USCIB Promotes ATA Carnet as Tool for Department of Commerce

Andy Shiles (left) with Under Secretary for International Trade, Department of Commerce Gilbert Kaplan (right)

USCIB joined a breakfast meeting in New York with the Under Secretary for International Trade with the Department of Commerce Gilbert Kaplan last week. NY District Department of Commerce Director Carmela Mammas and Joe Schoonmaker from the NY District Export Council (NYDEC) hosted the meeting, which was attended by Andy Shiles, USCIB’s senior vice president for ATA Carnet and trade services.

Kaplan discussed the effort of the Department of Commerce offices to reach out and collaborate with U.S. Ambassadors around the world to utilize Embassies for networking and meeting opportunities for American businesses to establish and strengthen business relationships in other countries to help stimulate international trade.

“There are exciting times in the world of international trade,” commented Shiles. “Under Secretary Kaplan received excellent comments from several representing the NYDEC. You can guess that we also discussed the use of an ATA Carnet as one of the tools the Department of Commerce should promote with small and medium sized companies as they strive to expand the international markets for US goods.”

Over 100 Business Representatives Lobby Senate on NAFTA

Following previous successful NAFTA Senate Lobby Days, USCIB once again participated last week, joining more than 100 representatives from the agriculture and business community to talk about private sector concerns and perspectives regarding the ongoing negotiations to modernize NAFTA. The Senate Lobby Day, as in the past, was coordinated as a larger Coalition effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The purpose of this day was to increase support in light of the high-level talks among the NAFTA countries currently taking place in DC,” noted Eva Hampl, USCIB director for investment, trade and financial services. “There is concern in the business community about the Administration’s alleged push to conclude an agreement on an accelerated timeline.”

Hampl led one of the groups that went up to the Hill last week, where she met with several Republican and Democratic Senate offices throughout the day.

“While the various offices are certainly focused on NAFTA, they do not appear to have a definite action plan on what to do in the event of the potential negative scenarios that may take place, such as withdrawal from NAFTA 1.0 or an inadequate NAFTA 2.0.,” said Hampl.  “Also, while the Committee appears to get briefings from the Administration when they request it, the remainder of the Senators are not being briefed in a way that should be expected under TPA, given that the agreement is allegedly near conclusion.”

Donnelly and Claman Play Key Roles at OECD and BIAC Investment Meetings

Shaun Donnelly speaks at OECD, joined by (on the left) BIAC investment Committee Chair Winand Quaedvlieg of VNO (Netherlands)

Citi Director of International Government Affairs Kimberley Claman joined USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly at the recent March 12-13 meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Business at OECD (BIAC) Investment Committee meetings in Paris.

Claman, a last-minute addition to the wrap-up panel for the OECD’s day-long annual Investment Treaties conference, offered business perspectives on the day’s debates on investment treaties and investment chapters as tools to protect and promote much-needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows around the world.

After BIAC’s in-house Investment Committee discussions and strategizing on March 13, Donnelly and Claman joined the BIAC delegation, as well as invited labor and civil society “stakeholders,” to participate in the OECD Investment Committee’s discussion of “National Security” provisions and exceptions in Investment agreements.

“This was a very timely topic in light of the Trump Administration’s invocation of ‘national security’ justification for steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Donnelly. “Business took a strong position that national security provisions and especially their ‘self-judging’ nature could be serious threats to the quality of investment treaty disciplines.”

Donnelly joined the Dutch BIAC Investment Committee Chair at the table for formal stakeholder consultations with the OECD Committee, where they outlined BIAC policy priorities and positions, presenting BIAC’s “Proactive Investment Agenda for 2018.”  The day concluded with Claman, Donnelly and the rest of the BIAC Investment leadership hosting an informal working dinner for the OECD’s Investment Committee leadership, a useful off-the-record forum for explanations, probing questions, and candid debate.

“It was a long and challenging couple of days but with challenges growing to investment agreements and especially Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), it’s critical that USCIB be there standing up for strong investment protections, including effective enforcement/dispute settlement provisions,” noted Donnelly. “We offer special thanks to Kimberley for bringing her unique company and former USG negotiator expertise to the discussions.”

