U.S. food programs help children and farmers worldwide

U.S. food assistance programs are feeding children around the world and helping farmers in developing countries boost productivity.

The United States, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food for Progress Program, delivered more than $351 million in food aid to developing nations in fiscal year 2019, providing meals for 4.1 million children, according to the USDA’s International Food Assistance Report. The 2019 fiscal year ran from October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019.

“These contributions helped provide school meals and supported capacity building initiatives that improved agricultural production and economic expansion in developing nations,” USDA says in the report issued November 24.

USDA’s food aid programs also promote agricultural trade and bolster the United States as a preferred trade partner.

Aid distributed through USDA food assistance programs in FY 2019 reached more than 4.4 million people in 45 countries in Asia, Africa and South and Central America.

Working through volunteer and international organizations, USDA’s various programs fund school meals and nutrition programs around the world and offer training and technical assistance to boost farmers’ productivity.

USDA’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program provides food and helps developing countries create sustainable school meal programs. In FY 2019, agreements under the program brought $198 million in aid to nine countries including Cambodia, Haiti, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique and Uzbekistan.

USDA’s Food for Progress program, which seeks to boost farmers’ productivity and expand access to markets, worked in 33 countries in FY 2019, facilitating access to more than $131 million in agricultural financing and leading nearly 187,000 people to use improved farming practices or advanced technologies.

In Ghana, for example, Food for Progress helped 7,641 poultry farmers reduce production costs and earn more than $128 million in sales. The program’s aid also supported Indonesian spice farmers’ efforts to ensure their products meet the standards of international markets.


U.S. moves to protect investors from China’s firms

The People’s Republic of China has long prohibited Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges from complying with U.S. regulatory requirements designed to protect investors, claiming compliance would violate PRC laws on national security information.

The failure to meet basic disclosure requirements has enabled companies like Luckin Coffee Inc. to mislead investors. In April, the Beijing-based coffee shop chain admitted to overstating revenues by more than $300 million, a scandal that cost investors when the company’s stock price collapsed, Reuters reports.

The Trump administration has proposed new requirements that would protect investors by ensuring that companies listed on U.S. exchanges disclose audit information with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The U.S. Congress established the PCAOB, a nonprofit corporation, to promote accurate and independent auditing.

The recommendations “will increase investor protection and level the playing field for all companies listed on U.S. exchanges,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in an August 6 statement. “The United States is the premier jurisdiction in the world for raising capital, and we will not compromise on the core principles that underpin investor confidence in our capital markets.”

The recommendations unveiled August 6 call for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure Chinese-based companies comply with the same disclosure requirements as other foreign firms listed on U.S. exchanges, including providing PCAOB with the access and information needed to perform audits as required by U.S. law.

The PCAOB establishes standards for public accounting firms and monitors audits for compliance with those standards. The board also investigates and takes action against companies that fail to comply.

The PCAOB conducts oversight of audits of companies based in the United States and numerous other countries, including Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Yet the PRC has long prevented companies that are either based in China or have major operations there from following U.S. requirements for protecting investors, according to a June 4 presidential memo calling for U.S. officials to review and address the problem. The PRC recently passed a law forbidding companies from disclosing audit information without prior consent of Chinese regulators.

In the memo, President Trump says companies around the world list on U.S. stock exchanges to attract investors. But those investors trust that financial information on listed companies is accurate and that U.S. regulators will quickly address fraud.

“It is both wrong and dangerous for China to benefit from our capital markets without complying with critical protections that investors in those markets rightfully expect and deserve,” Trump said. “We must ensure that laws providing protections for investors in American financial markets are fully enforced for companies listed on United States stock exchanges.”


U.S. acts to protect investors from Beijing’s military fundraising

President Trump is moving to prevent certain Chinese firms from exploiting U.S. capital markets to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s military, security and espionage objectives and capabilities.

Beijing “is increasingly exploiting United States capital to resource and to enable the development and modernization of its military, intelligence and other security apparatuses,” Trump said in a November 12 executive order.

The order deems the People’s Republic of China’s military-industrial complex an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, foreign policy and economy and declares a national emergency to address that threat.

The action prohibits U.S. individuals and entities from conducting transactions in publicly traded securities of companies the U.S. government has designated “Communist Chinese Military Companies.” The order also prohibits transactions in securities that are derivative of or otherwise related to such securities.

The 31 companies designated to date include the China Communications Construction Company, which is advancing the PRC’s military expansion into the South China Sea, and the telecommunication firm Huawei, which U.S. officials say poses significant risks to global data integrity and privacy and facilitates Beijing’s repressive policies in Xinjiang province.

