USCIB Op-Ed: Time for Some ‘Tough Love’ at the UN

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (credit: U.S. Mission to the UN)

The Hill has published an op-ed by USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson on UN reform — see below. The op-ed is also available on The Hill’s website.

This op-ed follows on a letter to the New York Times on the same topic last month, as well as an op-ed on UN funding in January. It further advances USCIB’s position that the UN must work more effectively with the private sector and other stakeholders to advance shared goals.

 

The Hill

May 1, 2017

Opinion

Ambassador Haley needs to dole out some ‘tough love’ to United Nations

By Peter Robinson, opinion contributor

Critics of the United Nations are gaining ground in Washington. Proposals to defund and disengage from the U.N. have been put forward on Capitol Hill and by the Trump administration in its proposed budget.

As a longtime observer of, and participant in the U.N. representing the American business community, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice to Ambassador Nikki R. Haley, the U.S. representative to the U.N., on how we could work to improve the global body.

The U.N. deserves a lot of the criticism being leveled at it. Many observers, myself included, acknowledge that parts of the U.N. system often suffer from poor management, an inability to efficiently set and meet priorities and the tendency to take an unbalanced view toward certain stakeholders.

This is evident in the organization’s attitude toward the private sector. There have indeed been positive experiences, such as in the U.N. 2030 Development Agenda, where the U.N. is reaching out to the private sector to meet commonly agreed goals of poverty reduction, environmental protection and better governance.

But too often, in many parts of the U.N. system, the business community is still regarded with suspicion, and its motives are called into question or criticized as a conflict of interest. With criticism of the U.N. on the rise, now is the time for the United States to push for effective reform. Here are four areas where the U.S. could exercise some “tough love” in the United Nations.

First, insist on good management. Financial resources are scarce, and we need to know that our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely. New U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has pledged to make the organization leaner and more effective.

Work with him to increase the ability of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services to act as a truly independent “inspector general” throughout the U.N. system, with direct reporting back to U.N. governing bodies authorized to take specific action on recommendations.

Second, demand more transparency and accountability. The U.N. has taken steps to open its doors to non-governmental entities, but much more needs to be done, particularly from the standpoint of the business community. Too often, the U.N. sets global norms and standards with little or no input from outside stakeholders, including the private sector.

This is unfortunate, especially given the extent to which business is looked to for funding, innovation and implementation in such areas as climate change, improved nutrition and better health care. In addition, some U.N. agencies, such as the World Health Organization, actively blacklist business organizations from even observing their activities. This damages the U.N.’s credibility and effectiveness.

Third, ensure the U.N. avoids redundancy and mission creep. While the U.N. plays a central role in global governance, it cannot and should not do everything or have the final say. United Nations negotiators are sometimes too eager to take up issues already being addressed elsewhere, like in global taxation, data and privacy issues, or intellectual property rights.

This not only wastes government time and money, it creates uncertainty and confusion for companies and everyone else. The U.S. should guide the U.N. and its specialized agencies to focus their resources on areas where they can add the most value and where they have a clear mandate.

One way to do this would be to develop stricter guidelines for voluntary contributions from member states, which are usually funds over and above assessed contributions for pet projects that often deviate from an agency’s mission.

Fourth, and perhaps most important, encourage the U.N. to partner with the private sector. Governments can’t do everything. The World Bank estimates that effectively tackling global problems of poverty, health, job creation and energy access will require trillions of dollars over the next 15 years, with much of that coming from the private sector in the form of project finance and foreign investment.

But this won’t happen if business views are sidelined or ignored. The U.S. should spur the U.N. to step up its partnerships with companies in such areas as innovation, infrastructure and investment.

Ambassador Haley should focus especially on U.N. agencies and bodies that have kept the business community in the dark or at arm’s length. Organizations such as the WHO and U.N. Human Rights Commission have drifted away from their core agendas and have enacted counterproductive restrictions on business — a key community which is keen to bring resources, expertise and implementation to advance their respective missions.

We should insist on inclusive and transparent governance in the U.N., with an open door for responsible actors from civil society, including the private sector.

