Business at OECD Head Shares 2020 Policy Priorities With USCIB

Business at OECD’s Russel Mills (left, center) with IOE’s Shea GoPaul and USCIB policy staff

Secretary General of Business at OECD (BIAC) Russel Mills visited USCIB’s Washington DC and New York offices the week of February 3 to update staff on Business at OECD and OECD priorities for the year.

Mills shared that environment, biodiversity, plastics and climate change issues are moving to the top of the agenda, however there will also be a mushrooming of digitization plans and digital economy work related to changing business models and digitally enabled companies. Mills also noted that policies around digital taxation and re-skilling will be on top of the agenda for both organizations.

“We really valued our time with Russel, which gave us an opportunity to touch base on our respective organizations’ policy priorities,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “USCIB looks forward to a productive year working with BIAC to help drive the work of the OECD.”

ICC Comments to ITU Emphasize Enabling Environment

In an effort to inform the work of the United Nations about the tremendous potential of emerging ICT-technologies to help realize economic and social prosperity, USCIB has been working with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) over the past several years to develop policy papers and statements. On January 22, USCIB submitted comments to the Open Consultation convened by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues, which focused on required components that would foster the development and disseminations of emerging technologies for sustainable economic development. Importantly, this approach would help to meet specific targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, these components go beyond simply building infrastructure. The components include a foundation composed of infrastructure, applications and services and user engagement, a layer composed of policy issues – economic, technical, social/cultural, governance, and another layer featuring participation of relevant stakeholders from business, government, civil society and the technical community to inform the policymaking process.

USCIB cited ICT, Policy and Sustainable Economic Development, a policy paper prepared by the ICC Commission on the Digital Economy with active contributions from USCIB members, as the basis for its comments.

“We urge the ITU to use this document as a reference since underlying elements of the framework – everything from infrastructure and spectrum allocation, to data protection and cross border data flows, to digital skill development and access – will continue to be necessary to effectively harness the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies going forward,” said Wanner.

USCIB also endorsed comments submitted by ICC BASIS as part of this public consultation.

 

Robinson Kicks Off 2020 With OECD, ICC France, ICC Germany 

ICC-Germany staff (Secretary-General Oliver Wieck, center) with USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson (right) in Berlin

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held its annual consultation with Business at OECD on January 13 in Paris under the theme, Role of Business in Lifelong Opportunities: People First Policies to Bridge Divides. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and AT&T Senior Vice President Karim Lesina provided a kick-off presentation on behalf of industry, followed by remarks by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria and Business at OECD’s Chairman Phil O’Reilly and Secretary-General Russell Mills.

Recommendations by Business at OECD focused on the value of relying on open markets on trade, investment, taxation and development initiatives; ensuring a people-first approach to developing new approaches to the Future of Work; and incentivizing and driving innovation in the health and environment areas in the 5G generation.

According to Robinson, it was the best-attended consultation to date, with a strong business delegation, senior OECD staff including all four Deputy Secretaries-General and OECD Ambassadors from nearly all OECD member countries. In helping to set the stage, Robinson emphasized the continued commitment of the American business community to open markets and multilateral approaches and institutions. “The necessity for inclusive multilateralism, whereby all stakeholders—including business—have a seat at the table to pursue societal challenges together is crucial,” said Robinson, who also praised the OECD in setting an appropriate example in this regard.

Lesina provided the perspective of a leading modern media company that is investing globally while driving innovation in life-long learning opportunities for its employees.  He highlighted that increased convergence and digitalization have helped create a truly global economy, providing consumers today with a unique opportunity to benefit from cross-border activity best cultivated by open market policies. Lesina emphasized the need for flexible policy and regulatory frameworks that foster innovation and drive creativity and underscored the vital role of the OECD in delivering the benefits of the digital economy to consumers everywhere through forward-looking and evidence-based policymaking.

“The Consultation provides an excellent opportunity for business to interact with OECD staff and country Ambassadors,” said Robinson. Robinson had several meetings with OECD management staff to discuss Business at OECD and USCIB priorities.

While in Paris, Robinson also visited USCIB’s International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) National Committee counterpart, ICC-France, and met with the new Secretary-General of ICC-France, Emmanuelle Butaud-Stubbs, to discuss mutual interests and priorities and cooperation in policy areas including trade and environment.

