USCIB 2017 International Leadership Award Dinner Honors Mastercard CEO and Celebrates SDGs

The 2017 USCIB Award dinner at the United Nations. L-R: Terry McGraw (S&P Global), Ajay Banga (Mastercard and 2017 honoree), Amina Mohammed (United Nations), Peter Robinson (USCIB)

At last night’s USCIB 2017 International Leadership Award Dinner, USCIB members and representatives of the international community turned out to honor Mastercard President and CEO Ajay Banga and celebrate the private sector’s contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The dinner, which was held at United Nations headquarters in New York, drew over 220 high-level private sector individuals, UN dignitaries as well as press and featured keynote remarks by UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed.

“Business leaders are ever more eager to work with governments on the 2030 Development Agenda,” said Mohammed, praising the involvement and “sustained momentum” that has been achieved by the private sector to date. While urging the private sector to continue working towards the achievement of the goals by 2030, she also noted, “The UN itself needs to change since it has not yet fulfilled its full potential.”

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who gave welcoming remarks, highlighted 2017 milestones for the business community in aligning actions with the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda. “This has been a watershed year for American business in terms of focusing its attention on the importance of working effectively with international institutions – not just the UN, but also the G20, OECD, ILO and so many others,” said Robinson. “A key milestone came toward the end of last year, when the International Chamber of Commerce, one of three global business organizations for which USCIB serves as the American affiliate, won top-level Observer Status in the United Nations General Assembly.”

Terry McGraw, chairman of USCIB and chairman emeritus of McGraw Hill (now S&P Financial) echoed Robinson’s sentiments stating, “With elections and changing government leaders and priorities in the United States and literally around the world, it is more important than ever for business to stand up and continue to press forward an agenda that will strengthen important institutions and rules by which we work and trade.” McGraw also specifically acknowledged the role of the UN, noting, “To build a better world, we need institutions like the United Nations to function effectively and harmoniously, representing not just all of their member governments, but all interested stakeholders.”

Ajay Banga (Mastercard) and Eric Roston (Bloomberg News) engage in a fireside chat during the dinner

However the award honoree Banga emphasized that more needs to be done. “More than 2 billion adults around the world don’t have access to formal financial services, and the majority of them are women,” he said. “They have no way to do the things we take for granted – pay a bill, save money for a rainy day, borrow on reasonable terms. They are trapped in a cycle of poverty and faced with systemic barriers to the resources that would allow them change their situations and contribute to the growth and resilience of their communities. The private sector has a major responsibility and role to play in driving financial inclusion and, ultimately, inclusive growth, by bringing investment, innovation and scale to the table.”

The leadership award, which was established in 1980, is presented to a leading CEO, international figure or institution, and recognizes outstanding contributions to global trade, finance and investment, and to improving the global competitive framework in which American business operates. In honoring Banga, USCIB also recognized Mastercard’s leading work in global financial inclusion. Upon accepting the award, Banga was joined by Eric Roston, chief sustainability editor with Bloomberg News, for a “fireside chat” exploring Banga’s thoughts on business leadership and sustainability.

The gala event also served to showcase the private sector’s efforts to align its activities with the SDGs, including via a new video, spotlighting a number of USCIB member companies, for the Business for 2030 web platform launched by USCIB two years ago. Please visit www.Businessfor2030.org to learn more about what companies are doing to achieve the SDGs.

Banga’s other achievements include leadership roles as member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations and as a founding trustee of the U.S. – India Strategic Partnership Forum. He also served as a member of President Barack Obama’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity. Prior to Mastercard, Banga was chief executive of Citigroup’s Asia Pacific. He began his career at Nestle in India, where he also spent two years with PepsiCo.

Robinson Speaks on Private Sector Contribution to the SDGs

OECD Deputy Secretary General Mari Kiviniemi and USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

Over 40 business experts, including USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson, met with OECD governments and secretariat officials last week in Paris to discuss the role of the private sector in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). High-level speakers including OECD Development Assistance Committee Chair Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Secretary General Mari Kiviniemi and Robinson outlined the need for greater collaboration between public and private actors.

The meeting, which was organized in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) gave participants an opportunity to highlight what needs to improve for an enabling environment that can spur local business activity as a key mechanism for driving growth and development.

