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.

Hampl Urges High Standards in Colombia’s OECD Accession

 

USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl

Through its Business at OECD (BIAC) affiliation, USCIB has been extensively involved in representing member interest in the OECD accession process of Colombia. USCIB’s Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl traveled to Paris last week with member companies and associations, to attend meetings with OECD officials and various OECD delegations. BIAC led the global business delegation in meetings with Ken Ash, OECD director for trade and agriculture, Nicola Bonucci, OECD director for legal affairs and coordinator for accession, Catalina Crane, high-level contact for Colombia’s OECD Accession Process, and delegation representatives from the United States, including Andrew Haviland, chargé d’affaires, as well as representatives from the European Union, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Mexico.

Colombia started the accession process in 2013. At present, 20 of the 23 OECD Committees have approved them for accession. The Committee dealing with our outstanding issues on pharmaceuticals, distilled spirits, and trucking is the OECD Trade Committee, which will meet again at the end of November. In terms of Trade Committee procedure, the OECD concluded the Market Openness Review (MOR) a few months ago, and are now a number of drafts into the so-called Formal Opinion. Once this Formal Opinion is approved, that concludes the process in the Trade Committee. OECD accession for Colombia won’t be concluded until all Committees independently approve them.

“Our current advocacy surrounds pre-accession recommendations, which we urged the OECD Trade Committee to include in the Formal Opinion,” said Hampl. “The concept of pre-accession requirements, as opposed to post-accession requirements, is a novelty in an OECD accession, rooted in past experience of the ineffectiveness of post-accession requirements, once the leverage of joining the OECD is gone. Accordingly, we view this ask as central to resolving our various business issues. We understand that several issues are currently covered in the confidential draft Formal Opinion as part of pre-accession recommendations, though it is not yet clear which of our issues are included in those.”

The next meeting of the OECD Trade Committee will be in April 2018. Given that Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos will leave office in May 2018, there is a high likelihood that a meeting will be called by the OECD before April to resolve any final issues, if the Formal Opinion is not finalized this month.

“USCIB acknowledges the importance of the Colombian market to our companies, but we also see the precedent Colombia can set for other countries from the region that have indicated an interest in joining the OECD, such as Argentina and Brazil,” added Hampl. “While no new processes have officially started, it is important to ensure that the high standards of the OECD are met by any country looking to join. We will aggressively continue our advocacy efforts as this accession process moves forward, to ensure that as many of our priority issues are resolved as possible before Colombia joins the OECD. “

Hampl Addresses the Costs of Corruption and Bribery on Panel

USCIB’s Eva Hampl second from left. Photograph courtesy of Washington College of Law

As the OECD celebrated 20 years of the Anti-Bribery Convention last week, USCIB’s Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services  Eva Hampl took part in a panel at the event “Celebrating the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention at 20, the FCPA at 40 & Addressing the Challenges Ahead”.

Hampl addressed the cost that corruption and bribery present to business and the important role the OECD plays to level the playing field in that regard. Specifically, companies from OECD countries, who have to comply with the OECD Anti-bribery Convention, compete with companies from non-OECD countries that are not subject to the same anti-bribery measures.

“This leads to unfair competition and can even create an environment favorable to corrupt practices,” warned Hampl. “U.S. companies of course have to comply with the FCPA, which means they spend a significant amount of resources on developing anti-corruption policies and compliance programs as well as training systems for employees so that they are well-equipped to withstand demands for corruption.”

Other speakers at the event included Stuart Eizenstat, former domestic policy advisor, President Carter & U.S. Ambassador to the EU, Under Secretary of Commerce, Deputy Secretary of Treasury, Drago Kos, chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, as well as officials from the Department of Justice and anti-corruption experts from international and policy organizations.

The OECD Anti-bribery Convention is a landmark instrument addressing the bribery of foreign officials. The OECD, with its multi-disciplinary nature, has the capacity to take a coordinated approach to the right against corruption. While we commend the work the OECD has already done in this space, there are several issues where USCIB advocates for further work to be done: (1) Increased adherence to the Convention, particularly b G20 countries; (2) Increased efforts to address the demand side of bribery (i.e. bribe solicitation and extortion by public officials); (3) More measures to facilitate voluntary self-disclosure; and (4) Addressing the growing complexity and costs of complying with multiple anti-bribery regimes by promoting clarity and greater international consistency.

Additionally, Hampl also attended the event No Turning Back: 40 Years of the FCPA and 20 Years of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The agenda included speakers from various U.S. government offices that play an integral part enforcing the FCPA, OECD officials, foreign government officials, representatives from academia and international institutions, as well as the private sector, including General Electric and Citibank. The keynote address to kick off the event was given by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco.