The United Nations has made important progress, and it must continue to seek out new opportunities for collaboration that can improve lives and increase prosperity in the United States and around the world.  But none of this can happen if the United States is not at the table. The U.N. was in large part an American creation. It’s going to be up to us to try to fix it.

Peter M. Robinson is president and CEO of the United States Council for International Business.

 

USCIB CEO and President in New York Times

Robinson_OECDforumToday’s edition of The New York Times features a letter to the editor from USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson on UN reform and the need for the United States to continue to play a leading role in the UN system. The letter is available below as well as on the New York Times’s website.

Robinson’s letter responds to U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley‘s recent comments criticizing the UN Human Rights Commission and other agencies, and comes against the background of recent calls from some in Congress and the Trump administration to defund the UN.

 

The New York Times

April 7, 2017

The Opinion Pages | Letter

‘Tough Love’ at the U.N.

To the Editor:

Re “American Envoy Calls U.N. Human Rights Council ‘Corrupt’ ” (news article, March 30):

As a longtime participant in United Nations deliberations on behalf of the private sector — which has not always enjoyed a warm welcome in the organization — I think that it is always better to be at the table than to walk away.

For us, this is important because the United Nations and its member governments are looking to business to make important contributions on climate change, human rights and many other challenges.

But I agree with Ambassador Nikki Haley that it is entirely appropriate for the United States, as the world body’s biggest funder, to apply some “tough love.”

In my view, some United Nations agencies, including the Human Rights Council, may need to be reformed so that they align with the expectations of United States taxpayers and better reflect the global consensus in favor of strong protection of human rights.

PETER M. ROBINSON, NEW YORK

The writer is president and chief executive of the United States Council for International Business.

USCIB Urges Administration to Maintain Leadership on Trade

Harbor_tradeNew York, N.Y., January 23, 2017Peter M. Robinson, president and CEO of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s executive order withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

“While we are disappointed that the United States will not take part in this ambitious and market-opening agreement, we hope this move sets the stage for future trade agreements that build upon the best in the TPP.

“As we noted in USCIB’s American Competitiveness Agenda 2017, which was released earlier today, the Asia-Pacific region is a very important market for U.S. business and the jobs they support. By 2030, two-thirds of all middle-class consumers in the world will be in Asia, so the area continues to be key to the future growth of many U.S. companies and their SME suppliers. We will work with Congress and the Administration to determine the best ways to further open markets in the Asia-Pacific region to U.S. goods and services, including by carrying forward key provisions from TPP.

“Maintaining U.S. leadership in the region should be a strategic priority. Trade relationships provide economic security but also important national security benefits. Letting other nations – including some with very different economic systems and priorities – write the rules in this fast-growing region would be a mistake. Moreover, some of our most important trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region have already ratified TPP or are continuing to undertake reforms consistent with the agreement.

“We encourage the Trump Administration to move quickly in pursuing its plan for the region, both to help American companies and workers compete, and to ensure that regional trade rules are not driven by others. We look forward to working with the Administration in support of these objectives.”

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 American affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, 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, USCIB
jhuneke@uscib.org, +1 212.703.5043

Priorities for the Trump Administration

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson
USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson

By Peter M. Robinson
President and CEO, USCIB

As I write this, the administration of President Donald Trump is taking shape. Uncertainty remains as to how his campaign promises will be acted upon, and what his top priorities will be. But one thing is clear: our nation’s continued prosperity and security demand that the United States remain engaged internationally on key issues including trade, climate change, sustainability and support for a rules-based global economy.

American companies are heavily invested in creating the conditions for expanded U.S. influence internationally, and for renewed investment and growth at home. USCIB is well positioned to work with the new administration and Congress – and with the overseas business partners with whom we have established longstanding close ties – to support our member’s interests by focusing attention on the key issues and initiatives that will undergird America’s growth and success, and strengthen the global economy, in the 21st century.

Defining America’s role in the 21st century must be a top priority. USCIB is ready to work in concert with the Trump administration and Congress to develop the strategy for U.S. engagement with the wider world – one that both continues and augments the benefits that American businesses, workers and consumers draw from active participation in the global economy and international institutions. We need policies that anticipate, address and support the demands of a changing American workplace, while addressing the legitimate needs of those displaced or disadvantaged by the 21st-century global economy.

