve approached this, I think both the panels -- and you heard from my colleague about the USG folks that are on there -- and kind of engagement on this really reflects the whole government focus that we’ve brought to this -- everybody from SBA to Commerce, State, USAID, OPIC, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Education, Labor, et cetera.  And I think that's one of the things that we wanted to do out of Cairo, and I think this is a tangible example of where we’ve kind of brought together the entire government to focus on an issue.

In terms of -- I don't know, do you want me to just move on?

MR. RHODES:  We can come back to that.  With that, let me just turn it over to my colleague here from the Commerce Department who will be a co-host of this event and can speak to the particular perspective of Commerce.

MR. SANCHEZ:  Thank you.  From a commercial perspective, the summit is going to focus on the important role that entrepreneurship can play in promoting economic growth, and in particular, in supporting job creation and community development.

It’s particularly important for the United States to forge strong trade and commercial ties with the Muslim-majority countries, and in fact, we already do have strong ties.  In 2008, total trade between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries exceeded $360 billion.

So I’m confident that we can build on that, and from this summit create partnerships that are going to be mutually beneficial and can support job creation and economic opportunity, both in the United States and overseas.  In an era when the American economy is tied to the global economy and when trade relationships and exports abroad help create jobs at home, it is very much in America’s economic interest to develop stronger, closer links between entrepreneurs both here in the U.S. and abroad.  So I look forward to taking any questions you might have.

MR. RHODES:  Great.  And before we move to questions, we’ll just turn to State to talk through the ways in which we are making this truly a global summit through some of our outreach activity -- 50 to 60 countries that will be represented here at the summit.

MS. MCHALE:  Thank you.  I’ll just sort of build on what everyone else has been saying, in terms of it.  The entrepreneurship summit and the whole concept of entrepreneurship is center -- the center part of our global engagement strategy.  And we believe quite strongly that this will allow us to sort of create a good foundation for long-term relationships and provide entrepreneurs with the resources and support that they need as they -- in the critical area of entrepreneurship, which as we all know leads to economic and social benefits around the world.

So our embassies -- I’m going to talk about three things that our embassies have been doing:  the lead-up to the event, what will be happening during the event, and then the follow-up, which frankly may be the most important part of it.

Leading up the event, as my colleague has mentioned, many of the embassies have had roundtables.  They were obviously very active in soliciting and submitting names of people to participate in the event.  They’ve had numerous activities reaching out to them, and media activities as well.

During the event itself, we will have live-streaming of all the major sessions over the Internet.  We’re also going to use all appropriate media wherever possible -- TV, radio.  Some of the things have already begun.  We’ve already had some blogs online, and we’re seeing that those are being pushed out beyond the government Web sites and being picked up by such outlets as and others.  So we’re going to look to do that.  We are going to have as much of the information as we can translated into multiple languages to maximize the impact.

A key focus obviously at the local level will be on the entrepreneurs from a particular country.  There has been enormous interest from the media in those countries in following the individuals who will be coming from their countries, both leading up to it and during the event, and, again, most importantly, after the event.

We want to continue the relationships that we’re making as part of this.  We want to continue in sustaining them long after the summit itself has concluded.  And so our embassies have a number of plans in place to be able to do that, including a very -- creating a very good and robust alumni network so that we can continue to stay connected with the entrepreneurs, provide them with the support and resources that they might need, help them connect with entrepreneurs that they have met at the summit and create a very lively, vibrant global network, which we think is going to benefit all of us as we go forward.

So with that, I will turn to back to my colleague.

MR. RHODES:  Great.  And with that we’d be happy to take any of your questions.

Q    One quick housekeeping, are your comments on the record?  And my question is, what specific criteria was used in selecting these entrepreneurs?  And are the majority of these guys who are coming Muslim?  I find that from India, out of the six, five are Muslim.  So would you say that 90 percent of them are Muslim?

And in that case, how would you sort of rebuff the contention that this is sort of a huge propaganda exercise by giving all of them a free trip and then hopefully getting them to go back and not be anti-American?  Is this sort of a huge propaganda reach-out exercise?

MR. RHODES:  Well, I’ll just speak to the second question.  First of all, I’ll just speak to the second question.  First of all, yes, my comments are on the record.  But I’ll speak to your question and then I think my colleague can speak to some more detail on the selection process criteria.