“Many of these companies are publicly traded on stock exchanges around the world, and individual investors in the United States can unknowingly provide funds to them through passive institutional investment vehicles such as mutual funds and retirement plans,” U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in a November 12 statement.

The executive order notes that through its national military-civil fusion strategy, Beijing compels civilian Chinese companies to support its military and intelligence activities. Chinese companies are required by law to comply with PRC demands to turn over technology and information to which they have access.

The prohibition on transactions in securities related to designated companies will go into effect January 11, 2021, and companies and investors will have until November 2021 to divest their portfolios that existed before the order.

In July and August, the U.S. Department of State urged universities and businesses to divest from Chinese companies that contribute to CCP human rights abuses and intellectual property theft.


USAID helps hurricane survivors in Central and South America

Since Hurricanes Iota and Eta tore through Central and South America in November, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated nearly $48 million in humanitarian assistance to help storm-affected families in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“Our prayers are with the people of Central America and Colombia suffering from the impacts of Hurricanes Iota and Eta,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said on Twitter on November 21. “The people of the U.S. are behind you.”

Both hurricanes have affected more than 7 million people in Central America alone.

To lead the U.S. government response, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team that has been on the ground since November 17 in Central and South America. Team members have assessed damage, identified priority needs and coordinated with local authorities and humanitarian partners to provide aid.

In the beginning phases of the response, many communities in Guatemala and Honduras were isolated due to storm damage and became extremely difficult to reach.

USAID requested the special capabilities of the U.S. Department of Defense to transport supplies to communities in need. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement office, in cooperation with Guatemala’s Aerial Task Force for Counter-narcotics and Counter-terrorism Interdiction, flew 99 helicopter missions delivering  46,000 kilograms of supplies to 30 communities.

In support of the USAID-led response efforts, U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force–Bravo flew 364 missions, delivering more than 257 metric tons of food, water, hygiene kits, and other relief supplies over the course of 28 days. The U.S. ship USAV Chickahominy transported heavy machinery provided by the government of Colombia to the hurricane-affected Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andrés.

USAID is providing immediate lifesaving aid to people in the affected countries, including food, hygiene kits, safe drinking water, sleeping mats and basic household items like blankets and kitchen sets.

USAID is also working with partners to lay the groundwork for people to return home and start early recovery efforts.

On December 2, USAID announced it was sending an additional 280 rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting to provide emergency shelter for 17,000 people in Honduras who are still without homes.

USAID has also focused efforts in:

  • Colombia, where USAID flights helped the government of Colombia deliver 190 metric tons of relief supplies.
  • Guatemala, where 11,150 people received cash assistance; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support; and shelter materials to help rebuild homes.
  • Nicaragua, where 47,500 people received WASH assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a USAID partner.

“It is a core American value to help those in need,” senior USAID official John Barsa said in a December 3 statement, “and as the world’s humanitarian leader, the United States remains committed to providing lifesaving assistance to people affected by the hurricanes.”


U.S. works with partners to protect global supply chains

The United States is working with partners to ensure global supply chains stay flexible and resilient and are not overly dependent on any one source of manufacturing or production.

Supply chains are the threads that tie the global economy together. Supply chains carry parts to factories around the world and products to stores and homes.

But when too many of these global supply chains are connected to one country they can be easily disrupted or abused.

This problem was made especially clear during COVID-19, when disruptions in China led to shortages in medical supplies all over the world. And it was made even worse by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) undemocratic one-party rule.

That is why the United States is working with like-minded partners to ensure that global supply chains are stronger and more reliable as it mobilizes its vast resources to support the global economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the risks of overreliance on single suppliers of goods critical to national security,” said a U.S. Department of State fact sheet on the importance of supply chains. “To protect our businesses and overall prosperity, we must diversify global supply chains,” it added.

U.S. GEAR strategy will help countries rebuild

The work to diversify supply chains is part of the State Department’s Global Economic Activity and Recovery (GEAR) strategy, a broad effort to use the strength of the U.S. economy to help countries rebuild after the pandemic.

The GEAR strategy will facilitate “rapid growth and spur economic recovery that will directly benefit our citizens and the rest of the world,” said Sarah Weber, a senior adviser in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

The strategy also focuses on restoring international transportation and travel networks, supporting U.S. businesses, promoting U.S. exports, deploying financial tools for economic recovery, and enabling food trade and security in the wake of the pandemic’s disruptions.

It builds on the United States’ leadership in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes billions of dollars invested in humanitarian aid, public health and Operation Warp Speed, which has led to the development of safe and effective vaccines.

These developments have helped strengthen commercial ties with U.S. companies and given a boost to developing economies in countries like Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.

Risks of doing business with the People’s Republic of China

The GEAR strategy is not the first time the United States has urged businesses and international partners to look closely at their supply chains in China.

