Big Turnout on Capitol Hill Raises Alarm on NAFTA Talks

Last week, as the fourth round of talks between the United States, Canada and Mexico on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement unfolded, USCIB joined many of its members and other associations in flooding Congressional offices on Capitol Hill, raising serious concern over the direction of talks. According to Eva Hampl, USCIB’s director of trade and investment policy, who took part, private-sector representatives spent a full day talking to House Republicans as well as a few Democrats, mainly staff members but also including a few members themselves.

Hampl stated: “The views from House offices varied from understanding the problems presented by statements coming from many U.S. negotiators and administration officials, to having a few specific issues they cared about, to not yet having decided a position on NAFTA modernization. We spent a good amount of time explaining to those who were bogged down in specific issues, or those who did not yet care, that the key elements of the U.S. trading system of the U.S. are at risk.”

Worrisome, and potentially protectionist, proposals coming from the U.S. side in the NAFTA talks address rules of origin, government procurement, investor-state dispute settlement, and a proposed sunset provision that would essentially force NAFTA to be renewed at regular intervals.

“At the same time, a lot of progress is being made in the negotiations in chapters such as customs, digital trade, and in the regulatory space,” Hampl noted. “The U.S. could certainly log a win in this modernization effort if NAFTA 2.0 included those provisions.” But she said there is “great concern” in the business community that NAFTA is being set up to fail with some of the proposals that are being tabled.

USCIB co-sponsored a reception on the sidelines of the NAFTA talks, where Hampl amplified USCIB’s central message of urgency, noting that USCIB members rely on the agreement and its benefits for their operations, which provide jobs for U.S. workers. “NAFTA has done a lot for the U.S. economy and USCIB member companies over the last 23 years, so while this is a great opportunity to bring this agreement into the 21st century, if the existing benefits are lost, that effort will be significantly undermined,” she said.

Another Capitol Hill business lobbying day is planned for October 24. At the conclusion of the fourth round of NAFTA talks, negotiators agreed to defer the next round by at least a month, and to extend negotiations at least through the first quarter of 2018. The next round is slated to begin November 17 in Mexico.

Mulligan Talks NAFTA at CSI Summit

Rob Mulligan at CSI

USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan spoke at a Coalition of Services Industries (CSI) summit earlier this week on USCIB’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) priorities.

USCIB members have benefited from NAFTA and believe the current negotiations should ensure that the beneficial parts are preserved, that is ‘do no harm,’ while also taking advantage of the opportunity to improve it in areas that were not addressed two decades ago.

Mulligan noted that NAFTA can be brought into the 21st century by including provisions that ensure cross-border data flows, include strong e-commerce rules, protect against data localization requirements, and level the playing field for firms competing against state-owned enterprises.  More can also be done to improve the customs processes with Canada and Mexico.  Increased transparency in the publication of laws, regulations and procedures would improve customs administration. And bringing de minimis thresholds into relative alignment would facilitate trade, especially for small businesses. All of these steps will help U.S. businesses grow and create jobs.

However, Mulligan raised concerns over several moves by the U.S. during the fourth round of negotiations, “Recent U.S. proposals for a sunset clause, to restrict government procurement, allow an opt out of ISDS, and impose new content requirements for autos will not expand trade and we are concerned that they could force eventual failure of NAFTA that would severely impact the U.S. economy and millions of jobs that are tied to NAFTA.”

Mulligan noted that while USCIB member companies strongly support NAFTA and have greatly benefited from it over the last 23 years, they want the governments to avoid changes to existing parts of NAFTA that would harm trade rather than expand it.

USCIB Huddles with US Mission in Geneva

USCIB’s Shaun Donnelly at meetings in Geneva

On the margins of the UN Conference on Trade and Development  (UNCTAD) meetings in Geneva, USCIB Vice President for Trade Services Shaun Donnelly went to the U.S. Mission (i.e. the multilateral US Embassy) to UN agencies for a morning of meetings on October 12. Donnelly, a retired State Department ambassador, had a wide-ranging, hour-long meeting with the U.S. Mission Chargé D’affaires Ted Allegra in the absence of a new U.S. Ambassador (yet to be nominated.)