Building on strength

Such a strategy must recognize and build upon America’s strengths in innovation, entrepreneurship, world-class work force and know-how. It should further seek to leverage American business to reinforce U.S. global leadership, and effectively engage with multilateral institutions to foster international rules and a level playing field that support our competitiveness. The U.S. should also seek to make these institutions more accountable and representative of key global stakeholders, including the private sector, in pursuit of shared goals and values. As the recognized U.S. business interface — by virtue of our unique global network — with the UN, OECD, ILO and other multilateral bodies, USCIB is especially well-positioned to help bring this about.

Broadly speaking, we are looking to advance four themes with the new administration:

  1. Making globalization work for everyone – The benefits to the United States of increased trade and investment with the world are significant and broadly dispersed across the entire population. But the painful downside of job loss as the result of foreign competition is felt sharply by many individuals and localities. We need policies that effectively address the short-term losses while ensuring the broad gains remain intact, demonstrating the value of economic openness and dynamism for all Americans.
  2. Growing a dynamic, 21st-century economy – Keeping an open door to trade and investment is only part of the equation in building a robust, dynamic economy for the 21st century. Many of the biggest handicaps to U.S. competitiveness are self-inflicted: poor investment in infrastructure, lagging educational institutions, an antiquated and byzantine tax system and poorly constructed immigration policies. We need to build bipartisan support for sensible, long-term investments and policy reforms in each of these areas.
  3. American leadership in the wider world – Farsighted U.S. policies have helped foster global growth and stability ever since World War Two. This in turn has provided direct benefits to America in terms of national security, as well as our ability to grow and compete in the international economy. The world now confronts multiple challenges (such as climate change, terrorism, migration and slow growth in many economies) that demand continued American leadership and close international cooperation.
  4. Transparent and accountable international institutions – America, and American business, led the way in building the postwar international institutions and a rules-based system to foster global stability, growth and development. Unfortunately, some international organizations in the UN family are becoming hostile to the private sector, seeking to exclude business representatives from key meetings and to impose an anti-business agenda. We need to confront that discrimination, while actively supporting and growing the mutually beneficial relationships that do exist after over 70 years of consultative status by global business with various UN agencies. In this regard, we welcome the UN’s recognition of the positive role of business through the recent granting of Observer Status at the UN General Assembly to the International Chamber of Commerce.

We are ready to work with the Trump administration and Congress to strengthen U.S. competitiveness, reap the gains from participation in global markets and trade, and deliver benefits in the form of jobs and opportunities for U.S. workers. These objectives can and must be pursued together.

USCIB in the News: Op-ed in The Hill on UN Funding

un_headquarters_lo-resUSCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson published a timely op-ed in The Hill addressing recent calls in Congress to withhold or withdraw U.S. funding for the United Nations. The op-ed, reprinted below, is also available on The Hill’s website.

This op-ed comes as President-elect Trump’s top appointees, including his proposed foreign policy team, are on Capitol Hill for Senate confirmation hearings. We encourage you to share the op-ed with your colleagues and others who may be interested.


The Hill

January 11, 2017

Walking away from the UN would harm US economic interests

By Peter M. Robinson, opinion contributor

With President-elect Trump’s key foreign policy nominees facing Senate confirmation hearings this week and next, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are threatening to withhold or slash U.S. funding for the United Nations.

This would be a bad idea, both for American power and influence, and for our economic interests. It would be especially risky for U.S. companies and workers.

My organization — The United States Council for International Business — has represented American business views to the U.N. and other international organizations for decades.

We know the U.N. sometimes fails to measure up to our expectations, particularly when it and its specialized agencies have provided a platform for anti-business views. Why do we put up with this? Why shouldn’t we just take our chips and go home?

Quite simply, because we know that no country, including the United States, can go it alone. A strong U.S. presence in the U.N. enhances our influence and our overall security.

More than ever, at a time when terrorism, cybersecurity threats, disease pandemics and refugee crises can disrupt our lives, we need the kind of platform for close international cooperation and collective action that the U.N. can provide.