Robinson Fosters USCIB Ties in Geneva with ILO, WTO and UNCTAD

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson meets with James Zhan (UNCTAD) in Geneva

USCIB continues to travel the world, representing USCIB member companies and advocating for strong free-market policies.  With its unique global business network, USCIB is frequently the only U.S. business presence at important international conferences and meetings of international organizations in New York, Geneva and beyond.

Most recently, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson traveled to Geneva for important meetings at the International Labor Organization (ILO), specifically with their Governing Body and with Director General Guy Ryder. He also attended meetings at the International Organization of Employers (IOE), where he serves as member of the Management Board and vice president for North America. Additionally, Robinson met with representatives from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

At UNCTAD, Robinson met with Senior Director of the Investment and Entrepreneurship Division James Zhan to underline USCIB’s longstanding views on the importance of strong International Investment Agreements (IIAs) to help encourage and facilitate much-needed flows of private Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  USCIB’s Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly had been a strong, if sometimes lonely, voice for investment policies at UNCTAD’s October annual High-level Conference on International Investment Agreements.

While in Geneva, Robinson also met with the Ted Allegra, chargé d’affaires (the acting U.S. ambassador) at the U. S. Mission to Geneva-based UN agencies.  Robinson was able to lay out USCIB priorities, concerns, and policy recommendations  touching on a number of important Geneva organization – including ILO, WHO, Human Rights Commission and UNCTAD.  USCIB staff work closely with staff of the U.S. Mission on all these issues but it was important and timely for Robinson and Chargé Allegra to have a higher-level political discussion on these issues.  With no new U.S. Ambassador for Geneva in sight, the U.S. Mission will remain in the capable hands of Allegra as chargé. USCIB will be looking to organize an informal roundtable session for member companies with Allegra on one of his upcoming trips back to Washington.

USCIB Op-ed: It’s Time to Save NAFTA

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson has joined ICC Mexico Chair Maria Fernanda Garza and Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO Perrin Beatty in publishing an op-ed, “A trade deal in distress: It’s time to save NAFTA,” in The Hill.

The op-ed has also been published in Spanish in the Mexican newspaper El Economista.

The op-ed comes as negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico take stock following the most recent round of talks, which exposed divisions between the U.S. and its two neighbors on a variety of issues.

The three business leaders express their support of efforts to improve and modernize NAFTA. They also state their concern over proposals that they believe are inconsistent with the principles of free trade and free enterprise, calling them “a dramatic reversal of long-held U.S. trade policy objectives” that “would greatly restrict, rather than enhance, cross-border commerce.”

Please click here to read the op-ed in its entirety on The Hill’s website.

UNGA Events Promote Gender Equality, Tackle Child Labor

Last week’s UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York featured dozens of side-events organized by civil society, business and governments tackling pressing issues facing humanity in the 21st century, such as human rights, climate change and sustainable development.

USCIB President and CEO Peter M Robinson, who also serves as regional vice president for North America for the International Organization of Employers (IOE), advocated on behalf of IOE during several employer-organized side-events, including the launch of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC).

EPIC is a strategic multi-stakeholder partnership founded by the International Labor Organization (ILO), UN Women and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to assist UN Member States in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), specifically those that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Robinson spoke on a panel on “Drawing top talent for innovation and growth at leading businesses through equal pay policies”, alongside business leaders from IKEA, Accenture, Barclay’s, GAP and Catalyst. Robinson emphasized the compelling business and economic case for unleashing women’s skills and talents and empowering women to enjoy equal access to job opportunities and career advancement. Rather than increasing regulation and legislation, Robinson pointed out that solutions for closing gender parity gaps include a better understanding of the barriers behind such gaps, with cultural and legal barriers differing widely among countries.

“The IOE, with its global membership, is well positioned to help in this regard in both education and advocacy: it is able to share and leverage the experiences of its membership in providing practical services to members and in informing and advising governments and international organizations on policy actions,” said Robinson.

Robinson also represented employers at an Alliance 8.7 launch of the ILO’s Modern Slavery and Child Labor Global Estimates where he provided insight on the position of employers with regards to child labor and forced labor on the high-level panel, “Harnessing the numbers to accelerate eradication.” In his remarks, Robinson emphasized the continued dedication of employers to eradicate child labor and forced labor, noting the importance of collaboration between governments and the private sector, especially given the complexity of today’s global supply chains.