In July the U.S. government released the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory and issued an open letter to business leaders whose supply chains are connected to the PRC and who do business with PRC firms that support the CCP’s campaign of forced labor, mass internment, and repression against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.

The CCP has also abused the PRC’s position in global supply chains, including withholding raw materials from other countries during political disputes.

To preserve and promote security, resilience and prosperity, countries and businesses should prioritize supply chains in countries “where the rule of law is respected and where institutions are accountable to citizens and consumers, rather than countries with a record of predatory economic policies,” the State Department fact sheet said.


America launches strategy to reignite global economy

The United States has launched a strategy to mobilize its vast resources to support global economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of State’s Global Economic Activity and Recovery (GEAR) strategy will support this broader effort by enabling food trade and security, deploying financial tools for economic recovery, supporting U.S. exporters and investors abroad, and helping restore international transportation and travel.

“Our aim is to poise the U.S. economy for rapid growth and spur economic recovery that will directly benefit our citizens and the rest of the world,” says Sarah Weber, a senior adviser in the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

The United States has led the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, allocating more than $12 billion for global health-security initiatives; development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapies and diagnostics; humanitarian aid; and emergency preparedness.

As a world leader in innovation, the United States is also well poised to spur economic recovery. The World Intellectual Property Organization, in its Global Innovation Index 2020 report, ranked the United States among the top three most innovative economies.

American innovation, along with U.S. government support, has played a key role in the development of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates that appear highly effective in clinical trials at preventing infection.

Under the GEAR strategy, economic recovery decisions will rely on evidence-based analysis of the harms caused by the pandemic. The United States will work with industry and international partners to implement measures such as health screening, testing and social distancing at travel hubs, in airports and on airplanes.

The pandemic also revealed risks of over-reliance on single countries for critical supplies, such as medical or telecommunications equipment, U.S. officials say. The GEAR strategy supports existing U.S. efforts, such as the Clean Network, and U.S. warnings that partner nations cannot rely on China’s untrustworthy fifth-generation telecommunications vendors like Huawei, which pose significant security risks.

Through the Deal Team initiative, the U.S. government coordinates the efforts of 14 U.S. agencies to support American companies’ business and investment abroad to bolster countries’ economic and development goals.

“We must diversify global supply chains by prioritizing investment both here at home and in other countries where the rule of law is respected and where institutions are accountable to citizens and consumers,” State Department officials say. “We are regularly engaging with our allies and partners to discuss these imperatives and ensure we are working together to address global supply chain challenges.”


U.S. invests billions in Latin America

The U.S. government and private sector continue to invest in Latin America, spurring economic growth across many countries.

The U.S. private and public sectors remain the leading business partner in the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Central and South America. Through its América Crece initiative, the U.S. government is partnering with governments to attract private-sector investment in several areas of infrastructure, including energy, transportation and telecommunications across the region.

Trade between the United States and the Western Hemisphere totals nearly $2 trillion annually, according to Michael Kozak, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

“We support entrepreneurship and free enterprise. We believe in transparency and procurements that go to the best bidder,” Kozak said September 1. “And we expect our investors will respect laws on corruption, labor standards, worker safety and the environment. Not every country can say that.”

Since the initiative was launched in 2018 and expanded in 2019, 10 countries have signed América Crece agreements with the U.S., including El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras and Bolivia.

To support efforts under América Crece, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) recently announced its intent to catalyze up to $2 billion in investment in Honduras and Guatemala. This funding will bolster critical infrastructure and support small businesses in Honduras and development projects in Guatemala.

The DFC plans to invest over $12 billion across Central America over the next five years, Kozak said.

And these investments are even more important to help nations recover economically from COVID-19 in the long term.

Under América Crece, the United States has established a program to facilitate bilateral, technical exchanges on economic topics.

The United States led a technical delegation to Ecuador on data privacy, to Peru on infrastructure procurement, and to Peru and Colombia on the digital economy and 5G network security.

As part of the initiative, the United States also hosted a seminar on cybersecurity in the electricity sector in Panama, as well as a panel discussion on promoting energy diversification and resilience in the Caribbean to spur increased investment in that region.

The United States has partnered with Argentina to support offshore safety and governance and with Peru to support sustainable development of energy mineral resources in line with international best practices.

The DFC has enhanced its investment programs on economically empowering women in the region, surpassing its initial $500 million goal and committing to catalyzing an additional $500 million.

In December 2019, the United States expanded its Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership by dedicating $10 million to Latin America and the Caribbean. The partnership is an effort to promote an open, reliable, interoperable and secure internet across the globe.