This is especially true for American companies with customers, employees and operations around the world. While we may not agree with everything the U.N. does, it is simply not in our interest to withdraw support.

We in the private sector see an urgent need for the United States to stick up for its economic interests in the U.N.

For instance, in the negotiations that culminated in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the U.S. had to push back hard against proposals to undermine protection for innovation and intellectual property rights, to assign historical liability for loss and damage from natural disasters, and to ban certain technologies or energy options important to U.S. energy security and climate risk reduction.

Without strong U.S. leadership, these initiatives would have carried the day, hampering American jobs and competitiveness.

At their best, the U.N. and similar bodies set global standards and develop rules that allow U.S. businesses to plan and invest.

Recent U.N. initiatives that have helped American business and our economy include agreements that support a fundamentally “hands-off” approach to the global Internet and guidelines laying out the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and governments in upholding human rights.

Moreover, the U.N. has recently developed the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing an array of challenges, from ending global poverty and hunger to ensuring access to energy, for the next decade and beyond.

The SDGs were developed in close partnership with the private sector, which will be responsible for “delivering the goods” in many, if not most, measures of success.

So, is the U.N. perfect? Far from it, but withholding funding or walking away from the U.N. won’t change that.

Like it or not, it is part of the fundamental infrastructure for global economic activity. Like other infrastructure, the U.N. is desperately in need of repair to meet the needs of the 21st century.

If we play our cards right, this can be a century of American-led innovation and entrepreneurship. President-elect Trump’s administration should insist that the U.N. live up to its potential, defending and advancing U.S. interests in the influential world body.

Business will be there to help. Just last month, the U.N. afforded highly-selective Observer Status in the U.N. General Assembly to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the business organization that represents enterprises across the globe in numerous U.N. deliberations.

This is an important sign of progress, indicating that the U.N. recognizes the need to work more effectively with business.

(Full disclosure: My organization serves as ICC’s American chapter and we pushed hard in support of ICC’s application.)

Congress should meet U.S. funding obligations and work with the Trump administration to hold the U.N. accountable to the U.S. and other member governments, as well as to economic stakeholders in the business community.

Strong engagement and leadership in the global body by the United States is an opportunity too important to lose. American security, jobs and economic opportunities are at stake if the U.S. were to indeed walk away.

Peter M. Robinson is president and CEO of the United States Council for International Business. He is an appointee to the President’s Committee on the International Labor Organization and the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Public-Private Partnerships. Robinson holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

TTIP: Now More Than Ever, We Need a Common Vision for the Future

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson
USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson

By Peter M. Robinson, President and CEO, United States Council for International Business (USCIB)

This column was originally published in Echanges Internationaux, the magazine of ICC France, the French national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The past year has been a disappointing one for transatlantic trade policy. More than ever, we must stand up for trade and investment, two keys for economic growth and job creation. Peter M. Robinson, President and CEO of the United States Council for International Business (ICC USA), puts forward some ideas for a common transatlantic business agenda.

Efforts by the United States and the European Union to negotiate a comprehensive, high-standard Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have progressed at a disappointingly slow pace. As we near the end of the Obama administration (and look ahead to a Trump administration that promises a decidedly different approach to trade policy), TTIP has gotten mired in squabbling over a range of challenging issues and is now effectively sidelined.

These are challenging times for global companies and for major business organizations, including the International Chamber of Commerce and its national committees – such as ICC France and USCIB.

Strong, credible voices from business are more important than ever. The U.S., France and Europe more broadly all need more economic growth, more prosperity, more and better jobs. And as we in the ICC family know, one of the best ways to drive that growth is through increased international trade and investment. With that said, I would put forward the following as a common transatlantic business agenda that we can all agree on.

Keep pushing on trade liberalization

The U.S. and EU must keep pressing ahead on the important and challenging issues in TTIP. We cannot let the change of administration in the U.S., internal divisions within the EU, or other distractions deter us or our political leaders from achieving a comprehensive, ambitious, and balanced Transatlantic economic framework. TTIP was, and remains, our preferred option but that pathway seems blocked at least for the time being. It won’t be easy, and it won’t get done as fast as we’d like. But whether TTIP or some other comparable U.S.-EU agreement, it is more important to get a great agreement than to get a quick or easy agreement.