First of all, as it relates to those who were invited, more broadly -- and again, I think my colleague can speak to the specifics of it -- but we put no restriction on religion.  And there are actually a diversity of religions that will be represented among the participants.  The United States government, for instance, doesn’t query people about their religious background as we pursue people’s participation in events like this.

However, this was a particular commitment of the President’s coming out of the Cairo speech, focused on deepening engagement with Muslim-majority countries and communities around the world.  So therefore the countries and, in some instances, regions of countries that were queried and represented in the outreach that we did in building a participants list was focused on Muslim-majority countries or countries with large Muslim minorities.

The geographic diversity is global, though.  It spans from the Middle East to North Africa to Southeast Asia to Europe to Latin America.  So we have a very global representation.  So we couldn’t even tell you what the precise breakdown is in terms of religious affiliation.  But what we can say is that we believe that, again, the majority of the participants will come from Muslim-majority communities, but we’ll also have a broad diversity of folks at the summit.

And, again, before my colleague speaks a little bit more in detail about the selection criteria, I’d just say that this is not simply an exercise in public outreach or public diplomacy.  We believe that this is the beginning of forging kind of very tangible partnerships in a critical area -- entrepreneurship.  And that, frankly, it’s a part of America’s leadership around the world to do so.

You heard my colleague from Commerce speak to the benefits to the United States and the world that come from economic growth and the kind of partnerships that come from entrepreneurship.  But I think that when you look at U.S. leadership over many decades, one of the things that has been a very positive force for American leadership around the world is the role that we’ve played in catalyzing economic growth and fostering economic development.  And we want to get in the business of forging partnerships that can help catalyze entrepreneurship and economic growth in many different places around the world.  And that the kinds of networks that come out of this kind of summit, these can be the basis for continued cooperation going forward.  And I think what you’d expect to see is the United States cooperating on a bilateral basis with many countries on entrepreneurship issues, on a multi-lateral basis in some instances.

I think you’ll see other countries take an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship.  I think, for instance, just to take one example, Indonesia is taking an acute interest in carrying forward some of the momentum generated by the summit.  And, frankly, I think you’d see an extraordinary amount of activity in the private sector among foundations in carrying forward on the promise represented by the summit.

So this is part of a very long-term program.  We, of course, want to ensure that our efforts are effectively understood, which is why we're going to make a very active effort to communicate back to countries that have participants about what we're doing.  But we really want to follow up in a concrete way in carrying forward the initiatives of the summit so that one of the things that the United States is part of doing in all of these countries is sponsoring entrepreneurship, which, again, is a part of our leadership.  It’s in our own interests and it’s in the interests of the kind of individuals who are attending the summit; it’s in the interests of the communities that they’re coming from to catalyze economic growth.

So it’s a win-win proposition for all of those who are involved in the summit, for the United States and for the countries who will have participants at the summit.

Do you want to talk a little bit more about the selection criteria?

MR. RAMAMURTHY:  So the participants are selected in two ways.  We asked embassies in obviously over 50 countries to kind of identify from their countries the highest potential entrepreneurs and those successful entrepreneurs kind of in those kind of spaces -- not just the most successful, but people that are younger and have the highest potential.  In addition to that, we had a Web site where we took applications and nominations from around the world, and that was a publicly available Web site which we had announced back in the fall.

And so I think the majority of the participants that we have come from those two processes.  And we looked at the nominations -- and obviously we got far more nominations than we could actually accommodate -- and we talked to, worked with entrepreneurs that are currently in our government to kind of -- experts outside of it -- to figure out kind of the right combination of criteria to include -- to look through some of those nominations and I think we are roughly at around 250 that we extended invitations to.  So those are the two processes.

And in addition to that, we added a few dozen folks to make sure that we had people that -- from that surrounding ecosystem:  educators, foundations, philanthropists and folks that could help nurture that environment.

Q    Thank you very much for doing this.  We are from Alhurra TV.  Did you know the majority of Muslim nations represented in this summit refuse to have any relations, business-level-wise, with Israel, also represented here?  How much of an impediment is this to achieving the goals of the summit?  And will this issue be discussed, addressed during the summit, at least from a business trade or commercial perspective, in the absence of political leaders?