Robinson then traveled to Berlin to meet with several of USCIB’s global affiliate counterparts in Germany: ICC-Germany, the German Employers Federation (BDA) and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). Secretary-General of ICC-Germany Oliver Wieck, Director of Communications Katrin Rupprecht and staff organized a discussion forum at which Robinson addressed U.S. Trade Policy in 2020. ICC-Germany members including Siemens, Thyssenkrupp and BDI attended as did Dr. Berend Diekmann, head of division for USA/Canada/Mexico from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Finally, Robinson met with BDA CEO Steffen Kampeter and DIHK Director of ATA Carnet Dr. Kornelia Ferati.

USCIB Releases 2020 Trade and Investment Policy Priorities

Each year the Trade and Investment Committee of the U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) conducts an extensive consultation process among members in identifying priorities for the coming year. The 2020 USCIB Trade and Investment Agenda includes a list of key principles our members support for open trade and investment and an action plan for addressing our trade and investment policy priorities.

The action plan anticipates another busy year on trade and investment including:

  • pressing for final approval and implementation of USMCA,
  • seeking Administration action on phase 2 agreements with China and Japan,
  • supporting movement on trade negotiations with the EU and UK,
  • seeking continued progress on negotiations in the WTO on a digital trade agreement and
  • modernizing the WTO.

“The Agenda provides the framework for USCIB work to advance policies and negotiations that will open international markets for our member companies and strengthen the global rules-based trade and investment framework,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan. 

USCIB Opposes Proposed Rule on ICT-Related Transactions 

USCIB joined a coalition of over thirty other associations to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross regarding a proposed rule to implement an Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services (ICTS) Supply Chain. This rule would provide the U.S. government with the authority to block, intervene in and unwind certain ICTS-related transactions on the grounds of national security.

The letter stated: “Our members share the Administration’s commitment to ensuring that ICTS transactions do not pose undue risks to national security. However, we view the proposed rule as vague and highly problematic because as written, it would provide the Department with nearly unlimited authority to intervene in virtually any commercial transaction between U.S. companies and their foreign counterparts that involves technology, with little to no due process, accountability, transparency, or coordination with other government programs that are also designed to protect national security.”

According to the letter, the proposed rule does not provide sufficient legal clarity to American companies to identify transactions that could be in scope, which would create significant uncertainty in the business community, disrupt global supply chains and make a range of trade and investment decisions very difficult. Under the proposed rule, companies may also bear higher costs as they alter long-standing business relationships, search for new suppliers and unwind transactions, which will harm U.S. competitiveness and technology leadership.

“An open investment climate with predictable rules is vital to economic growth and development,” said Eva Hampl, senior director of investment, trade and financial services at USCIB. “While national security concerns should be a consideration, virtually unlimited government authority to intervene in transactions could cause significant economic harm to U.S. businesses and consumers.”

Stakeholders at IGF Seek to Avoid Fragmentation of the Internet

L-R: Barbara Wanner, USCIB (moderator); Ben Wallis, Microsoft; Jane Coffin, Internet Society; Alex Cooke, Government of Australia; and David Gierten, OECD

The fourteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF) wrapped up on November 29 with an invigorated call from stakeholders for an Internet governance mechanism that preserves the IGF’s multistakeholder model and expands its institutional capabilities, amid warnings from UN and German officials about the potential fragmenting of the Internet. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner attended the four-day IGF in Berlin and reported from the field.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who formally opened the IGF on November 26, warned of the crippling effect of growing nationalism that will increasingly fracture the Internet. “The [digital] infrastructure has become the very core of our global economy… [but] there are some who remain in their little bubble and do not actually exchange views with people who are of a different opinion and that is one of the challenges that we face in this overall development of the Internet,” she said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered a similarly dire outlook, telling the IGF audience that the today’s “accessible, free, secure and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines … a profound digital divide, a social divide and a political divide.”

According to Wanner, Merkel and Guterres concurred that a comprehensive dialogue involving all stakeholders – citing the IGF as a model – can help to prevent such fragmentation, as this approach best ensures a healthy and thriving digital economy that can realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), connect the unconnected and bridge the digital skills gap. “The Internet must not and cannot be shaped only by governments alone because the basic issues revolving around the Internet have an impact on each and everyone’s life, and this is why we need a multistakeholder approach,” Merkel said.