USCIB Welcomes Senate Confirmation of McAleenan as CBP Commissioner

Washington, D.C., March 19, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which advocates on behalf of America’s global companies and helps exporters of all sizes do business abroad, applauded today’s Senate confirmation of Kevin McAleenan as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“Kevin McAleenan is the right man for the job,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “As Acting Commissioner, he has demonstrated strong, skilled and knowledgeable direction to CBP. Under his leadership, the agency is positioned to move forward effectively in addressing the challenges and complexities of the trading environment in the U.S.”

Jerry Cook, vice president for government and trade relations with Hanes Brands and chair of USCIB’s Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee, added: “USCIB has a longstanding relationship with CBP, reflecting our subject-matter expertise and practitioner work on customs policy and trade facilitation. We look forward to working with Commissioner McAleenan and his team to help speed streamline and simplify trade for the benefit of American companies, workers and consumers.”

USCIB is already actively engaged with CBP on a range of issues, including, but not limited to customs valuation, customs classification continued ratification and, implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, engagement with the work of the World Customs Organization, and continued progress toward the Automated Customs Environment (ACE). It is working with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), for which USCIB serves as the American affiliate, to encourage the streamlining of customs practices overseas.

Robinson noted USCIB’s role in overseeing the ATA Carnet service in the United States under CBP authorization. ATA Carnets are internationally recognized customs documents that enable the duty-free, tax-free importation of product samples, goods for trade shows and professional equipment into some 80 countries worldwide for up to one year.

“With our unique perspective, we look forward to continuing to work with and help Customs meet its goals and objectives,” he said. “We stand ready to continue to serve as a key CBP stakeholder, and provide both subject matter expertise and practitioner support on topics of interest to Customs and to our membership.”

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
jhuneke@uscib.org, +1 212.703.5043
 

Colombians in Washington Lobby on OECD Accession

Last week, USCIB was actively involved in various meetings with the Colombian government, business community and civil society on the issue of Colombia’s accession process to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl, who coordinates U.S. business input on OECD accession issues attended a number of these meetings, along with USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan.

“With only two outstanding OECD Committees left to approve the accession, Colombia has ramped up lobbying efforts to the U.S. business community and government,” said Hampl. The outstanding committees are the Committee for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs (ELSA) and the Trade Committee. These committees are scheduled to deliberate in March and April, respectively.

In anticipation of the upcoming meeting of the Trade Committee, Colombia’s Minister of Trade Maria Lorena Gutierrez met with USCIB to discuss outstanding issues on pharmaceuticals, distilled spirits and truck scrapping, as outlined in the Business at OECD (BIAC) Pre-Accession Recommendations. Also part of the delegation was Colombia’s Minister of Finance and Public Credit Mauricio Cardenas Santamaria, who advocated strongly for Colombia to accede prior to the end of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos term this summer.

USCIB also had a meeting with ANDI, the National Business Association of Colombia, to discuss outstanding issues for business. Bruce Mac Master, president of ANDI led a delegation of Colombian CEOs in this meeting with the U.S. business community, in an effort to make progress on issues like trucking and pharmaceuticals.

Hampl also addressed these critical issues to U.S. business with Colombian civil society in an interview on Colombian radio last week. The main concerns raised during that conversation were on the timing of the accession process given the expiring term of President Santos, and substantive issues on pharmaceuticals, including patents.

“The U.S. business community remains firm on the outstanding issues,” said Hampl. “The OECD is a group of like-minded countries when it comes to believing in open trade and investment and innovation. It is important for any new members to share those views. The Colombian market is important to U.S. industry and we value the U.S. relationship with Colombia, so we look forward to Colombia making the necessary regulatory changes to allow the accession process move forward.”

Controversial Proposals Remain Following Recent NAFTA Round

Eva Hampl, USCIB director for trade and financial services was in Mexico City last week for the 7th Round of negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The negotiations for this round started on February 25 and concluded with a Ministerial on March 5. U.S. Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo made statements at a press conference in Mexico on the final day relating to the relative progress of the negotiations, where three new chapters and two sectoral annexes were closed out.

