USCIB Discourages Regulatory Overreach in Comments to ITU

USCIB filed comments with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last week as part of the ITU’s public consultation on “Public Policy considerations for OTTs,” urging the ITU to avoid expanding its jurisdiction to include Internet-related issues. The public policy aspects of OTT services have been identified as a priority by several governments in the ITU. The U.S. government considers OTT services to offer a range of economic benefits, including increased consumer choice, increased use of underlying networks, and contributions to further innovation and investment.  However, other countries view OTT services as adjuncts to traditional telecommunications services, and should therefore be subject to regulation.

USCIB’s comments emphasized the importance of staying true to the ITU’s primarily technical mission in developing international telecommunication standards and allocating spectrum, and not expanding the ITU’s work program to include Internet-related issues that are well beyond its remit, core competencies, and budgetary resources. Such issues are most effectively addressed in multistakeholder forums, where policy is holistically and expertly informed by consultations among business, civil society, the technical community, and government, USCIB stated. USCIB  further highlighted the promise of innovative online services and applications for economic, developmental, and societal benefits, which will help to realize many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“An enabling environment for continued innovation and investment in these services is crucial,” noted USCIB Vice President Barbara Wanner. “In this regard, market-driven solutions and voluntary, industry-led standards best ensure a healthy digital ecosystem,” she said.

The ITU will consider contributions from USCIB and others at a face-to-face open consultation, which will be held in Geneva on September 18, 2017.

USCIB Joins 107 Associations on NAFTA Letter on Investment

USCIB joined 107 other associations in a letter sent on August 8 to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer and four other cabinet-level officials in the administration highlighting the importance of a strong investment chapter in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The letter emphasized the need for strong enforcement provisions via an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system with independent expert arbiters.  The letter also offered six specific suggested changes to strengthen the current investment chapter in the NAFTA modernization negotiation set to begin August 16 in Washington.

“These provisions are highly valuable and have already helped many U.S. businesses that have faced the seizure, theft and mistreatment of investments in both Canada and Mexico. ISDS in the NAFTA has been highly beneficial to the United States,” the letter notes.

Investment, including Foreign Direct Investment, is key to driving economic growth, competitiveness, exports and jobs. Strong investment agreements, including ISDS arbitration provisions are key to effective enforcement.  The investment chapter will likely be a focus in the NAFTA update negotiations.

“We were delighted to have several USCIB member sectoral associations join us in signing the letter along with a broad coalition of national and state business groups,” said Shaun Donnelly, USCIB’s vice president for trade and financial services.

USCIB Urges Senate to Confirm Trump Administration Nominees

USCIB is among approximately 90 American business and industry associations to have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, urging the Senate to take expeditious steps to ensure the timely confirmation of qualified pending nominees to administration positions.

“The slow pace of confirmations is depriving agencies across the government of critical leadership and in the case of independent agencies, the quorum necessary to conduct critical business,” reads the letter.

Additionally, it notes: “The breakdown of the confirmation process results in a breakdown in the efficient and effective functioning of government and ultimately to a drag on the economy. Workers are sidelined as projects await permits from agencies that lack the quorum necessary to issue the permit. Businesses are left waiting for important administrative decisions that simply cannot be made in the absence of Senate-confirmed officials.”

To date, among President Donald Trump’s 283 executive and judicial nominations, only 67 have been confirmed. Of those 67, only 13 were confirmed by voice vote or unanimous consent, while 37 (55%) were confirmed only after going through the cloture process. By way of comparison, at approximately the same point in President Obama’s first term, the Senate had confirmed 206 nominees, 182 by voice vote or unanimous consent.

The full letter, along with the list of signatories, can be found here.

Administration Goals for Modernizing NAFTA Include Many USCIB Priorities but Leave Out Key Issues

Washington, D.C., July 17, 2017 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents America’s top global companies and helps exporters of all sizes do business across borders, is encouraged that the objectives for modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) released by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) today cover many of the issues proposed in USCIB’s submission last month. But the group said some of the objectives leave out references to key business priorities such as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson said: “The fact of the matter is that a great many businesses base their success on increasingly seamless integration of the North American trading space. U.S. negotiators need to start from the premise that three-way trade and investment among the NAFTA partners should be enhanced, not restricted. A modernization effort must include strong investment protection provisions, including effective ISDS. We encourage USTR to maintain an intensive dialogue with affected U.S. stakeholders, including business, as they flesh out more detailed objectives, strategies and priorities.”