Donnelly also had a roundtable with U.S. Mission staff managing U.S. participation on a range of UN agencies including the International Labor Organization, World Health Organization, WIPO, Human Rights Commission and the World Trade Organization. They discussed concerns of USCIB and its members on policies, budgets, and business access in several Geneva agencies.

Donnelly noted afterwards, “I really appreciated the opportunity to sit down with U.S. Chargé in Geneva Ted Allegra, an experienced and respected diplomat, and to highlight priorities and policy concerns of our members.”

Donnelly and other USCIB staff routinely stay in close contact with various staffers in the U.S. mission in Geneva. “But the opportunity to voice our key concerns directly to the acting U.S. Ambassador in Geneva was both timely and useful,” he added.

USCIB Leads Geneva Fight for Strong Investment Agreements

 

As anti-business rhetoric continues to emerge in various intergovernmental forums, USCIB Vice President for Trade and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly led a small but vocal international business delegation at last week’s annual High-level International Investment Agreements (IIAs) Conference at the UN Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

As with many UNCTAD events, this three-day investment conference was dominated by government, UN and international organization experts, NGO activists and academics.  Donnelly was joined by USCIB’s partner BDI, the leading German business association, as the only business voices among over 200 delegates.

Issues on the UNCTAD agenda included reforming investment agreements, alternatives to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to resolve disputes, rebalancing rights and obligations between investors and host governments and alternative strategies to fix IIAs.

UNCTAD gave Donnelly a prominent spot in the opening plenary and keynote slots on two major breakout groups as well as in the closing plenary. In addition to rebuting some anti-IIA and anti-ISDS political diatribes, Donnelly emphasized some basic themes, including that it is private investors who drive growth, jobs and progress. “The IIA protections do matter to investors,” emphasized Donnelly. “Strong ISDS provisions are critical to ensure implementation of investment agreements. Investment agreements which earn rave reviews from governments, academics and UN bureaucrats but which don’t work for business won’t yield investments and all the benefits which flow from private investment flows,” he added.

Communicators Meet in Ireland for 2nd Business at OECD Roundtable

Last week, in Dublin and Cork, Ireland, Business at OECD welcomed more than 20 representatives from member federations and companies to its annual Heads of Communication Roundtable, jointly organized with its Irish member federation IBEC. Jonathan Huneke, USCIB’s vice president for communications and public affairs, represented USCIB alongside several representatives of USCIB member companies.

“This was a valuable series of meetings,” said Huneke. “We discussed the challenges, in the current international environment, of communicating the views and priorities of the globally oriented business community to governments and the public at large. We also explored ways to support our fellow federations’ activities, and to learn from one another, in a communications and policy environment that only seems to get more fast-paced and unpredictable every year.”

High-level speakers at the roundtable included Irish Ambassador to OECD Dermot Nolan, IBEC President Edel Creely and CEO Danny McCoy, and Irish experts who had helped “move the needle” on contentious public debates over economic development and marriage equality.

“The meetings also showcased some of the substantive factors Ireland brings to the table for companies when they make location decisions, Huneke added. “Hence the decision to visit the country’s high-tech hub of Cork.” The communicators held site visits and discussions with Cathy Kearney (CEO, Apple Ireland), Donal O’Sullivan (CEO, Johnson Controls) and Kyran Johnson (General Manager, Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson).

Huneke said he made sure to remind all three companies of their USCIB membership, and offered to support their efforts in whatever way possible.

Thevenin Joins USCIB as General Counsel

Nancy Thevenin

New York, N.Y., October 11, 2017Nancy M. Thevenin has joined the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents America’s leading global companies, as general counsel. USCIB serves as the U.S. affiliate of several global business bodies, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world business organization whose International Court of Arbitration is the world’s leading forum for the settlement of cross-border commercial disputes.