“While the primary responsibility lies with governments, as the crucial eradication factor, to establish and enforce national labor laws, business also has a desire and responsibility to do what it can to respect and follow those laws and looks forward to working with governments and other civil society actors in the shared fight to eliminate child and forced labor,” said Robinson.

The event was moderated by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop set the stage for the meeting and a “Call to Action” was provided by UK Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel. Other government leaders included Belgium Deputy Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, Argentina’s Deputy Secretary of Foreign Relations Gustavo Zlauvinen, the African Union’s Commissioner for Social Affairs Amira El Fadil and Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, Martha Newton.

The new Modern Slavery Global Estimates encompass forced labor and forced marriage and it is the first time such research was conducted. The ILO and the Walk Free Foundation jointly published the new Modern Slavery Global Estimates. Additionally, the new Child Labor estimates will be an update to the Global Estimates on Child Labor published by the ILO in 2012.

Business Makes It Happen: American Business at the UN General Assembly

By Peter M. Robinson
President and CEO
United States Council for International Business

 

“We live in a complex world. The United Nations cannot succeed alone. Partnership must continue to be at the heart of our strategy. We should have the humility to acknowledge the essential role of other actors, while maintaining full awareness of our unique convening power.”

-Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

The 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gets under way this week at a time of stresses and strains in the international community. The nature of these stresses is particularly acute for the U.S. business community: a growing need for financing and investment in infrastructure, the open trading system called into question, and calls by some for a retreat from engagement in multilateral forums. How does American business plan for these challenges, and where can we make the biggest difference?

For USCIB and its members, an important place to start tackling these questions is the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework that will be at the center of this week of high-level meetings, also known as Global Goals Week.

In the face of challenges such as unemployment, climate change and population growth around the world, USCIB believes we have to pursue the SDGs as “must-wins” for the United States and for the American business community. We know that economic growth abroad helps create jobs at home. Open markets and policies that foster private investment offers new markets for our products. Innovation aimed at improved sustainability give the U.S. a leg-up in global competition while advancing investment in energy sources and new technologies to combat climate change.

That is why, this week, USCIB is holding a series of discussions on the margins of the UNGA to cultivate the “ingredients for impact” to catalyze business contributions to the SDGs. We are doing this under the theme, “Business Makes It Happen,” because we believe that, without strong commitment and incentives for the private sector, we won’t be able to achieve the Global Goals.

USCIB supports multilateral solutions to global challenges, with business constructively involved. We rely on solid, long-term dialogue and a close working relationship with both our government and the UN system to advance U.S. business contributions to sustainable development, delivering economic benefits at home and abroad. When it comes to what business depends on to succeed, thrive and lift the American economy, we look to Washington, D.C., and to the United Nations. We depend on both, and that is why USCIB has chosen to step forward as a U.S. business organization, working closely with our partners in the U.S. government as UNGA gets underway.

The Three I’s

The 2030 Agenda provides a blueprint for action that enjoys wide business and government support. But there are still three broad challenges in terms of implementation by business – inclusiveness, innovation and information.

  • Information: While there is more and better information available from companies on SDG action, we are overwhelmed with the quantity of data, and so we – business, governments — don’t know where to begin to understand or prioritize action. We have too much information and not enough analysis. The business community needs to develop ways to present its progress that are accessible and relevant for the international community and national governments.
  • Innovation, which is the best source of solutions for sustainability, still faces obstacles due to a lack of proper incentives for researchers, inventors and investors. The UN must do better in creating a fully welcoming environment and institutional framework for technology innovation that is genuinely involving business experts.
  • Inclusiveness: A basic tenet of the Agenda for 2030 is that no one is left behind. That suggests that everyone needs to be involved to deliver solutions. Yet in some UN forums, the private sector is still not regarded as a full partner in the effort. At times, there are still political sensitivities when business wants to come to the table, or even just listen in on policy deliberations. Clearly, we in business need to do more to demonstrate commitment and deliver actual results.

Statements by both United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák suggest that, under their leadership in the UNGA this year, we could see progress towards a more inclusive and transparent framework to involve the business community across the board. USCIB would endorse and welcome such a development.

