Donald Trump tells Justin Trudeau he wants to make America better for women entrepreneurs

The President said Canada and Europe were a place where women could thrive ‘big league’  

Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 13 February 2017 20:28 GMT
Mr Trump said the US must be a place where women can 'thrive' and manage demands from both work and family
Mr Trump said the US must be a place where women can 'thrive' and manage demands from both work and family

Donald Trump has promised to make the US a better working environment for women entrepreneurs, arguing that women play a "tremendous role" in the US.

Speaking at a roundtable of women executives, organised by his daughter Ivanka Trump, and sitting opposite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr Trump praised the "phenomenal" role that women executives played in his business.

"Women, as you know, and I can say that from my past life, I had so many women executives, they were phenomenal, phenomenal, and really helped me, and it was really fantastic," Mr Trump said.

"They play a tremendously important role, women in our economy."

"We must ensure our economy is a place where women can work and thrive and I think that’s a place where that is happening much more so. In Europe and Canada it’s happening big league," he added.

Mr Trudeau said the group needed to think about how to create more "paths to success" for women.

"Whenever I sit down with a woman executive, I know that she has had to overcome significant barriers that exist, and therefore is likely to have greater insight into helping up others, but also the formidable contributor to the success of the business and her economy," he continued.

"So, I think for me, it's not just about doing the right thing, it's about understanding that women in leadership positions is a very powerful leverage for success for business, for communities and for our entire economy."

While Mr Trudeau created a gender-balanced cabinet in 2015 and has often declared himself a feminist, Mr Trump has not been so warmly regarded by proponents of gender equality.

Alongside multiple accusations of sexual assault, which Mr Trump has strongly denied, Mr Trump also admitted that he regretted hiring his first wife, Ivana Trump, and claiming that he had never changed a diaper.

One of his first acts as President was to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which bans US aid for any foreign organisation that even talks about abortion. He is pro-life and critics fear he will roll back women's reproductive rights, preventing them from being able to contribute fully to the workforce if they cannot make decisions about their own bodes.

He has not expressed support for a gender-balanced cabinet and has never said he believes in gender equality.

"We need to make it easier for women to manage the demands of having a job and a family," he told the roundtable.

His daughter, Ivanka, is a mother of three children and she also runs her own business, as well as serving as an executive of the Trump Organisation. She stepped back from running her jewelry and fashion line while her father is President.

The White House gathering was expected to discuss maternity leave. Under a proposal crafted by his daughter, Mr Trump promised to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave if a woman’s company did not offer any form of cover, and the government would pay for the multi-billion dollar bill by targeting workplace insurance fraud.

"We need to think about how we level the playing field for this generation and the next," said Ivanka Trump at the meeting.

Mr Trudeau helps Ivanka Trump with her chair

Mr Trump’s and Mr Trudeau’s announcement to launch the council for women entrepreneurship was just one pit stop for the day, which included photo opportunities, meetings and a lunch at the White House.

The two leaders met with a smile and a handshake on Monday morning, and posed for a photo in the Oval Office in reported near silence as the cameras clicked.

"I think they want a handshake," Mr Trump said. The reporters were then ushered out.

The Canadian leader’s one day visit to Washington, including meeting House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, is viewed as critical for strengthening relations after an arguably frosty start.

Canadians were caught up in the confusion surrounding Mr Trump’s travel ban, signed 27 January, which barred nearly all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and did not clarify agreements around dual citizens, green card and visa holders.

Mr Trudeau posted a photo on the day of the ban of him kneeling beside a child refugee, with the caption “Welcome to Canada”.

Mr Trudeau has been pushed to speak against the travel ban, which has been temporarily halted by a federal court judge eight days after it was signed.

He also promised his citizens he would stand up for his beliefs when meeting Mr Trump.

Mr Trudeau has had his fair share of controversy in recent months. He was still reeling from several scandals, including elbowing a lawmaker in parliament and using a billionaire’s helicopter to jet his family to the Bahamas, when a young student burst into a mosque in Quebec, killing six.

Mr Trump was widely criticised for not making a public statement about the shooting, which was carried out against Muslims by a white man, but he did call Mr Trudeau on 30 January to talk about the incident.

In Washington on Monday, Mr Trudeau was accompanied by several key Canadian ministers, but not his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. Around 6pm, he was scheduled to fly back to Ottawa.

Mr Trump has also recently met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who he referred to as "Prime Minister Shinzo" on twitter.

He also met UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was pictured to grab her hand as they headed along a White House corridor together.

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