“Against this backdrop, USCIB members who spoke in various workshops highlighted the importance of digital transformation by sharing business best practices and case studies that demonstrate how business’ digital innovations have improved people’s lives and livelihoods, created new commercial and employment opportunities and provided cultural connections,” said Wanner. “Their messages as workshops speakers and in bilateral meetings with UN officials and various government delegations also emphasized the importance of the multistakeholder model in considering the complexity of digital economy issues. In this regard, USCIB members reaffirmed their support for an adequately funded “IGF-Plus” architecture for Internet governance, proposed by the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (HLPDC).”

Joining Wanner were members from Amazon, AT&T, CCIA, Disney, Facebook, Google, ITI, Microsoft, Verisign and Verizon.

OECD Turns to Practical Implementation of AI, Privacy Guidelines

“Practical implementation” was an underlying theme at the recent discussions of the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP), according to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, who reported from the field. The meetings took place November 18-22  at OECD headquarters in Paris. Wanner reported that having devoted more than a year to crafting the Council Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence, CDEP delegates and stakeholders discussed a paper outlining guidance on the implementation of the AI Recommendation, as well as the complementary AI Policy Observatory.

In a similar spirit, the Privacy Guidelines Expert Group (PGEG), which was convened to advance the mandated five-year review of the 2013 OECD Guidelines Governing the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data (the “Privacy Guidelines”), held a workshop on November 18 to explore the practicalities of operationalizing international cooperation in enforcement of privacy protections as well as consider the impact of AI on personal data protection and implementation of the Privacy Guidelines.

“Under the auspices of Business at OECD, USCIB members stepped up at the November CDEP meetings, intervening to underscore the importance of interoperability of privacy regulations to build trust and facilitate cross-border data flows for economic growth and prosperity,” said Wanner.

Citing Business at OECD’s Guiding Principles for the Review of the 2013 Privacy Guidelines, Wanner emphasized, “a consistent global approach to privacy will help companies of all sizes comply with [privacy laws], expand their commercial activities, and in turn grown their national economies with related employment benefits.”

Concerning implementation of the OECD’s AI Principles, Barry O’Brien (IBM Ireland), who chairs the Business at OECD delegation to the AI Experts Group, applauded the OECD’s proposed practical guidance as “building on the excellent work on the AI Principles and promoting the adoption and implementation of trustworthy AI.”

USCIB members actively shaped the development of the AI Recommendation as participants on a special AI Experts Group and are currently feeding business input to the PGEG.  USCIB members also made influential interventions concerning the proposed CDEP Program of Work and Budget 2020-2021 (PWB), work on online platforms, and key topics under the purview of the Working Party on Communications Infrastructures and Services Policy (CISP), such a draft report on price baskets for bundled communication services.

Joining Wanner were USCIB member representatives from Amazon, AT&T, CCIA, Comcast, Deloitte & Touche, Facebook, Microsoft and TMG Legal.

Domain Name System Abuse: A Hot Topic at Recent ICANN Meetings

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) wrapped up six days of annual meetings on November 7 in Montreal, Quebec, which featured, at times, heated debate about the roles of ICANN and the contracted parties in mitigating domain name system (DNS) abuse and related security problems. According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner,  who attended the meetings in her capacity as the Business Constituency’s (BC) representative to the Commercial Stakeholder Group (CSG), while security threats and the way the ICANN community tracks, reports, and mitigates them have always been an important focus of ICANN’s work, attention to this issue has intensified in recent months amid reports of sharp increases in phishing attacks and studies estimating that the cost of global cybercrime reached approximately $600 million in 2018.

“ICANN’s Business Constituency (BC), of which USCIB is a member, highlighted profound gaps in DNS abuse mitigation throughout the week’s meetings with the ICANN Board, senior ICANN staff, and other constituencies and the need to clarify definitions of abuse and aggressively enforce against offenders,” said Wanner.