By their very nature, many of the SDGs depend on partnerships to be implemented, and we regard business as indispensable in collaborative action to deliver the SDGs. On its 2nd anniversary, the USCIB web platform, Business for 2030, now showcases 200 initiatives from 52 companies, in over 150 countries, covering 85 of the 169 SDG targets. These encompass both philanthropic and corporate responsibility initiatives as well as core business operations that all contribute to achieving one or more of the 17 SDG targets.

Progress has been made, as witnessed by the strong response to this year’s SDG Business Forum on the margins of last July’s High-Level Political Forum – it literally filled the UN’s largest room, the General Assembly Hall. Governments and the UN have to continue to create those new kinds of spaces in which that exchange on policy and practice can occur substantively and with good governance.

With our affiliations to leading global business organizations embedded in the UN system, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), we have been fortunate to be on the front lines of the collaborative discussions that brought forward the SDGs, and to foster recognized opportunities for the private sector to cooperate with the UN. The process of multilateralism does move slowly, demanding investment of time and effort, but the rewards are outcomes in which business is invested and knows what to expect.

It is already clear to USCIB that one element of success towards efficiency and effectiveness in the reform of the UN is to create the most open and inclusive institutional structures to consult with representative business bodies, and then to recognize and include those inputs. We have seen time and again how the ILO, the OECD and other inter-governmental forums have demonstrated that including business in a recognized manner is a value add because it is brings on board those societal partners that invest, innovate and implement.

At USCIB, we are more convinced than ever that a more open and accountable policy dialogue, with recognized involvement of representative business groups, is a fundamental element of good governance (which is in fact the aim of SDG16), and will deliver real results. By and large, UN bodies are involving business in more substantive ways, and we are looking forward to this year’s UNGA to keep that discussion going, particularly in the context of UN reform.

In his report laying out his vision of UN reform, Secretary General Guterres presents eight big ideas for reform of the UN system.  At the heart of those are the 17 big commitments which the global community made in 2015: the SDGs. Our main goal this week is to join the international dialogues and offer ways to make those big ideas a reality for, and with, U.S. business.

Throughout the negotiations leading to the SDGs, and now in the period of their execution, we have underscored the need for business to be embedded in the process. This is necessary to leverage all the resources that the private sector can provide through investment, innovation and know-how. With dialogue and the right mix of incentives, business really can make it happen and we will be working throughout this year’s UNGA to continue the evolution towards collaborative and impactful SDG partnerships with business.

Robinson Talks Trade at International Trade Conference

BAFT, the leading international transaction banking association, held its 27th Annual Conference on International Trade in Chicago on September 12, where USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson served as keynote speaker to address the topic of U.S. Trade Policy.

“This is a very perilous time for trade,” noted Robinson. “In the past, no matter what other countries were doing or saying, we could always count on the U.S. and UK to stand up for open markets. That’s no longer the case. We could be at a point where anti-trade forces can effectively flip the script.”

In discussing NAFTA, Robinson emphasized USCIB’s recent recommendations to the Trump administration:

  • First, do no harm. Most of NAFTA has worked well for companies and has spurred far greater integration of the North American economy than would have happened without it.
  • Negotiate new and better rules for e-commerce and digital trade, an enormous part of the U.S. economy, to include provisions on e-commerce and digital trade such as ensuring the flow of data across borders, prohibiting requirements to localize data in a country, protecting personal data, and not carving out certain sectors (like financial services) from these provisions.
  • More regulatory coherence, strong protection of investments (including effective investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms), and rules to level the playing field with state-owned enterprises.

On trade with Asia, Robinson discussed the importance of an alternative approach in place of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). “TPP was really a top-notch agreement in my view,” he said. “But we walked away from it for political reasons. And potential FTA partners like the UK and Japan would be likely to take a very hard line in any talks with us.”

Robinson also discussed innovation and USCIB’s work on the digital economy, alongside the OECD, that the OECD takes into account the views of business and to shape policy that would not stifle innovation. Robinson also touched upon the International Chamber of Commerce’s new status at the UN General Assembly which will enable USCIB to push for expanded trade, access to trade finance and sensible approaches to technological innovation and regulation, as well as promoting business involvement in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which encompass financial inclusion.

G20 Reaffirms Commitment to Resist Protectionism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at G20 Summit

Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies wrapped up their summit in Hamburg, Germany by issuing a communiqué that forged compromise language over trade enforcement and trade liberalization, and advanced discussion of the digital economy.