Last month, USCIB released its priorities for NAFTA modernization, calling on the administration to update the 23 year-old pact to accommodate new realities in global commerce, including the rise of the digital economy, while keeping what works from the original agreement.

USCIB urged the administration to update and strengthen key NAFTA provisions, including the liberalization and protection of investment flows, protection of intellectual property, customs and trade facilitation, regulatory cooperation, and improved agricultural market access. It also recommended tackling new areas not included or anticipated in the original agreement two decades ago, such as the digital provision of goods and services, data localization requirements, and state-owned enterprises.

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 several leading international business organizations, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment.

Contact:
Jonathan Huneke, USCIB
Tel: +1 917 420 0039
jhuneke@uscib.org

Donnelly Testifies on NAFTA at USTR-led Public Hearings

With the Trump administration having served notice of its intention to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), USCIB has been advocating for modernization of certain aspects of NAFTA through op-eds, testimonies and meetings. Most recently, USCIB Vice President for Trade and Finance Shaun Donnelly presented USCIB views at the “NAFTA Testimony” hearings held on June 27 at the International Trade Commission (ITC). While held at the ITC, USTR was running the three days of public hearings. Staff from Commerce, State, Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, and Agriculture also sat on the panel and joined in questioning presenters.

Donnelly’s testimony stemmed USCIB’s written submission, which had been developed with member input, focused on NAFTA’s importance to U.S. business and that it should be updated given that it is no longer a “cutting edge” trade agreement. “By all means, update, modernize,” said Donnelly. “But NAFTA does not need a fundamental “root and branch” renegotiation. Give NAFTA a facelift, not a lobotomy,” he emphasized.

Donnelly also highlighted five key messages from USCIB’s written submission:

  1. Get strong digital economy provisions into NAFTA – e-commerce, cross border data flows, telecoms competition, prohibitions on data localization requirements.
  2. Update other key areas – e.g. standards and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs), cover new forms of services, strengthen IPR provisions and enforcement to incentivize innovation, develop a meaningful chapter on State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
  3. Update and strengthen customs and trade facilitation provisions; get higher de minimis levels.
  4. Strong investment provisions are essential. Implementation/arbitration through Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is essential. ISDS works and it is important for many U.S. investors even in North America; don’t be seduced by criticism from the EU and NGOs about ISDS or the EU’s investment court proposal.
  5. Government Procurement chapter is important and its working. It’s balanced. Don’t rip it up. U.S. firms are selling a lot of goods and services to Canadian and Mexican government entities.

“Do the update quickly, seriously, trilaterally, in transparent manner, based on real issues of concern to the U.S. business community not with a political focus on bilateral trade balances or imposing unilateral trade barriers,” Donnelly concluded. “Work with U.S. business, we want to be partners in this important exercise.”

 

 

USCIB Statement on U.S. Withdrawal From the Paris Climate Agreement

New York, N.Y., June 1, 2017 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents America’s most successful global companies, issued the following statement on U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement:

“Like many others in the U.S. business community, USCIB is disappointed by the news that the Trump administration has elected to leave the Paris Climate Agreement. In our view, this decision could leave U.S. companies unprotected and exposed to possible discrimination under the Paris Agreement if the U.S. government is not at the table.

“The Paris Agreement is redefining global markets for energy and environmental goods and services, as well as providing major economic stimuli for companies. U.S. energy security and access were never threatened by the Paris Agreement, which allows each national government to define its own climate action plan. Moreover, the U.S. stands to benefit from trade and investment opportunities that the Paris Agreement will set in motion.

“We are interested to learn more about how the U.S. will pursue new arrangements while remaining in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. While it does so, we encourage the U.S. to stay involved on behalf of U.S. economic interests, and to bring U.S. solutions to this crucial global effort. We encourage the administration to reform areas of the UN climate framework toward more fair, transparent and balanced approaches that are responsive to U.S. circumstances and aspirations.

“USCIB members are committed to advancing sustainable development and environmental solutions through international cooperation, and have supported the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement since their inception. Multilateral forums and cooperative approaches are the best way to address the transboundary challenges of energy access and innovation, climate change and sustainable development. In close coordination with our global business partners, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF), USCIB will continue to champion U.S. business interests in the UNFCCC, and will seek opportunities to promote U.S. environment and energy solutions through business engagement and implementation, and to broadly deploy climate-friendly investment and innovation.