At the same time as we work to cement transatlantic ties, the U.S. and EU also need to keep providing strong leadership for the multilateral trading system, principally through support for and leadership of the World Trade Organization, which desperately needs a strong shot in the arm. The U.S. and Europe must work together to push forward an ambitious multilateral trade agenda for as we approach the WTO ministerial in Argentina in late 2017.

Work together on development

One key element of any WTO agenda needs to be a strong development pillar, designing and implementing creative ways the WTO trade regime can more effectively promote economic growth in the least developed countries, especially in Africa.

Through our “Business for 2030” initiative, USCIB had spearheaded efforts within the ICC network to provide proactive, constructive business participation in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. We would love to work more closely with ICC France and other leading ICC national committees in Europe on this effort, as we did successfully on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Our website www.businessfor2030.org provides additional information on this important effort.

Join forces on global taxation

Business needs clear, predictable, and fair tax regimes in order to plan and execute its operations. Both European and American business need to be more active, and more closely coordinated, in our participation in the G-20 and OECD efforts to reform global taxation. ICC France and USCIB actively engaged in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). We cannot allow the BEPS effort to get hijacked by those with an anti-business agenda.

Keep global organizations “open for business”

Unfortunately, some international organizations in the UN family are becoming hostile to the private sector, seeking to exclude business representatives from key meetings and to impose an anti-business agenda. Leading U.S. and European business groups, and the global ICC network, need to confront that discrimination, while actively supporting and growing the mutually beneficial relationships that do exist after over 70 years of consultative status with various UN agencies.

I have laid out a long and challenging agenda. I very much look forward to working with François Georges and his dynamic team at ICC France in all of these important areas. We have a lot to do, and a lot more that we can do together. Let’s get to work.

USCIB Statement on the U.S. Election Results

Trump announces security policy in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaNew York, N.Y., November 9, 2016Terry McGraw, chairman of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and Peter Robinson, USCIB’s president and CEO, released the following statement on the results of the U.S. election:

“We congratulate Donald J. Trump on his election as our next President. It has been an intensely hard-fought campaign, and we look forward to Americans coming together behind shared values and a common purpose. We also congratulate the members from both parties elected to both houses of the 115th Congress.

“It is important for the United States to remain engaged globally and provide leadership on a range of issues affecting our national prosperity, including international trade, climate change, sustainability and support for a rules-based global economy.

“American companies are heavily invested in creating the conditions for expanded U.S. influence internationally and renewed investment and growth at home. USCIB is eager to work with the new Administration and Congress – and with the overseas business partners with whom we have established longstanding close ties – to focus attention on the key issues and initiatives that will undergird America’s growth and success, and strengthen the global economy, in the 21st century.

“The next Administration faces numerous challenges as it takes office. A top priority should be to develop and implement, in concert with the Congress, a strategy for U.S. engagement with the wider world – one that both continues and augments the benefits that American businesses, workers and consumers draw from active participation in the global economy and international institutions. We need policies that anticipate, address and support the demands of a changing American workplace, while addressing the legitimate needs of those displaced or disadvantaged by the 21st-century global economy.

“Such a strategy must recognize and build upon America’s strengths in innovation, entrepreneurship, world-class work force and know-how. It should further seek to leverage American business to reinforce U.S. global leadership, and effectively engage with multilateral institutions to foster international rules and a level playing field that support our competitiveness. It should also seek to make these institutions more accountable and representative of key global stakeholders, including the private sector, in pursuit of shared goals and values.

“We are ready to work with the new Administration and Congress to strengthen U.S. competitiveness, reap the gains from participation in global markets and trade, and deliver benefits in the form of jobs and opportunities for U.S. workers. These objectives can and must be pursued together.”

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

Talking Up Trade in an Election Year

By Peter M. Robinson

The presidential candidates are distorting the facts about trade and jobs. We all need to push back.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson
USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

To hear many of the contenders for the White House tell it, international trade is a dead end. There have been numerous memorable quotes from both sides of the aisle that I won’t dignify by repeating here. Nearly all the candidates say the Trans-Pacific Partnership needs to be scrapped or renegotiated.