But the Trump administration appeared isolated on climate change, with the other G20 nations recommitting themselves to action under the Paris Climate Agreement despite the U.S. pledge to withdraw.

“G20 leaders said the right words about resisting protectionism which will be essential in ensuring access to good jobs in the 21st century,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson, who serves as a co-chair of the B20 (Business 20) Employment and Education Task Force.

In their final statement, the G20 leaders committed to keeping global markets open, “noting the importance of reciprocal and mutually advantageous trade and investment frameworks and the principle of non-discrimination.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a closing press conference on Saturday: “I am satisfied that we managed to say clearly that markets need to remain open.”

John Danilovich, secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce, said: “We commend the G20’s focus on strengthening the multilateral trading system. A strong, rules-based trading system is a pre-requisite to achieve the G20 leaders’ laudable ambition of making globalization work for all.”

USCIB’s Robinson also welcomed progress made by the G20 governments on enhancing digital commerce.

“We agree with the leaders statement that continued growth and innovation spurred by the digital economy will be essential to meeting the needs of people around the world,” he said. “It’s important that governments maintain a fundamentally pro-investment and pro-competition approach to the digital economy.”

But Robinson had a mixed reaction to the final language on climate change action. “Other members of the G20 are ramping up their cooperative efforts and joint action on climate,” he said. “so we encourage the United States to remain connected and involved in international collaboration for energy security and innovative technology deployment that is essential both for U.S. prosperity as well as tackling climate challenges at home and abroad.  USCIB continues to encourage the Administration to consider how to advance these efforts in the UN Climate treaty while it considers ways to re-enter the Paris Agreement.”

Regarding education and employment, Robinson emphasized the importance of educating, training and retraining to gain the necessary skills for the future of work, noting “workers need to be able to successfully adapt to change.”

Robinson’s Op-ed in The Hill on Modernizing NAFTA

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson wrote an Op-ed in The Hill, “How to Modernize NAFTA: First, do no Harm.”

Robinson cites a recent study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, since the agreement’s implementation, U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico has more than tripled, with a positive impact on U.S. GDP of 0.5 percent, or several billion dollars of added growth per year.

However, he also writes that NAFTA needs to be updated in a way that solidifies the gains Americans have reaped from these transformations, while further enhancing our competitiveness.

The Op-ed is available here.

OECD Week Addresses Global Challenges with Business Input

 

Peter M. Robinson at OECD Week in Paris

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson was in Paris last week for OECD Week, which tackled issues such as international tax rules, globalization challenges and anti-trade rhetoric. Addressing Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on June 7, Business at OECD (BIAC) Chair Phil O’Reilly called on governments to address the challenges of strengthening growth and boosting economic participation, emphasizing that ultimately societies can only support economic openness, when it is accompanied by appropriate domestic policies to prepare people for change, with better skills and more opportunities for economic participation.” O’Reilly drew upon principles highlighted in the recently released Business at OECD 2017 Statement to Ministers, which contains the core business recommendations to strengthen open economies and inclusive societies. This paper is a call to action for OECD governments to implement a comprehensive competitiveness agenda, and also better engage with the public, especially regarding the opportunities that come with trade and investment.

In a similar statement, Business at OECD Secretary General Bernhard Welschke encouraged governments to better address an increasing anti-trade rhetoric in OECD countries, highlighting that “both business and trade unions have a responsibility to communicate in a fair, balanced, and responsible manner.” Also speaking at the session on International Trade and Investment for the Benefit for All, Business at OECD (BIAC) Vice Chair and USCIB Board member Charles R. Johnston (Citi) encouraged governments to counteract on protectionist action in the form of growing non-tariff barriers, and pointed to areas where new OECD work would help better inform this debate. Business also emphasized that governments should fully use the OECD Investment Restrictiveness Index and implement the Policy Framework for Investment.

On international tax policy, Business at OECD (BIAC) was present at the official signing ceremony for the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures (MLI) to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), which took place at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. The MLI opens the door to changes in the tax treaty process, and to a number of key international tax rules, that are significant. Concurrently, USCIB and the OECD were holding their 12th annual international tax conference in Washington DC, which brought together over 300 tax policy experts.