In Mexico, Hampl participated in an event entitled NAFTA Negotiations Status – Current Situation & Impact Analysis hosted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico (CanCham) and organized by Galicia Abogados, a law firm in Mexico City with expertise in arbitration and ISDS issues. Hampl’s remarks at this event addressed the business perspective and priorities, covering the current status of the negotiations, highlighting the substantive and political difficulties, and outlining what these various developments mean for U.S. business. Hampl was joined by Salvador Behar, director for North America in the Secretariat of Economy, part of Mexico’s negotiating team and Jean-Dominique Ieraci, minister-counsellor for trade for the Embassy of Canada, and part of Canada’s negotiating team. The off-the-record remarks were followed by a discussion with the three speakers, joined by Jennifer Haworth McCandless, partner at Sidley Austin and international arbitration and trade expert. The discussion was moderated by Armando Ortega, president of the CanCham Mexico. Following the event, Galicia hosted a lunch for industry, which provided another opportunity to amplify the message about the importance of NAFTA negotiations, particularly investment protection / ISDS and the general enforceability of the agreement. The casual discussion included many questions on the U.S. political process, and the differences between the U.S. government position and business on several of the proposals.

The remainder of the week in Mexico City consisted of briefings from U.S., Mexico and Canada officials. Based on various briefings business had with negotiators from Mexico and Canada, as well as Congressional staff and others last week in Mexico, there continues to be very little progress in the poison pill or rebalancing proposals the United States has put on the table. There continues to be little progress on the sunset provision and automotive rules of origin, particularly as the U.S. negotiator on rules of origin was called back to Washington before negotiations could commence. On investment protection, Canada and Mexico have begun negotiating among themselves, and have similarly begun to do so on government procurement, which was a new development during this Mexico round.

“While valuable progress continues to be made on modernization chapters such as digital trade and customs, concerns remain that the progress on the controversial proposals is too incremental to bridge the dramatic divide between negotiating positions on a reasonable timeline,” said Hampl. “While Mexican officials emphasized prioritizing a good trade deal over a quick one, there are potential political complications on the horizon with the upcoming elections in Mexico. In addition, U.S. midterm elections are coming up later this year, something Ambassador Lighthizer raised in his press conference following the conclusion of the last round of negotiations.”

It does not appear likely that the negotiations will wrap up during the next round, which will take place in Washington DC, likely the week of April 9.

Additional challenges remain following last week’s announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs by the Trump administration. Trade proponents are hoping that, the more they learn about the possible impact of the new tariffs and likely retaliatory measures, the less voters will like them.  A new study from Trade Partnership Worldwide estimated the proposed tariffs would increase employment by some 33,000 jobs in the steel, aluminum and related industries, but cost some 179,000 jobs throughout the rest of the American economy.

Meanwhile, a new survey of likely voters in four key swing states by Firehouse Strategies and Optimus revealed that most voters underestimate the importance of trade on U.S. employment. Only 13.6 percent said their jobs depend on trade, while 69.3 percent said they do not. Most economists put the percentage at more than 20 percent when both exports and imports are factored in.

 

USCIB Partners with Japanese Group Keidanren on NAFTA Letter

With the National Governors Association meeting last week and this week and the next round of NAFTA negotiations starting this week, USCIB coordinated with the Japanese business group, Keidanren, on a joint letter to each governor expressing support for keeping and modernizing NAFTA.

“Having worked closely with Keidanren in promoting the importance of foreign direct investment to government leaders in international forums such as G20, OECD and the United Nations, we wanted to leverage our joint voices to highlight the importance of NAFTA in driving the growth of foreign direct investment into the United States,” said Rob Mulligan, USCIB senior vice president for policy. “The investment by Japanese companies into the U.S. serves as an example of this growth and each letter identifies the number of jobs in the particular state that are accounted for by Japanese-owned firms.”

The letters stress the position USCIB has urged from the beginning that the negotiations “do no harm” to the existing NAFTA framework and then reinforces key messages related to ISDS, rules of origin, government procurement, and any sunset provision.

“We hope this letter will encourage the governors to actively engage the Administration on achieving a modernized NAFTA that we can all support,” added Mulligan.

