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Speeches and Testimony

Remarks as prepared: A New Approach to Foreign Assistance at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference

January 16, 2019 | Washington, D.C.

Ray W. Washburne

President and Chief Executive Officer

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

 

(As Prepared)

It’s a great honor to be here today. Since I joined OPIC a year and a half ago, I’ve spent much of my time on the road, visiting the countries you represent. Everywhere I go, I see the invaluable work all of you do promoting American values and advancing American interests.

Today I want to visit with you about the ways America’s diplomats serve as key partners in helping OPIC advance development around the world. As you know, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation works to mobilize investment in development in almost 100 emerging market countries. The places where we work are often challenging business environments and the investors and businesses we partner with depend on the support of the U.S. Government to help them navigate these challenges.

OPIC is a small agency with just a few hundred employees in Washington, and we draw invaluable support from all of you, as well as USAID. It is your presence on the ground, your deep knowledge of local country conditions and your skill negotiating with host country governments, that gives investors the confidence to embark on ambitious projects – from power plants in Africa to hospitals in Asia. We call on you frequently and your support has helped us achieve a positive impact in the lives of so many people around the world.

The United States brings a variety of financial tools to foreign assistance and OPIC understands that investment is one of those essential soft diplomacy tools. Investment is key to building the critical infrastructure that so much of the world needs -- but that is not all. Investment creates jobs, it empowers individuals, and it serves as a stabilizing force in fragile states.

OPIC has a long and successful history of mobilizing private investment.

Since I joined OPIC, I’ve identified several key regions and sectors of focus. Our 2X Women’s Initiativehas mobilized more than $1 billion in projects to benefit women in emerging markets.

Our Northern Triangle Initiative is focused on mobilizing investment in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. I want to thank Ambassador Arreaga in Guatemala, Ambassador Manes in El Salvador and Chargé Heide Fulton in Honduras for hosting me and for their guidance.

With the help of Ambassador Foote in Zambia, Chargé Lapenn in South Africa, and so many others, OPIC’s Connect Africa Initiative is investing in sectors such as technology and value chains that will promote connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world. And with the help of Ambassador Hagerty in Japan, we’ve formed partnerships with our allies including Japan and Australia to support increased investment in infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific.

This Administration has always recognized that investment in development is an investment in American foreign policy and American competitiveness, and a key part of our national security strategy.

Last fall, President Trump signed the BUILD Act into law, ushering in an exciting new era for American foreign policy. OPIC is in the process of transforming itself into the U.S. Development Finance Corporation. We’re calling it the DFC. The DFC will have – in addition to debt and political risk insurance – new tools such as equity authority, as well as a $60 billion investment cap, which is more than double OPIC’s current threshold. We’ll also be combining OPIC with other development finance functions in the U.S. Government, including USAID's Development Credit Authority, which has a long and successful history of investing in emerging markets.

This larger, stronger U.S. Development Finance Corporation will be able to invest more in development, and have an even greater impact in places around the world where investment in development is so badly needed. And that means, we’ll be working more closely with all of you.

As we work to source quality projects, the input of everyone in this room is invaluable. You all are my sales organization for this new DFC. OPIC is open for business in 160 countries and the best projects will come from all of you who understand these countries and their needs.

The developing world faces many challenges. And the United States has a significant undertaking working to help address those challenges and strengthen economies and advance American foreign policy. It’s an honor to work with all of you and I look forward to collaborating in the future.