Thevenin’s portfolio will include supporting USCIB’s Arbitration Committee and coordinating the work of the U.S. Nominations Committee to the ICC Court. Additionally, she will coordinate amicus requests and responses from USCIB members and other interested parties. Further, Thevenin will work closely with USCIB’s business development team to ensure more comprehensive membership recruitment outreach to both law firms and corporations.

“Nancy Thevenin brings extensive experience to this important position within USCIB,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “Our members, including both companies and law firms, have broad experience and knowledge of global arbitration and other legal matters. I am confident that Nancy will be able to fully leverage those relationships to drive further organizational growth and improved services to members.”

Thevenin previously served as deputy director of the ICC Court’s North American marketing office, which at that time also managed USCIB/ICC-USA’s Arbitration Committee. During her tenure, the group helped launch the ICC International Mediation Competition and developed USCIB’s Young Arbitrators Forum (YAF), which Thevenin helped develop and wrote the proposal to turn into a global organization under the ICC umbrella. She later joined Baker & McKenzie as a special counsel and global coordinator of the firm’s International Arbitration Practice Group. Thevenin left Baker in 2014 to start her own practice as arbitrator and mediator. She is the chair of the International Section of the New York State Bar Association and an adjunct professor of the international commercial arbitration course at St. John’s Law School.

A graduate of Tulane Law School where she obtained certificates in European legal practice and in commercial arbitration, Ms. Thevenin also attended the University of Paris at Panthéon-Assas in France, where she studied the French legal system and European Community law. She is a graduate of Cornell University, where she obtained a double major in history and Spanish literature. While at university, Ms. Thevenin lived in Madrid, Spain and studied international relations, Spanish law and Spanish literature. Thevenin is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and is licensed to practice law in New York and Florida.

About USCIB:

USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More information is available at www.uscib.org.

Contact:
Jonathan Huneke, VP communications, USCIB
+1 212.703.5043 or jhuneke@uscib.org

USCIB Testifies on China WTO Compliance

In response to Federal Register notice 82 FR 36071, USCIB Director, Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl, provided oral testimony on Wednesday, October 4 to the U.S. government interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) regarding China’s compliance with its WTO commitments on behalf of USCIB and its members.

“USCIB and its members understand and appreciate that U.S.-China economic relations are complex and multifaceted, and American business holds a direct and important stake in this relationship and in its success,” noted Hampl in her testomony.

The testimony amplified priority issues for USCIB members, in addition to the written submission made in September. The Q&A session following the oral statement included questions from the various agencies on issues of regularly transparency, technology transfer, trade secrets, discriminatory industrial policies, and agricultural biotech.

On IT security measures, Hampl emphasized, “The Cybersecurity Law, which went into effect in June of this year, establishes a number of burdensome restrictions on the cross-border flow of data and establishes intrusive security reviews of equipment and services used by network operators and operators of critical information infrastructure.” Hampl therefore urged the U.S. government to continue to press for full suspension of all existing and proposed measures involving trade-restrictive requirements in this area.

In addition to discussing these issues with the interagency committee, Hampl emphasized USCIB’s support of continuing negotiations of a US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), expressing USCIB’s hope that efforts to conclude a high-standard BIT will soon resume on the remaining issues.

Shared Interests in the SDGs: Business Makes It Happen at UNGA72 USCIB Side Event

Left to Right: Kyra Kaszynski, Deloitte; Elliott Harris, UNEP New York Office; Chantal Line Carpentier, UNCTAD NY Office; Norine Kennedy, USCIB

USCIB held a side event on September 22 at the end of the UN General Assembly opening week for its members, government and UN representatives on “Shared Interests in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s): Business Makes It Happen,” hosted by USCIB member Pfizer.  The objective of this meeting, chaired by Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen, who also serves as USCIB board member and sustainability “champion,” was to explore the opportunities for improved transparency and cooperation in the United Nations that would scale up cooperation and partnership with U.S. business to deliver the SDG’s.