Hampl Leads Group for NAFTA Lobby Day to Voice Concerns

With the next NAFTA negotiating round now set for Mexico City later this month, USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl joined more than 100 representatives from the business and agriculture community last Wednesday for a second NAFTA House Lobby Day. The Lobby Day gave business representatives the opportunity to talk about business concerns and perspectives regarding the ongoing negotiations to modernize NAFTA and to increase support on the leadup to the next round of negotiations, scheduled for February 26 to March 6.

Hampl led one of the groups on the Hill, which included representatives from other associations and companies from the business and agriculture community. “The diversity of sectors represented was extremely helpful in getting our message across,” said Hampl. “Our group alone met with 9 offices throughout the day, receiving generally positive feedback about supporting our issues and concerns, including potential interest in signing on to a House NAFTA letter.”

Hampl will be traveling to Mexico for part of the next round at the end of February.

USCIB Spells Out Priorities for U.S. Trade Policy

Presses for enforcement, open markets and more competitive workforce

Washington, D.C., January 24, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which advises the U.S. government on trade and commercial policy and represents American companies in global business and intergovernmental forums, today laid out its priorities for U.S. trade policy. In its 2018 Trade and Investment Agenda, the group said it is committed to a global rules-based trade and investment system, will support enforcement of existing U.S. trade pacts, and will push for new market-opening agreements for U.S. exports and investment.

“Opening global markets for American goods, services and investment is critical for our future prosperity,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “Doing so requires strong enforcement of existing agreements, as well as their renegotiation where our commercial interests dictate. But it also demands a robust, ‘all-of-the-above’ approach, encompassing vigorous leadership by the United States in international negotiations to develop effective rules and open up new areas for liberalization of cross-border trade and investment.”

Robinson said that, as the U.S. works to open overseas markets, it needs policies and programs to support U.S. workers and improve workforce competitiveness. “While trade is dwarfed by technological and other factors in driving changes in jobs and skills, we need to make sure that are doing everything we can to stay ahead of the inevitable dislocations and build a workforce for the 21st century,” he said.

USCIB’s 2018 Trade and Investment Agenda identifies numerous priorities for American trade policy. Among its top priorities, USCIB pledged to:

  • work for effective enforcement of existing agreements, as well as to advance negotiations and agreements that improve market access for U.S. companies within a dynamic, rules-based system
  • stress the importance of U.S. engagement and leadership in creating and enforcing rules for international trade and investment, including protection of U.S. investments abroad
  • urge the Trump administration not to introduce new proposals in NAFTA that will weaken existing provisions, or negate the benefits that U.S. companies derive from the U.S. being part of NAFTA
  • urge the administration to initiate negotiations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure that American goods and services companies have open and fair access to their markets
  • work with the administration to develop a coherent strategy for pressing China to further open its markets to U.S. companies, and eliminate the proliferating Chinese policies aimed at hindering access, in a framework that maintains stability in the relationship
  • leverage USCIB’s unique global business network to build international consensus on trade and investment policy.

Download the full USCIB 2018 Trade and Investment Agenda here.

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, generating $5 trillion in annual revenues and employing over 11 million people worldwide. 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, USCIB
jhuneke@uscib.org, +1 212.703.5043

USCIB Gears Up for NAFTA Talks in Montreal This Week

The sixth round of NAFTA negotiations is taking place in Montreal, Canada this week with a concluding Ministerial scheduled for Monday, January 29. USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl will be traveling to Montreal tomorrow for meetings with negotiators and key officials. This round presents a great opportunity to push forward on many chapters vital to U.S. business, and make progress in the discussions surrounding the more controversial provisions that have been tabled.

As a lead up to the talks in Montreal, Hampl participated in the Senate Lobby Day on the Hill last week, speaking with a range of Republican and Democratic offices. Throughout the day, about 150 members of the NAFTA Coalition met with as many Senate offices as possible, raising business issues of concern.

“We emphasized the outstanding issues regarding the problematic proposals of a sunset clause, investor-state dispute settlement, auto rules of origin, and government procurement,” said Hampl. “We also made the point that there are many chapters that are making progress, including customs and digital trade, which are vital for business and should get closed out as soon as possible.”