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  I'll just make a couple of comments about this.  We believe, again, that this summit is focused on the kinds of economic and entrepreneurial partnerships that can be forged between the United States and other countries, but of course among the kinds of participants who will be coming themselves.  We have participants coming from Israel as well as over 50 other countries.  Israel of course is a very dynamic and entrepreneurial country and we believe has a unique view of catalyzing entrepreneurship, given, again, the economic growth that they’ve demonstrated.

Again, this is not a summit focused on political issues.  It’s focused on entrepreneurial issues, so we believe that this is an area where people can work together to serve their mutual interests.  So we would not anticipate that that would in any way be an impediment to a robust discussion of the kinds of issues that we’ll be addressing through the panels and through the summit.

So we hope to have this be an opportunity to foster positive partnerships and to move together on issues that are undeniably of common interests to people from many countries, whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Israel, whether it’s -- and all of the other countries that will be represented through the participants who will be there.

MR. SANCHEZ:  And if I could add that economic growth is not entirely dependent on political cooperation.  That’s certainly a part of it.  But you need the entrepreneurs.  You need the people in the business community to really make things happen.  And so a big part of this is bringing people from all over the world who will contribute to that foundation of entrepreneurship and economic growth.

Q    Thank you.  Some of the participants who come from Arab countries also come from heavily government and controlled states.  How do you expect them to go back and implement what they have learned here when you have heavy-handed government interference and regulations?

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  Well, I’d say a couple things for starters.  It’s a very good question.  I’d say, first of all, as my colleagues have said and I have said, that we made a very conscious choice to have this be focused on individuals, on people-to-people exchanges, if you will, rather than simply just having governments represented at the summit.

So we wanted to make it -- and similarly, we didn’t simply want to invite major business leaders.  We wanted to have a combination of important business leaders, but also smaller and medium-sized entrepreneurs, younger people just getting started.  And what we wanted to do is use the summit to address both the positive models of entrepreneurship that have worked in different places, but to address in a very direct way some of the obstacles to entrepreneurship around the world.

And so what we believe is that the summit will provide a forum for people who face different obstacles depending on where they’re coming from.  And I think there are obstacles to entrepreneurship in every country and every region of the world.  Those obstacles can be unique and can range from the cultural environment, the societal environment, or the political environment.  And that by coming together, by addressing those, by addressing how those are dealt with in different places, that it can help entrepreneurs overcome challenges, learn from their peers and their peers’ experience in different parts of the world.

In some instances, given the U.S. government participation, learn from the kinds of models of success that have worked in the United States and forge connections, frankly, that can empower people, because one of the things that the summit will do is connect people to other entrepreneurs, to foundations, to other non-NGOs.

So we believe that the kind of tough issues, some of which you highlighted in your question, will certainly be matters of discussion, and that the best way to help people begin to overcome any barriers to entrepreneurship is to have a robust opportunity to address those issues, to learn from one another, and to pursue solutions that can help empower them going forward.

But, again, this is a long -- this is a process that will take some time.  Different countries are in different stages of economic development.  And different countries have different contexts to entrepreneurship.  What we’re trying to do is within that context find the models that can empower people for success.

MS. MCHALE:  I’ll just sort of add into it -- and I think you’ve basically covered everything.  My observation has been -- from all the entrepreneurs that I’ve met around the world -- that they tend to be the innovative and creative individuals -- among the most creative and innovative individuals in their societies.  And I think the great benefit of this particular summit is the opportunity to come and to connect with individuals in other areas who may have faced similar circumstances so that they can develop new resources, find new models for going forward.

But I have absolutely no doubt that all of the people we've invited, no matter what the circumstances, are ones who are willing to confront them.  They understand them.  They are looking for solutions to the problems within their countries, because they’re very focused on the growth of their companies and ultimately the growth of their country.

MR. RAMAMURTHY:  I just want to add a couple things.  Just by way of some of the panelists’ biographies -- there’s a woman that's coming from, I think, Afghanistan, and to echo my colleague’s point, during the era of Taliban rule, I mean if you can think about a situation where there’s an authoritarian, repressive government, during the era of Taliban rule, the woman basically set up a tailoring company so they could find a way of getting resources to help develop her own community.