Business at OECD Publishes 2017 Annual Report

Business at OECD (BIAC) has recently launched its 2017 Annual Report, which offers a comprehensive account of BIAC’s activities this year and outline ways for engagement in 2018 and beyond.

In addition, this Annual Report gives an overview of:

  • BIAC high-level policy dialogue with OECD Ambassadors, the Secretary General, Ministers from 35 OECD countries and key partners, as well as G20 and B20 activities
  • The work across BIAC and OECD committees in BIAC’s quest for policies that allow people participation into open economies
  • BIAC’s work with members in Paris and abroad

USCIB Meets with OECD Director to Discuss Health Work

USCIB’s Food and Agriculture and Healthcare Working Groups met last week with Stefano Scarpetta, director of Employment, Labor and Social Affairs for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The meeting reinforced longstanding USCIB and Business at OECD cooperation in other issue areas and the need to improve the engagement between business and the OECD Health Committee.

USCIB outlined four areas of recommendations to Scarpetta in the hopes of improving future interactions with member states and the health division secretariat, including helping member states understand the role of Business at OECD and its national affiliates, tracking input from Business at OECD and national affiliates, increasing diversity in perspectives among OECD health division staff and better use of OECD expert groups.

“The OECD benefits from broad input from the private sector on its work on health policy.  We believe that increasing the number and diversity of business representatives allowed to attend OECD Health Committee and related expert group meetings can only improve OECD’s work in the health sector,” said Mike Michener, USCIB’s vice president for Product Policy and Innovation who leads USCIB’s work on health, food and agriculture.

Michener noted that while concerns remain, good progress was made in initiating an improved dialogue with the OECD Health Committee going forward.

Hampl Raises Anti-Corruption and Transparency Concerns at SOE Meeting

USCIB’s Eva Hampl speaks on panel at OECD meetings on SOE’s in Paris

Eva Hampl, USCIB’s director for investment, trade and financial services was in Paris last week representing USCIB at a special roundtable at the OECD on Integrity, the Fight Against Corruption and Responsible Business Conduct in the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Sector.

As a discussant on the issue of transparency, Hampl noted that SOEs are increasing in global commerce, where 22% of the world’s largest 100 firms are effectively under state control. “As SOEs proliferate, they disadvantage companies operating without state support or control,” warned Hampl.

The OECD Foreign Bribery Report, which was published December 2014 and is based on data from the 427 foreign bribery cases that have been concluded since the entry into force of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999, found that bribes were offered or given most frequently to employees of SOEs at 27% of the total cases.

“SOEs are particularly vulnerable to corruption due to factors such as a close relationship between government, politicians and the SOE senior management, and in some cases lack of transparency and reporting,” said Hampl. In addition to the foreign bribery report, OECD research has found that 43 % of SOE employees surveyed have witnessed corruption and other rule-breaking in their company in the last three years.

“Corruption is a cost, also for SOEs,” Hampl added. “The OECD has stated that disclosure and transparency are some of the main concerns regarding market distortions caused by SOEs – the other concern is that SOEs are acting as agents of a sovereign government. The focus on transparency, in which space the OECD has done further work, is certainly important, however with the caveat that in the case of leveling the playing field as to SOEs, it is not a goal in itself.”

Hampl added that there has been a concerning global trend in recent years toward transferring liability from governments onto companies. “This is something that needs to be addressed. To truly level the playing field between SOEs and companies competing in the global market, SOEs must be held to the same standards.”

Following the roundtable, Hampl also participated in the consultation with the OECD Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices, where she reiterated many of the points made at the roundtable, as well as emphasized the importance of the OECD to focus on the demand side of bribery.

Additionally, on the afternoon of Wednesday November 29, USCIB Vice President for Trade and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly will offer business perspectives on a panel discussion on “The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention at 20:  Successes and Challenges for the Future” organized by the Coalition for Integrity on the margins of their annual gala dinner later that evening.   Panelists being finalized but those invited include: Lucinda Low, member, Board of Directors, Coalition for Integrity, Nicola Bonucci (OECD) and Bruce Swartz, Department of Justice.

Business at OECD Calls for Integrated Health Policies to Stimulate Growth and Productivity

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria (left) makes remarks at the Health Forum

Well-designed health policies that are put into practice are essential for the growth and productivity of our economies and the well-being of our societies. This was the main message from private sector, government representatives, and the OECD gathered for the 2nd Business at OECD (BIAC) Annual Forum on Health.

The Forum saw the work undertaken by the private sector to develop truly integrated healthcare, foster innovation, and promote balanced choices for improving well-being. “The digital transformation of healthcare systems will provide fresh opportunities for better care, newer treatments and greater focus on the needs of patients,” said Nicole Denjoy, chair of the BIAC Health Committee. “To achieve this, we need policies that create the right incentives and collaborative environments to drive investment in innovation and technology” she added.

