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