In his opening comments, Nielsen stated that the United Nations is part of the infrastructure that U.S. business depends on in commercial activity around the world, and looks to the U.S. government to work with U.S. companies for outcomes that reflect good governance and advance economic benefits both overseas and domestically. “Business understands the SDG imperative of ‘No one left behind’ to mean ‘everyone must get involved to make a difference, including business,’” he said.

Side event presenters, Diane McMahon of Bechtel and Kyra Kacszinski of Deloitte reviewed the findings of USCIB Expert Roundtables on Data Analytics for the SDG’s, and on Ingredients for Impact in SDG Public Private Partnerships (see other articles in this special edition newsletter for more information).

Norine Kennedy, who leads USCIB’s work on the SDG’s, discussed the pivotal role that the private sector has played in supporting UN sustainable development work, including the climate agreement and the SDG’s, and the recognized role that business has in the International Labor Organization (ILO) and in the Financing for Development process, among others.  These integrated inter-actions have created ambitious and widely accepted sustainable development initiatives that continue to move ahead with vigorous U.S. business support, as evidenced in the USCIB Businessfor2030 web platform.

These positive examples and UN reform proposals to embed the UN Agenda for 2030 across UN programs and priorities, and make UN discussions more inclusive and transparent to the public, including the private sector, are indications of willingness for transparent and constructive dialogue and action.  Kennedy suggested 3 steps towards enhanced business engagement as part of that reform:

  • Involve recognized business community organizations throughout UN deliberations to identify and assess issues, provide technical expertise, inform deliberations and serve as a resource for implementation
  • Favor multi-sectoral discussions, in combination with sectoral discussions
  • Pursue “shared interest” models that open doors to all business sectors to work transparently and constructively with the UN, based on good governance.

Discussants from UNCTAD, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs (DESA) added their views on how to help move ahead to tap business resources.  Elliott Harris of UNEP reminded the meeting about the differences in language, time frame and scale between public and private sector expectations and contributions.  While the United Nations sees a very big picture, the private sector focuses on direct and near term action.  He encouraged USCIB to seek ways to build bridges between those points of view as part of its ongoing work to enhance business involvement and contribution on the SDG’s.  Chantal Line Carpentier  of UNCTAD stated that if UN discussions don’t bring in private sector, it will be extremely difficult to frame the right policies and market actions.  Some fear the perception that UN development work is being “privatized,” and she encouraged USCIB to prioritize clear public-private partnership guidance that reflects the lead role of governments and IGO’s, in which business works to support and leverage resources for common benefit, rather than solely for private profit.

Thomas Gass, assistant secretary general of the DESA concluded the meeting with reflections about the challenges and opportunities ahead.  The SDGs are a declaration of interdependence, he said, that relies on the private sector along with other societal partners.  Gass warned against the SDG’s becoming an empty concept; U.S. business is critical to keep the SDGs moving through innovation and partnership.  He stated that sustainability has to be placed in national contexts, especially those of the least developed countries that cannot cope with negative ecological impacts of larger and wealthier nations, and welcomed USCIB’s focus on analyzing and framing data for analysis and prioritized SDG action as a key contribution in that regard.

USCIB will follow further SDG-related deliberations in this year’s UN General Assembly, working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce and International Organization of Employers, to advocate for transparent and inclusive business involvement.  Although the Business Makes It Happen side event marked the end of the UNGA high level sessions, USCIB regards its interactions and recommendations as a starting point to continue developing member ideas and action by a full range of U.S. business sectors to strengthen international cooperation on the SDGs as a platform to spread prosperity and opportunity around the world and in the U.S.

Please contact Norine Kennedy or Gabriella Herzog to find out more about USCIB’s positions on SDGs and the role of business in UN reform.

 

USCIB Welcomes New General Counsel for Arbitration

Nancy Thevenin

USCIB welcomed a new staff member last week to lead its work on Arbitration. Nancy M. Thevenin joined on October 2nd as General Counsel, coordinating the work of the U.S. Nominations Committee for the ICC Court of Arbitration. Thevenin’s portfolio will include supporting the USCIB Arbitration Committee. Additionally, she will coordinate amicus requests and responses. Thevenin will work closely with USCIB’s Business Development team in ensuring a more comprehensive policy, legal and arbitration membership outreach to both law firms and corporations.