According to Wanner, participants at ICANN 66, the organization’s Annual General Meeting, continued to advance discussions about the building blocks of a model to enable third-party access to nonpublic domain name system registration data for legitimate purposes that would comply with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other privacy regimes. The draft model may be finalized as soon as December, more probably in early 2020, following receipt of legal advice from the European Data Protection Board (DPB).

The meeting also continued to explore how to evolve ICANN’s multistakeholder model to improve its efficiency and effectiveness as part of the FY 2021-2025 Strategic Plan as well as other DNS management issues.

Wanner’s role as BC representative to the CSG has enabled greater input to policy discussions at the CSG executive committee-level on behalf of USCIB members and facilitated important meetings with senior ICANN officials and other key constituencies.  USCIB member representatives from Amazon, AT&T, BT Americas, CenturyLink, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and NBC Universal were present in Montreal and actively contributed to all policy discussions.

Focus on Sustainability, New Technologies at 2019 World Trade Symposium

USCIB once again sponsored the World Trade Symposium this year November 6-7 in New York. The Symposium, hosted by Finastra and programmed by The Economist Events, brought together researchers, government officials and private sector leaders to discuss “Trade in an Uncertain World.” According to USCIB Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves, several themes emerged throughout the Symposium, including the impact of new technologies on trade and investment, the need for greater interoperability of new technologies, the importance of sustainability to trade and investment and the continued importance of free trade.

Political uncertainty took center stage during the event’s discussions. The rise of populism and protectionist policies, as well as perceived lack of efficiency and productivity in multilateral fora, were identified as threats to be addressed. Many participants expressed the need to reform multilateral institutions and reaffirmed their support for trade liberalization. The need for U.S. leadership in such reform and trade liberalization activities was highlighted as a priority. Participants were in agreement that the restoration of predictability, reciprocity and fairness is required to bolster global trade and investment.

Digitization has the ability to drive down costs and speed of getting goods to market, but standardization of data protection and date flow regulation are priorities. The importance of regulating data flows and the need for standardized data protection laws, new technologies and the issue of illicit trade were highlighted by several panelists, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Deputy Director-General Ambassador Alan Wm. Wolff, Research Professor of International Affairs & Director of Digital Trade & Data Governance hub Susan Ariel Aaronson and President of the Mediterranean Shipping Company Fabio Santucci.

The use of blockchain was characterized as a means to more efficiently engage in trade and investment, as well as increase sustainability through decreased paper usage. However, interoperability of blockchains and standardization of regulatory frameworks remain hurdles to wide-spread deployment of this technology.

It was noted that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is working with an Asia-based partner to develop a blockchain technology to enable traceability and tracking of goods. The goal ultimately is to promote interoperability among various blockchain networks and technology platforms.

Recognizing the rise of consumer interest in sustainability, the issue of sustainable trade and investment was discussed. According to the panelists, millennial consumers are driving interest in and profitability of sustainable goods and services. Trade has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty; to continue to see the benefits of trade, growth needs to be inclusive. USCIB is actively advocating on these important issues in various multilateral fora, including at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

OECD Report Weighs In On WTO Moratorium Debate

The much-anticipated Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on the World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions was de-classified on November 4.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan, the report, “Electronic transmissions and international trade – Shedding new light on the moratorium debate,” concludes that revenue implications of lifting the Moratorium are likely to be relatively small and would come at the expense of more significant gains in consumer welfare (estimated at 940 million USD) and export competitiveness.

The Moratorium, which has been in place since 1998 and has been continuously extended every couple of years since then, is once again due to expire at the end of 2019. Keeping the Moratorium is crucial for business, and USCIB has been actively engaged in pushing back against the opponents of extending the Moratorium with the ultimate goal of making it permanent.

The OECD report also notes that the highest estimated share of opportunity cost in terms of foregone revenue is in digitizable goods, which is low, at 1.2% of total trade. This will likely remain low even with the advent of technologies such as 3D printing, which are unlikely to have far-reaching implications on trade in the near term.

The report noted that tariffs also come with costs. Tariffs are associated with lower output and lower productivity and their burden falls mainly on domestic consumers, not foreign firms. Tariffs are also an unstable source of revenue. Alternatives exist in the form of non-discriminatory value added taxes or goods and services taxes.

The WTO General Council meeting, set for December 9-11, will provide a final opportunity to extend the Moratorium.