Such rhetoric, coming from politicians who use it to convince people to vote for them, is extremely disturbing. Why? Because it is distorting the facts about trade and jobs! While the anti-trade diatribes coming from the campaign trail tap into a tangible belief among many disaffected voters that trade policy and the economy in general are rigged against them, they fly in the face of a recent Gallup poll that reports that Americans continue to believe—by a wide margin, 58 to 34 percent—that international trade presents an opportunity rather than a threat.

We in the business community have a responsibility to remind people – including our political leaders – of the facts, and cut through the hyperbole. We need to speak out to help our employees, our shareholders and the communities we operate in understand that the world is growing around us, and that we cannot – nor can other countries – afford to turn inward.

Page2_GallupThe fact is, expanded trade over the past two decades has boosted annual U.S. income by about ten percent of GDP – thousands of dollars per household – relative to what would have been otherwise. A study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics says the United States stands to be a big winner – the biggest winner – from the TPP, with income gains of some $130 billion by 2030. This growth is essential if we are to meet our goals in terms of new and better jobs, and an expanded middle class.

U.S. negotiators drove a hard bargain in the TPP talks, and – while no one, including the business community, got everything they wanted – we came away with an agreement that puts our most competitive industries, and the people they employ, in a good position for strong growth in the burgeoning Asia-Pacific marketplace. This is good news for American workers, since export-oriented companies pay, on average, 18 percent higher wages than their non-exporting counterparts.

It is also important to remember that trade liberalization serves an important geopolitical role, cementing U.S. leadership and a safer, more prosperous world – one where we can address common challenges like tackling climate change, fighting terrorism and lifting people out of poverty. In today’s world, everyone benefits when America leads.

We should take anxiety over trade seriously. But the gains from an agreement like TPP far outweigh the costs. And jobs lost to trade as a result of the agreement can and should be addressed via enhanced Trade Adjustment Assistance, something the business community has long supported. We also need to acknowledge that job dislocation is being spurred by technological advances and corresponding transformative disruptions.

An important priority will be connecting necessary skills development to the jobs of tomorrow. And as World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo has observed, increased trade, by boosting income and creating better jobs, can play an important role in raising skills and reducing inequality, both within countries and across borders.

Boosting investment for the future

To meet both the opportunities and the demands of the 21st-century economy, the United States needs a comprehensive approach to invest in enhanced competitiveness. Such an approach should encompass serious efforts to improve education and training, rebuild our infrastructure, reform the tax code and improve our regulatory environment.

We also need to invest in future agreements to open up markets for American goods and services. In this regard, it is extremely important to promote open and well-functioning investment policies and regimes. Private investment, in addition to traditional trade, will be a critical factor in the years to come.

At every opportunity, USCIB has sought to demonstrate the positive economic benefits of foreign direct investment – both inbound and outbound – for the American economy. A 2013 report by Professor Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth, commissioned by USCIB and the Business Roundtable, demonstrated convincingly that U.S. companies who grew their overseas operations to access foreign markets exported more, and provided more and better jobs at home.

USCIB is working hard to address barriers to investment abroad, both in trade agreements like TPP and international organizations that design rules of the road for their member governments. Our members continue to face policy and regulatory barriers that inhibit entry into specific markets, and impede their ability to design, produce, market and distribute their products globally. Unlocking their ability to invest and compete abroad will be critical to American success in the 21st century, leading to sustainable enterprise and job creation.

In a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Professor Slaughter and Morton Kondracke, the former executive editor of Roll Call, posed the question: “Who will step up to tell the compelling trade story that America needs to hear?”

We, for one, will. And I hope that we can count on everyone in USCIB’s membership to join us and our partners in the broader pro-trade community, in Washington and around the world, to make the case for international trade, and for investing in the future of our country.

Enabling a Vibrant Digital Economy Is Essential for 21st Century Business

Digital GlobeSeveral years ago in this column, I remarked on the amazing transition from e-commerce to the “Internet economy.” Nowadays, it is clear that the digital economy, for all intents and purposes, is the economy. Very little commerce, both in-country and across borders, could take place without the interconnected networks enabled by the global Internet. Think about how your business would function for even a day without reliable access to modern information and communication technologies (ICTs).