“USCIB has represented U.S. business interests in the UN climate negotiations for over 25 years, and during that time has benefited from the diligent efforts of U.S. government representatives at the table to advance and defend U.S. business interests, often under challenging conditions. We express thanks to the current U.S. climate negotiating team, and others with whom we have worked, for their extraordinary efforts on our behalf.”

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 several leading international business organizations, including ICC, 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
Tel: +1 212 703 5043
jhuneke@uscib.org

Industry Appeals to China on Cybersecurity Law

With China’s broad cybersecurity law set to take effect next month, USCIB has joined with a range of industry groups from the United States and other countries in appealing for the country to delay its entry into force. Among other things, the new law would give law enforcement enhanced authority to access private data and require data to be stored servers located in China.

In a joint letter, the business groups said they are “deeply concerned that current and pending security-related rules will effectively erect trade barriers along national boundaries that effectively bar participation in your market and affect companies across industry sectors that rely on information technology goods and services to conduct business.”

The letter called on China to ensure that cybersecurity regulations comply with China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and encourage the adoption of international models that support China’s development as a global hub for technology and services.

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 and AFL-CIO Join Forces to Support Key Programs on Labor and Human Rights

CapitolUSCIB and the AFL-CIO recently joined forces in a letter co-signed by USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and ALF-CIO President Richard Trumka to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and its Senate counterpart to support the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) and the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). Robinson and Trumka serve together as members of the President’s Committee on the International Labor Organization.

Separately, USCIB submitted written testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations to continue funding ILAB’s and DRL’s grants and programs. “These department bureaus are essential for ensuring compliance with our current trade law and a level playing field for businesses operating both in the U.S. and globally. The programs and grants of ILAB and DRL are critical to both employers and workers, providing essential support to efforts of U.S. companies and worker organizations to promote worker rights abroad, uphold labor commitments in free trade agreements, eliminate forced labor and child labor, and create an enabling environment for ethical business practices,” said Rob Mulligan, USCIB senior vice president for policy and government affairs.

The joint USCIB AFL-CIO letter is available here.

USCIB Urges Business Access in Comments to UNFCCC

As uncertainty in U.S. participation and leadership in UN climate negotiations and the Paris Climate Agreement continues, USCIB and its global network are pushing to ensure that business has a voice in the global climate policy process.

USCIB, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) recently submitted coordinated comments to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of its Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 46) meeting, to take place in Bonn, Germany on May 8-18, 2017. The USCIB, ICC and BizMEF submissions all make the case for enhancing engagement of Non-Party Actors (NSAs), particularly the private sector, in order to strengthen Paris Agreement implementation. USCIB’s Norine Kennedy, Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment will attend the Bonn meetings, along with USCIB members from Monsanto and Novozymes.

In preparing the comments Kennedy noted, “As it stands today, the UNFCCC institutional infrastructure does not adequately reflect the role of the private sector and therefore must be updated and expanded to recognize and mobilize business engagement as part of global efforts to deliver on the Paris Agreement. In our view, the May Workshop during SBI46 on enhancing NSA engagement could provide valuable ideas to begin to build this vital institutional infrastructure for implementation of the Agreement.”

Governments have recognized the major contribution of the private sector to achieving the Paris Agreement, its entry into force and other follow-up activities.  As a long-time observer organization representing American business in the UNFCCC since 1993, USCIB has consistently sought to extend existing opportunities to participate in the international climate processes.  USCIB’s advocacy has focused on broadening and improving existing options to create a more comprehensive, recognized channel for business engagement to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement and ensure the effectiveness and resilience of the UNFCCC.

In its comments, USCIB emphasized that enhancing business engagement requires innovative governance and partnership, and will be a prerequisite for successful and cost-effective implementation. Kennedy stressed that “the UNFCCC should adjust its means of working with business to a more collaborative and mainstreamed mode. This will require innovative leadership by policy-makers to engage the private sector in new ways.”

USCIB’s comments also included suggestions for the SBI workshop’s objectives, a long-term vision for business engagement in the UNFCC, and the role of business in national pledges under the Paris Agreement, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The full submission can be accessed here.