Experts also addressed efforts to encourage balanced nutrition and active lifestyles as an important part of the fight against non-communicable diseases. Speakers stressed the critical role that policy coherence in the fields of health, trade, finance, industry, and education sectors plays in supporting growth and productivity. Commenting on the role of international collaboration, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría stated, “Poor health harms people, lowers productivity, and ultimately undermines growth. The OECD is supporting the business community’s efforts to help shape the future of health policy and promote good employee and customer health”.

Also addressing Forum participants, World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry said “Innovation is vital for addressing the health challenges of today and tomorrow. But the innovation we need is more complex than ever before and requires greater collaboration, benefiting from a wide range of knowledge and expertise. We must provide a framework for bringing new medicines and technologies from concept and creation to production and patients. Intellectual property, in particular patents, are a necessary encouragement to this innovation.”

The Forum was moderated by Riz Khan, international journalist and TV host.

USCIB Applauds 20 Years of Anti-Bribery Convention

As the OECD celebrates 20 years of the Anti-bribery convention and 40 years of the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) this year, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Business at OECD will host a conference on “No Turning Back: 40 Years of the FCPA and 20 Years of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention” on November 9th in New York. USCIB will be represented at this event by Eva Hampl, director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services.

USCIB, through its affiliation with Business at OECD, has been working with the OECD Working Group on Bribery, which monitors the implementation and enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Through annual consultations and USCIB’s advocacy efforts, the Working Group has taken up issues that are of interest to U.S. business in their future work plan.

The conference will draw upon expertise and examine the major impact of ground-breaking instruments and corporate behavior and law enforcement priorities. It will explore the role of cooperation between nations in investigating and persecuting foreign bribery and the effectiveness of different approaches to corporate responsibility for bribery. The event will be hosted by NYU School of Law’s Program on Corporate Law and Enforcement. U.S. businesses interested in anti-bribery issues may learn more about the conference and register here.

Prior to the NY event, Hampl will also speak on a panel in a similar event on November 8 in Washington DC and hosted by American University Washington College of Law. Hampl will speak on a panel titled, “Leveraging the Convention and Addressing the Corruption Challenges Ahead,” alongside representatives from the Department of Justice, OECD’s Anti-Corruption Division and Global Financial Integrity. Registration for the Washington event is available here.

USCIB Urges Withdrawal of Global Tax “Toolkit”

USCIB recently submitted comments to the Platform for Collaboration on Tax concerning a proposed draft “toolkit” on the taxation of offshore indirect transfers of assets. The Platform for Collaboration on Tax is a joint effort launched in April 2016 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank Group (WBG). USCIB urged The Platform that the taxation of offshore indirect transfers should not be considered in the context of a “toolkit.”

The discussion draft proposes potentially significant shifts in taxing rights for “source” and “residence” countries.

“Decisions on significant shifts in taxing rights ought to be debated among countries at the appropriate multilateral fora and not resolved by guidance provided by the staff of international organizations without debate among the countries,” said Carol Doran Klein, USCIB’s vice president for tax policy.  “As such, the letter recommends withdrawal of the toolkit.”

Doran Klein added: “USCIB is concerned that tax authorities may treat the toolkits as authoritative guidance. Each toolkit should make clear that they are not authoritative and cannot override contrary guidance that is authoritative.”

Hampl Advocates for Open and Fair Investment Policies at OECD

As USCIB continues to advocate for open and fair investment policies in NAFTA and at recent discussions in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva, USCIB Director of Investment, Trade, and Financial Services Eva Hampl was in Paris last week, participating in the meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Investment Committee. Hampl also held several bilateral meetings with various OECD investment staff and officials from the U.S. Mission to the OECD.

The agenda of the OECD Investment Committee was extensive, including the work of the Freedom of Investment Roundtable, covering issues including societal costs and benefits of international investment agreements, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and related issues, particularly regarding an overview of arbitrators in investment arbitrations and adjudicator compensation systems in dispute settlement. The meetings also discussed the strategic direction for the OECD investment work.

During the stakeholder consultation, Business at OECD made strong statements focused primarily on international investment agreements, specifically ISDS and related issues.

“We maintained our position that investment agreements are very important to business, and are necessary for a robust international investment environment,” said Hampl. “Unfortunately, the OECD has not yet been able to produce reliable data definitively proving the benefits of IIAs,” she added.

Hampl also made an intervention on behalf of U.S. industry, underlining the importance of empirical research in this area, and raising concerns about leaving a vacuum of information in the space related to IIAs.

“In today’s political environment that appears to be progressively more hostile toward foreign investment, advocating for these protections is vital,” said Hampl. “As the OECD continues to develop policy documents on these issues, USCIB will actively participate in shaping these policies.”