The OECD, which has served as an invaluable forum for discussion of sensible policy approaches to the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital economy, is gearing up for a ministerial meeting this June in Cancun, Mexico. The meeting will explore work undertaken by the OECD Committee for Digital Economy Policy to address the continued evolution of the digital economy in the eight years since a previous 2008 ministerial in Seoul, South Korea. USCIB and our members played an active role at the Seoul ministerial, where I had the privilege of serving as chair of the “business day” events.

The Seoul ministerial acknowledged the essential nature of the Internet as a platform for economic growth, and emphasized the need for all stakeholders to guide its development. Recognizing the vast changes in this area since 2008, the Cancun ministerial will highlight the extent to which the entire economy has become digitized, and explore how this transformation has affected social interactions, business and government operations, laws and regulations, and jobs and skills. Numerous USCIB and other global companies are set to participate.

Privacy and localization concerns

The Cancun ministerial comes against the backdrop of growing unease in some markets over privacy protections for cross-border data transmissions. The European Court of Justice got everyone’s attention recently when it invalidated the European Commission’s 2000 decision concerning the adequacy of the existing transatlantic “safe harbor” framework. In the past 15 years, thousands of U.S. companies have used this framework to ensure that their data practices are in line with European Union privacy rules.

Addressing the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said she was confident that U.S. and EU officials would reach agreement on a new data transfer deal – a so-called Safe Harbor 2.0, which is essential for the global operations of both tech and non-tech companies. As we went to press, however, there was still no agreement, and the clock was ticking loudly toward a January 31 deadline imposed by EU Data Protection Authorities (DPAs). The DPAs indicated that if U.S. and EU negotiators do not conclude Safe Harbor 2.0 by that date, they may launch probes of U.S. tech companies to ensure compliance with European law. Such actions could have a severe chilling effect on transatlantic data flows, with potentially devastating consequences for both the U.S. and EU economies.

A related development is rising support for the forced localization of data centers within a country’s border. As USCIB members have made clear in numerous forums, such requirements diminish the investment appeal of these markets by creating undue burdens for global companies. Localization requirements also threaten ground-breaking ICT advances – with promise of significant economic and societal benefits for these countries – in such areas as cloud computing, use of Big Data and the Internet of Things. Also important (and ironic), data localization measures effectively undermine privacy and security by distracting from efforts to create better protections for individuals and generally making these markets more vulnerable to hackers.

More generally, we are seeing a proliferation of other types of localization barriers, such as local content requirements, discriminatory government procurement practices, technology transfer requirements and other policies and regulations aimed at promoting domestic industry and shielding it from foreign competition.

Wise policy choices needed

A vibrant digital economy holds great promise for individual businesses and the global economy more generally. Many countries realize this, but in their efforts to harness the innovative and developmental potential of an Internet-fueled economy, they are resorting to policies that risk quashing that vibrancy.

During last year’s review of the decade-old World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), an initiative launched under UN auspices, we also heard calls from some countries for a stronger government role in governance of the Internet. Such an approach would undermine the bottom-up, multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance. When governments work together with other stakeholders, we can realize significant progress in raising capacity, knowledge, and understanding of digital economy issues. Policymaking invariably is improved when representatives of business, the technical community, and civil society inform such discussions; such inclusion also helps to lower the risk of unintended consequences.

The upcoming OECD ministerial provides the perfect opportunity for the business community to tell lawmakers which policies best realize the promise of Internet-enabled development and innovation. USCIB seeks a ministerial outcome that recognizes the importance of private-sector investment and “light touch” regulation that preserves the Internet’s interoperability. We would also like to see the OECD highlight how emerging technologies facilitate economic development and address societal needs. And collaboration between all stakeholders is a must in order to expand inclusion in the digital economy.

USCIB addresses these issues at a global level through our unique role as U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and of BIAC, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD. We are lucky to have strong member support and leadership from individuals such as Eric Loeb (AT&T) and Joseph Alhadeff (Oracle), chair and vice chair, respectively, of our ICT Policy Committee. (Alhadeff also chairs the corresponding committees at ICC and BIAC.)