“The United States will continue to be the partner of choice in helping the region overcome this challenge,” Kozak said, “but with or without COVID, growth is the essential condition for cementing democratic institutions and completing the vision of the hemisphere of freedom.”


The changing face of the American heartland

Whether it’s for reasonably priced housing, higher-end jobs or proximity to the nexuses of manufacturing and technology, Americans are relocating to cities in the U.S. heartland.

The movement, especially appreciable among young adults and immigrants, places Midwestern cities among the fastest-growing in the United States — outside Florida and the Southeast coast — according to a report from the journal American Affairs.

The heartland, said to be where traditional values rule, is geographically the central portion of the country, not bordered by the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The report notes that the fastest-growing heartland cities are Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; the Dallas-Forth Worth region of Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Houston; Indianapolis; and Nashville, Tennessee.

Nearly 15 percent of the population around Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest city, is between 25 and 35 years old. Des Moines’ pull on young adults helps put it seventh in size among the 54 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas with populations between 500,000 and 1 million. Close to 53 percent of Des Moines’ millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have earned at least a two-year associate degree.

Other heartland cities — in Texas, Michigan and Tennessee — are attracting educated millennials at a higher rate than major cities on the East and West coasts, the journal says. General Motors’ recent move to produce autonomous vehicles in the Detroit area underlines the unique technical skills in demand in the Midwest, an area known for industrial expertise.

The National Association of Realtors says that, in addition to Des Moines, four other heartland cities rank among the top 10 magnets for millennials in general: Grand Rapids, Michigan; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Nebraska; and El Paso, Texas.

American Affairs cites several companies locating facilities in the heartland and contributing to the population boom. Elon Musk is moving more SpaceX operations to Texas and has pledged to install an electric-vehicle factory in a semi-rural area near Austin. Apple opened a campus in the suburbs of Austin. And Uber Technologies built its second-largest office in the Dallas-Forth Worth region.

Meanwhile, the journal says, the Midwest has become a prime destination for immigrants. Newcomers to the U.S. are gaining a foothold as entrepreneurs in Ohio, for example, where they constitute one in five small-business owners.

A third group of American citizens moving to the heartland are Puerto Ricans. Companies in Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa are recruiting workers from Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States.


Baseball’s first female general manager makes history

Kim Ng made history when she was named the next general manager of the Miami Marlins baseball team on November 13.

Ng is the first female general manager of any Major League Baseball team in North America, making her the highest-ranking woman and Asian American in baseball history.

“I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see the outpouring of just pure joy for a lot of people,” Ng said in her first press conference as general manager. “It made me realize that it really was a glimmer of hope and inspiration for so many, that if you work hard and you persevere and you’re driven and you just keep going, that eventually your dream will come true.”

Baseball general managers are usually responsible for player recruitment and development, trades, and overall management of the team. They hire the staff to support the team, including all managers and coaches.

Ng said for her entire life she has looked up to women such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who have broken barriers and changed sports.

Ng has worked in Major League Baseball for more than 30 years. She got her first job as an intern with the Chicago White Sox after graduating from college. She has also worked for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.


How the U.S. promotes innovation for security and prosperity

As the world leader in technological innovation, the United States is working with international partners to advance a shared competitive edge.

The White House October 15 released the first National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies, outlining how the United States will support and lead global innovation in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to advanced computing and space technologies.

“The United States will maintain clear leadership in the highest priority C&ET [critical and emerging technologies] areas and invite its allies and partners to join in those efforts,” the strategy says.

The commitment to technological innovation comes as authoritarian regimes are dedicating significant resources and targeting sources of U.S. and allied strength in their pursuit to become global leaders in science and technology, the strategy says. It calls for protecting scientific and technological innovation from regimes that illicitly acquire intellectual property developed in the free world.

“The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology, coerce companies into handing over intellectual property, undercut free and fair markets, and surreptitiously divert emerging civilian technologies to build up their militaries.” — White House

The strategy focuses on two pillars of critical and emerging technology:

  1. Promoting the national security innovation base — to support development and innovation in academia, national labs and the private sector.
  2. Protecting technology advantages — to prevent strategic competitors from obtaining unfair advantages.

Each pillar of the strategy calls for working with international partners to develop norms and standards that protect sensitive technology and support democratic values.

The strategy credits U.S. innovation to a market-based approach that incentivizes new ideas and lays out a plan to collaborate with the private sector to invest in a strong science and technology workforce, build public-private partnerships and reduce regulations.

“Our market-oriented approach will allow us to prevail against state-directed models that produce waste and disincentivize innovation,” the strategy says.

“The United States, with its allies and partners who share common open, democratic, and market-oriented values, will continue to lead the world in [critical and emerging technologies].”