And similarly, you take another situation -- we have several entrepreneurs coming from Somalia who are doing really incredible work there.  So I think, as my colleague said, there are obstacles to entrepreneurship everywhere, ranging, obviously -- and I think you could take obviously a situation like Afghanistan under the Taliban is on one end of that spectrum, and I think my colleague’s point that entrepreneurs can find their way even in the toughest of circumstances I think is an important point.

The other issue I would just mention is that a lot of -- there is a panel that's focused on kind of how government can better enable entrepreneurship.  And that's being led by our SBA Administrator and includes Mo Ibrahim, for example, who has talked quite a bit about this over the years.

The absolute last point I would make on this is that we of the U.S. government also work with a lot of countries, actually through a partnership between State and the Department of Commerce called the Commercial Law Development program, to kind of assist other countries in developing legal frameworks and policy frameworks that encourage the development of commerce -- small business entrepreneurship, et cetera.

Q    Thanks for doing this call.  I have one question just about what happens after the conference is over?  Are you giving some seed money to business entrepreneurs?  How are you going to connect to them or help them establish their business or to go ahead with the (inaudible)?

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  I'll just make a number of comments here.  I think that what you’ll see out of the U.S. government is, on Monday and Tuesday at the summit we’ll have a set of specific announcements about support that the United States government is going to provide in the space of entrepreneurship.  That will cut across a number of different agencies.  It will range from programs at the Department of State and USAID, which are very active in entrepreneurship, to Commerce, and OPIC and others who also can play a role in catalyzing growth around the world.  So first there will be specific U.S. government initiatives that are tied to entrepreneurship.

Secondly, though, and I think this is more important in many respects, is catalyzing momentum around entrepreneurship among non-governmental actors and other governments, as well.  And so what we want to see is -- for instance, you heard my colleague say it, I think there will be something like -- on the order of 30 events in Washington alone related to entrepreneurship in the days following the summit.  It will be an opportunity for people to continue the discussion, to continue to get connected to one another, to continue to connect to the kinds of NGOs, private sector, foundation kind of support that can foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Similarly, we expect there to be announcements of follow-on summits in other countries down the line so that there is continued follow-up in this area, and that that follow-up is in different regions.

And so this is kind of one -- an important step in a process.  The U.S. government is using the convening power of the President and the United States to bring together a very dynamic and diverse group of entrepreneurs from over 50 countries here.  We’re going to put some commitment of the U.S. government behind this effort.  We have our own announcements, but we’re also trying to catalyze efforts by others, going forward.

And I'll turn it over to, I think, my colleague in Commerce.

MR. SANCHEZ:  Yes, and just to add that Commerce will be organizing or assisting about 25 commercial missions.  About half of those will be outgoing to many of the countries that are participating.  About a dozen of them will be incoming from countries that are going -- all of this intended to foster stronger commercial and trade ties.

MS. MCHALE:  And I'll just sort of add I think we all well understand that entrepreneurs, one of the things that they’re looking for is access to capital to grow their companies.

And so that has been -- as we’ve looked at this, that's one of the factors that we factored in, in terms of the information of that and resources that we are going to try to provide to them; how do they actually go about and do that and what are those resources.

And I think we’re also reaching out to the private sectors to try and engage them.  And there will be some announcement about that as we go forward in the way of creating networks of opportunity for the entrepreneurs participating in the event.

And then very quickly on the follow-up, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, we are going to be building a very robust alumni network so they can stay connected with each other and that we can continue to feed into that network access to information with respect to access to capital amongst other things.  So we’re well aware that this is a key need for them, and it will be, as my colleague says, the first step in a process.

MR. RHODES:  Yes, and I'll just say one other thing before we go to the next question.  The range of countries and places that we expect to see follow on is very diverse.  The interests that we’ve already gotten from governments or from private-sector actors or NGOs range from Indonesia, to the United Arab Emirates, to Iraq, to Algeria, to Bahrain, France, Kyrgyzstan.

So I think what you’ll see is an announcement of many different follow-on actions and conferences and summits hosted again by governments, by business councils, by universities.  So we’re setting in motion here -- we hope to be a very broad and sustained process that can support entrepreneurship, foster economic opportunities, and deepen ties among the United States and the many Muslim-majority countries that are represented here at the summit.

