Robinson: NAFTA Talks an Opportunity to Modernize Agreement

As negotiations between the United States, Canada and Mexico to update the North American Free Trade Agreement got underway last week in Washington, D.C., USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson was quoted in Chief Executive magazine as saying that the talks provided a valuable opportunity to update an agreement that has been in place for more than two decades.

“Negotiators can do this especially by addressing such issues as digital trade, cross-border data flows, streamlined customs processes, treatment of state-owned enterprises and regulatory coherence,” said Robinson. “But negotiators should preserve those parts of NAFTA that have worked well for U.S. business. These include the investor protection provisions, including a strong investor-state dispute settlement framework. Access to strong ISDS arbitration procedures can be especially important for smaller companies, given their greater vulnerability to costly, protracted legal battles in foreign courts.”

In June, Robinson contributed an op-ed to The Hill outlining USCIB’s goals for NAFTA modernization.

Read the entire article on Chief Executive’s website here.

USCIB in the News: Bloomberg Covers USCIB Work on Labor

White HouseAs the White House continues to discuss appropriations, the union umbrella group AFL-CIO, in partnership with USCIB, is targeting the Senate in search of a bipartisan group of lawmakers to champion the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of International Labor Affairs, as reported by Bloomberg BNA. This comes during discussions between the White House and a House appropriations panel to eliminate a grant program designed to eradicate labor abuses overseas.

“I think that type of outreach can only help bring attention, with leading U.S. business speaking up and engaging directly, it can only help,” said Gabriella Rigg Herzog, USCIB’s vice president for corporate responsibility and labor affairs, as quoted by Bloomberg BNA. “USCIB will continue to speak out on this matter and seek ways to bring attention to this.”

USCIB CEO and President Peter Robinson also met with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta earlier this year about the importance of a fully funded ILAB. Additionally, USCIB submitted a joint letter with AFL-CIO earlier this year to the House Committee on Appropriations to continue funding ILAB’s and the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor’s grants and programs.

To read the full article on Bloomberg BNA, click here. Please note, Bloomberg BNA is available via subscription.

USCIB Op-ed: NAFTA 2.0 Needs to Protect Investment

USCIB’s Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly along with its Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl recently contributed an op-ed in The Hill titled, “NAFTA 2.0 needs to enshrine investor protections.”

As the Trump administration gears up to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) later this month, Hampl and Donnelly evaluate the Trump administration’s negotiating objectives, which were released last month.

“Overall, the administration’s “NAFTA 2.0” wish-list is solid. Some commentators have noted the irony of including so many goals that were essentially attained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement President Trump withdrew from on his third day in office,” they write. However, one of the more crucial objectives, mainly investor protection under the agreement’s Chapter 11 are not included.

“These provisions, which allow U.S. investors both small and large to seek compensation for unfair, discriminatory or inequitable treatment at the hands of foreign governments, are based on bedrock principles embedded in our own Constitution prohibiting abusive government treatment and the taking of private property without just compensation. Without this provision, domestic courts become the only legal recourse for a wronged investor. While Mexico has made great strides in many respects, its court system is still far from impartial. Indeed, miscarriages of justice can happen in any country, including advanced democracies like the United States and Canada,” they noted.

Please visit The Hill for the whole op-ed.

Like it or Not, UN Needs Private Sector Input in Climate Talks

USCIB’s Norine Kennedy at the UN climate talks in Bonn

USCIB Vice President Norine Kennedy has an op-ed in The Hill today urging UN negotiators not to freeze the business community out of future discussion of climate change. The full text of the op-ed is available on The Hill’s website.

Kennedy, who attended the latest UN climate talks in Bonn last week, worked closely with the U.S. and other governments, as well as numerous business groups including the International Chamber of Commerce, to push back against proposals by a few governments and NGOs to curtail private-sector participation under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 


 

The Hill

May 15, 2017

Like it or Not, UN Needs Private Sector Input in Climate Talks

By Norine Kennedy

BONN, GERMANY—As the current round of U.N. climate talks here in Bonn near their conclusion, delegates are allowing themselves a sense of cautious relief. The Trump administration has postponed a final decision on its continued involvement in the UN climate treaty – and the Paris Agreement concluded in 2015 – until after this meeting concludes on May 18. A hard-working, albeit smaller-than-usual, U.S. delegation is on hand, and the talks are moving ahead on a range of technical matters.

(Read the full text on The Hill’s website.)

 

 

USCIB in the News: Business and the UN Climate Process

USCIB Vice President Norine Kennedy and CEO Peter Robinson at COP21 in 2015.

The Financial Times has published a letter to the editor from USCIB Vice President Norine Kennedy on the role of business in the UN climate change talks — please see below. The op-ed is also available on the FT’s website.