I am confident that USCIB and our members will have robust representation in Cancun. And I am equally confident that policymakers will recognize the Internet’s role as a platform for innovation, social inclusion and economic development. With your continued strong support, USCIB and our members can continue to drive industry leadership in this critical area; ICTs are essential for doing business in the 21st century.

USCIB at the United Nations

un_headquarters_lo-resHere in New York, September was a high-profile month, not only for heads of state, but also for business where USCIB, along with our colleagues at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), was in the thick of things during the United Nations General Assembly.

Prior to the opening of this year’s session, country leaders and other important actors gathered for two events of critical importance for business: UN Climate Week and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit. After two years of slow-moving and intricately detailed negotiations, countries agreed the UN 2030 Development Agenda, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They also highlighted the critical importance of a successful outcome at this December’s UN Climate Summit in Paris.

In both these arenas, USCIB has been involved every step of the way. It is clear that both initiatives will impact the private sector, while also providing many opportunities for business to contribute. Because of this, our stepped up advocacy and communications activities this year on both climate change and the SDGs have been carefully planned and strategically managed under our Campaign 2015 initiative.

Our key messages have been consistent – as well as insistent. Both in the negotiations leading to the SDGs and in the climate change negotiations, we have underscored the need for business to be embedded in the process. This is necessary to leverage the full resources that we can bring to the table – through investment, innovation and know-how. We have also sought to ensure that expectations of the private sector’s contributions are reasonable, and in line with business and economic realities. I believe this steady drumbeat of private-sector messaging is beginning to pay off.

Business for 2030 showcases company initiatives

I am especially proud of the launch of our Business for 2030 web portal, which makes a critical contribution to the 2030 Agenda by showcasing corporate programs and initiatives supporting each of the 17 SDGs (see page 3). Co-sponsored by Bechtel, MasterCard and IFPMA, our event attracted a diverse, standing-room only crowd of corporate, governmental, IGO and NGO representatives. We were honored to have UN Ambassador Amina Mohammed, the architect of the Sustainable Development Goals, as our opening speaker. Another leading figure in international development, Erik Solheim, executive director of the OECD Development Committee, delivered closing comments.

The Business for 2030 portal has already received widespread acclaim, and it has been designated by the UN as an official portal for identifying corporate contributions to the SDGs. This is a remarkable contrast to the “cold shoulder” business got in the development of the Millennium Development Goals 15 years ago.

All eyes now on implementation – and on Paris

USCIB has worked closely with the UN system, the U.S. government and other business groups to shape the SDGs, and has identified priority issues for business attention and engagement. To date, however, the access and involvement afforded business in the deliberations has not been commensurate with the high expectations for private-sector resources and action. We are working to change that as attention now shifts to putting the SDGs into practice at the national level.

I have been extremely impressed with the commitment and determination shown by USCIB members to help guide and inform the UN’s work on the 2030 Development Agenda. Special thanks and recognition go to Ann Condon of GE, chair of USCIB’s Environment Committee, and to Tam Nguyen of Bechtel and Brian Lowry of Monsanto, co-chairs of our SDGs Working Group.

The new UN agenda will shift the terrain for much of USCIB’s work, and we appreciate the encouragement and support we have received to continue to take a pro-active role, expressing USCIB’s vision and raising USCIB’s visibility. We will continue to work hard to inject business views into the implementation phase, especially at the national level, utilizing USCIB’s unmatched global business network.

We are now gearing up for the next critical step in the Campaign 2015 program: the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. In October, I helped represent U.S. business in Tokyo at the Second Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF2), a high-level conference organized by the government of Japan for business, government and academics to discuss the important role of innovation and technology in addressing climate change. While in Tokyo, I also participated in the High Level Business Dialogue organized by Laurence Tubiana of the government of France; the invitation to join this influential consultation with government ministers on technological solutions and their deployment is further recognition of USCIB’s reputation and expertise in the process. We also participated in the final round of UN climate negotiations in Bonn.

And now it is on to Paris!