Thevenin previously served as deputy director of the ICC Court of Arbitration’s North American marketing office. During her tenure, the group helped launch the ICC International Mediation Competition and developed USCIB Young Arbitrators Forum (YAF), with Thevenin drafting the proposal for the ICC to make YAF a global organization. Nancy then joined Baker & McKenzie as a special counsel in and global coordinator of their International Arbitration Practice Group. She left Baker in 2014 to start her own practice as arbitrator and mediator and continues to teach the spring semester international commercial arbitration course at St. John’s Law School.

We hope you join us in welcoming her to the USCIB team!

Global Nutrition Event Aims to Ensure ”No More Missed Opportunities”

USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener at the Nutrition Roundtable

Poor diet is the number one risk factor for early death, contributing to 20 percent of global deaths, with the burden falling disproportionately on children under five and women of reproductive age. On October 2-3, the USCIB Foundation, the educational and research arm of USCIB, joined with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Wilton Park USA, to begin tackling this problem – a situation nutrition experts have described as a “missed opportunity” (Lancet, 2013) – through a roundtable dialogue in New York City under the banner of “No More Missed Opportunities.”

Each year, malnutrition is a factor in almost half of the six million deaths of children under five, and 159 million children are stunted, with impacts on their physical and cognitive abilities that last a lifetime. More than 500 million women are anemic, with an increased risk of maternal death and delivering premature and low-birth-weight babies. At the same time, 600 million adults are obese, and 420 million have diabetes, with rates rising steeply. Every country is now struggling with some aspect of malnutrition, and a growing number are experiencing both undernutrition and obesity.

The roundtable sought to support the accelerated achievement of internationally agreed global nutrition goals, and broader commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), by convening a high-level group of leaders from government, business and other key stakeholders. Participants set themselves three objectives:

  • Discuss the draft Principles of Engagement for Government-Business Collaboration to frame and guide progress towards achievement of the food and nutrition SDG’s and the implementation of the UK Government’s commitment to Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)
  • Identify ways to improve business engagement in global nutrition goals and engage multisector platforms to specifically address food and nutrition supply chains, distribution channels, and technical and scientific research to accelerate achievement of the global nutrition goals and directly benefit ODA recipient countries
  • Forge new relationships between government and business food and nutrition leaders to kick-off a new era of constructive partnership.

In his opening remarks, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson said, “The USCIB Foundation is here looking for ways to improve and accelerate business engagement in the implementation of the global nutrition goals, which we believe is absolutely essential if we hope to achieve these goals by 2030.”

Robinson also highlighted the significance of the draft Principles of Engagement for Government-Business Collaboration, noting, “consensus around a set of principles like these would establish a framework that would encourage more joint efforts and public-private partnerships.”

While Robinson said he is “highly optimistic” about the future of nutrition, he remarked on some barriers to private-sector engagement. These include the perceived conflict of interest between business motivation for public-private partnerships and public-sector goals, lack of trust between business, governments and other stakeholders and too much regulatory red-tape, seemingly designed to deter the private sector from engaging in partnerships.

Panels throughout the dialogue focused on the knowledge revolution and data, the pace of innovation, incentives for government-business collaboration, multi-sectoral platforms that can facilitate results, and concluded with a spirited discussion of draft Principles of Engagement to guide further discussion.

It is hoped that these principles will serve as a platform to enable further, more pointed conversations and serve as a model example for other institutions from a good governance perspective. USCIB and the USCIB Foundation will continue conversations and action with our partners in this dialogue to ensure progress towards our shared goals.

The event was hosted by the Harvard Club.

Roundtable participants. USCIB President and CEO Peter M Robinson front row, sixth from left, alongside representatives from GAIN and WiltonPark