Publication of this letter comes as UN members gather in Bonn, Germany for talks leading up to this December’s COP23 summit. A few governments and interest groups have called for new rules aimed at restricting the private sector’s participation in the UN climate process. Kennedy’s letter forcefully rebuts these efforts.


Financial Times

May 4, 2017

Letter

Business takes its climate responsibilities seriously

From Norine Kennedy, New York, NY, US

Sir, Regarding “Developing nations seek to reveal business influence on climate talks” (May 1): the UN is at its best when it opens its doors to all relevant stakeholders. Potential conflicts of interest pertain to all organisations, not just business associations. Business representatives are obliged to abide by all UN rules as a condition of their attendance at UN meetings.

We take this responsibility seriously. Just two years ago, my organisation joined others from around the world in celebrating the Paris Climate Agreement. The political will needed to reach consensus in Paris was spurred in part by support from business. Now, disappointingly, some wish to disinvite the private sector.

Since it is business that will deliver the lion’s share of the investment and innovation needed to confront the climate challenge — a fact recognised in the Paris Agreement — shouldn’t the conversation include business representatives? How else can governments and other stakeholders develop effective policy frameworks to unlock potentially game-changing solutions?

Norine Kennedy
Vice President, Energy and Environment,
United States Council for International Business,
New York, NY, US

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 in the News: Joint Letter Seeks Fair Play in India

USCIB has recently been cited in two articles, the Economic Times India and the International Business Times India,  both of which featured a multi-industry letter that was sent to Congress regarding the United States’ role in ensuring fair play in India for American companies. USCIB joined a group of over twenty eminent American business organizations and industry groups, many of which are also USCIB members. The letter stated that “businesses in the U.S. continue to face an evolving array of tariff and non-tariff barriers, both longstanding and new, which impede businesses and manufactures in the United States from competing fairly in India and creating jobs here at home.”

The letter urges the U.S. government, including Congress, to use all available channels to ensure fair play and to support Indian efforts that align with U.S. goals. The letter emphasized the need to actively use existing as well as new platforms and tools to raise and resolve longstanding issues, including the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum, and the WTO dispute settlement.

The letter is available here.

USCIB in the News: Trump and Global Leadership

USCIB was recently cited in a Denver Post opinion piece highlighting President Donald Trump’s signal of “retreat from leading the world.” The op-ed, by Professor Ved Nanda of the University of Denver,  referred to a USCIB statement issued last week regarding Trump’s executive order to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the statement, USCIB observed that the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 40 percent of the global economy and is a key market for future growth of U.S. companies, in part due to estimates that two-thirds of all middle-class consumers will be in Asia by 2030.

The op-ed also highlighted the need for continue U.S. leadership and closer cooperation with its allies. Click here to access the op-ed on the Denver Post’s website.

USCIB in the News

ICC United Kingdom, which serves as the British national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, was featured in the Financial Times on January 18 in response to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on the UK’s position on Brexit. The article, reprinted below, is also available on the FT’s website.

We encourage you to share this with others as well as follow ICC UK on Twitter: @iccwboUK


UK BUSINESS MUST MAKE THE CASE FOR TRADE DURING EXIT TALKS

Sir, Signs that the British government will sacrifice access to the single market during Brexit negotiations are indeed worrying. I find the assertion that “many are now becoming increasingly relaxed about a hard Brexit” (January 17) genuinely concerning. The Brexit negotiations will dictate the future of UK-EU trade relationships, jobs and livelihoods for generations to come.

The UK is one of the largest trading economies in the world, so the impacts will be felt far beyond its and the EU’s borders. Whatever happens, we must all come away with a deal that works for all parties. For business, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, retaining access to the single market is the best option — keeping red tape, costs and disruption to a minimum. Don’t be conned into thinking the numbers are irrelevant: a 2-3 per cent tariff increase can mean the difference between an SME being successful or going bust. For foreign investors, 2-3 per cent can totally change the business case for investing in the UK. More paperwork means someone has to be paid to fill it in — someone has to pay for that. International businesses do not operate in silos.

UK, EU and non-EU businesses are often intertwined through integrated supply chains that move goods, services and finance across borders. Now is not the time to put up barriers or add costs if we want more trade, jobs and investment. We must all work hard to keep borders open — this is not just a UK priority, but also a G20 priority. Negotiations haven’t even started yet. We need to remain cool headed and must not get comfortable with the idea that the UK will leave the single market. Small businesses need the next best alternative with maximum freedom and minimal red tape. UK business isn’t powerless. We must communicate with the government and electorate, we must loudly make the case for trade, and we must not give up.

Chris Southworth Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce, London WC1, UK