Q    There’s something I just want you to clarify for me.  I understand that this comes as part of President Obama’s speech in Cairo, the whole idea of new beginnings.  But the actual idea of entrepreneurship and developing opportunity is really -- and the huge amount of countries that are involved in this -- really have very little to do with the idea of them being from Muslim-majority countries with ties to Muslim.  So isn’t imposing a religious context or, you know, the fact that this is Muslim-majority countries imposing almost like a false category onto it?

MR. RHODES:  No, it’s a good question.  I don’t think so at all.  I think the President in Cairo, again, was focused on a new beginning in which the United States and Muslim-majority countries and communities could both work together to address issues of intense political concern.  And again, he addressed them in the speech, and we continue to address them every single day related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, related to ending the war in Iraq, related to al Qaeda, for instance.

He also, however, wanted to lay out -- chart a course, essentially, for deepening our partnership in a range of areas where we really saw the potential for mutual benefit and common interest between the United States and Muslim-majority countries and communities.  And we, again, focused out of -- coming out of the Cairo speech on several areas that were both areas that the United States takes a particular interest in and areas that, as my colleague said, we heard back from our embassies and consulates in many Muslim-majority countries.  Their canvassing and their listening to communities found that there was great interest in cooperation on issues such as science and technology, issues such as entrepreneurship, issues such as public health and education.

So as it relates to entrepreneurship in particular, this is an issue where the United States sees entrepreneurship as an area where we have a deep amount of experience and expertise and a deep interest in fostering entrepreneurship, and it’s something that we seek to do around the world.

In this instance, given that perspective, we saw it as an area where there was great potential for the United States to increase our partnership with the Muslim-majority countries.  I think the point here is that our engagement was not deep enough in this area and so that when we assessed how the United States is engaged in many Muslim-majority countries around the world we saw a potential to increase our partnership on issues related to entrepreneurship.

So what the summit really is intended to do is to take an issue on which we work around the world and to jumpstart and deepen that engagement in Muslim-majority countries, which is why the list of participants and the countries that they come from represent those nations with Muslim majorities or large Muslim-minority populations because, again, we see this as an area to develop over an extended period of time deepening ties that will help serve the interests of those communities that are represented through their participants and serve the mutual interest of the United States and countries around the world in terms of economic growth and commerce that is fostered by entrepreneurship.

So, again, it ties very much to Cairo and the “new beginning” because it represents a deepening of cooperation in an area of mutual interest, which is entrepreneurship, and it also represents something that the United States sees as a part of our efforts around the globe related to engagement with people as well as governments, which is fostering entrepreneurship.

So, again, I'd just underscore that we see it as a win-win issue for all involved -- the participants, the countries and communities that they’re coming from, and the United States working in partnership with them.

MR. RAMAMURTHY:  Yes, I just wanted to -- the question before about access to capital was an important one, but I also wanted to just -- one final point.

Entrepreneurs need a lot of help and assistance, not just access to capital but also technical assistance is critical to them in terms of these other resources that they need, everything from putting a business plan together to establishing good financial records and accounting.  And both USAID and OPIC will be working with them on that, again, and other resources that we have.

But my final comment is I wanted to stress again the importance that we place on this as an opportunity to sort of bring people together with their American counterparts, frankly, to sort of -- as a key to strengthening our relationships with people around the world, but also unleashing new economic growth and opportunity both within the United States and in countries around the world.

MR. RHODES:  And I'd just say a couple of things.  I want to thank everybody for getting on the call.  Frankly, I think the diversity of regions represented in the media outlets we took questions from I think is positive in its own right and suggests the global nature of what we're trying to do here.

We're happy to help all of you going forward as you have questions about the summit.  We expect to be releasing a series of fact sheets, remarks and paper to supplement the summit, which will be live-streamed, so you will all have access to that even if you're not going to be here in person covering it. 

And again, I'd just underscore that we're very much looking forward to this as an opportunity -- as a step in a process of forging deeper and positive partnerships between the United States and Muslim communities around the world.  This is a priority of the President’s, which is why he included it in his Cairo speech and why he assured that there would be the follow-up on that commitment with this summit.  And we'll be continuing it going forward across our government and many, many countries around the world.

So thanks to everybody for joining the call.  And we look forward to keeping you informed about what’s taking place at the summit in the days ahead.

2:50 P.M. EDT


** This transcript has been corrected.