USCIB Statement on Signing of USMCA

Washington, D.C., January 29, 2020 – The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, welcomes today’s signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade agreement, updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Over 12 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, so USMCA is an important agreement for U.S. industry for future economic growth.

“The agreement contains several provisions modernizing the original NAFTA, creating new opportunities for American companies and consumers,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “However, USMCA also leaves room for improvement for future negotiations, so we look forward to continued dialogue with the Administration on ensuring critical protections will be upheld in future agreements.”

  • Digital Trade: USMCA contains a state of the art digital trade chapter, including prohibiting cross-border data flow restrictions and data localization requirements, prohibiting requirements for source code or algorithm disclosure or transfer as a condition for market access, prohibiting customs duties on electronic transmissions, provisions on consumer protection, privacy, cybersecurity and open government data. This new chapter allows companies to more effectively operate in the modern global economy.
  • Customs and Trade Facilitation: USMCA significantly updates the customs and trade facilitation provisions from the original NAFTA, ensuring that goods can efficiently flow in and out of the United States. The parties agreed on provisions related to trade facilitation, including the creation of a single-access window system and expedited customs procedures for express shipments. The agreement also includes commitments from Canada and Mexico to increase their de minimis levels, moving toward leveling the playing field for American companies.
  • Labor provisions: The original NAFTA was the first FTA to include labor provisions, though they were contained in side letters. USCMA brings the labor chapter into the agreement’s body, introduces strengthened labor provisions and makes them enforceable. The provisions require adherence to core labor standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and effective enforcement of national labor laws.
  • IP protections: USMCA contains important provisions protecting the intellectual property rights (IPR) of American companies, including protections on patents, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets, which are important for the ability of American companies to continue to innovate. One major omission, however, is the opportunity to fully protect biologics. The removal of increased market exclusivity of biologics in the final agreement is detrimental to American companies and consumers.
  • Investment: Protections for American companies when investing in Canada or Mexico are vital to ensure continued growth and development. USMCA contains such protections for many sectors, however does not fully protect all American companies across the board by significantly limiting access to the dispute settlement mechanism. In addition, even the limited dispute settlement mechanism is only available with Mexico, so for investment disputes with Canada, American investors have to rely on mechanisms outside of the newly negotiated agreement. Picking winners and losers for investment protection is not an appropriate precedent for U.S. FTAs going forward.

USCIB looks forward to entry into force and effective implementation of this important trade deal for U.S. business, and increased trade opportunities for our members.

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 (ICC), the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD (known as BIAC), USCIB helps to provide 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.

Contacts:

Kira Yevtukhova, USCIB
+1 202.617.3160,
kyevtukhova@uscib.org
Glen Brandow, USCIB
+1 212.703.5043,
gbrandow@uscib.org

USCIB Applauds Approval of OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence

Washington, D.C., May 22, 2019 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), applauds the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) approval on May 22 of the OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Working through Business at OECD (BIAC), a core group of USCIB members participated in a special, 50+ member experts group that was convened to scope these principles. They contributed directly to the development of five complementary, values-based principles for the responsible development and stewardship of trustworthy AI and five recommendations for public policy and international cooperation.

Importantly, these principles are not prescriptive. They highlight human-centered values, fairness, transparency, robust security, and accountability as foundational elements for AI deployment that will ensure inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being. The principles, which were developed through multistakeholder dialogue involving input from business, government, civil society, the technical community, and labor unions, also recognize the appropriate role of governments in creating an enabling environment for research and development to drive innovation in trustworthy AI. They call upon governments to develop mechanisms to share data and knowledge and programs to equip people with digital skills so they can transition to new employment that will harness AI for economic and societal good. The OECD’s 36 member countries, along with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Romania, who signed up to the AI Principles at the organization’s annual Ministerial Council Meeting today in Paris, further agreed to cooperate across borders and sectors to share information, and develop international, interoperable standards to ensure safe, fair and trustworthy AI.

“USCIB is honored that its members played a direct role in shaping principles that will enable us to tap the extraordinary potential of Artificial Intelligence in a manner that will improve economic and societal well-being across diverse sectors such as energy and the environment, healthcare, and transportation, to name a few,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Perhaps most important, these principles include important safeguards that keep human-centered values at the core of AI deployment and prevail upon all ‘AI actors’ to respect democratic values throughout the AI system lifecycle, commit to transparency, and to demonstrate accountability, among other responsibilities. We see a bright future ahead and look forward to the adoption of these principles by OECD members and non-members alike,” added Robinson.

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 at www.uscib.org.

Contact:
Jonathan Huneke, USCIB
+1 212.703.5043, jhuneke@uscib.org

The Global Trade Talks Nobody’s Talking About

Nick Ashton Hart

This column is written by Nick Ashton Hart, Geneva representative of the Digital Trade Network, which is supported by USCIB, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) amongst others. Nick has helped forge new paths forward at the WTO on digital trade rules, and works directly with the 76 WTO Members who have just begun negotiation of a digital trade agreement at the World Trade Organization.

At the December 2017 WTO ministerial in Buenos Aires, 71 countries made a political declaration to begin discussing new global rules to facilitate the expansion of the digital economy beneficial to both developed and developing countries. Thanks to intensive work by those countries in 2018, on January 29, on the margins of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, 76 countries (notably including the US, EU, and China) announced the launch of formal negotiations.

All the major economies, most of the G20, and many smaller states are all taking part, including some of the world’s poorest countries. In total the vast majority of the world’s economy is at the table. Since it is estimated that the digital economy underpins approximately one-third of global GDP – and rising – this is a negotiation that will impact industry everywhere – and people everywhere.

You would think that so important a negotiation would have created a very large increase in the level of engagement by the private sector across the board – in capitals and in Geneva. If you think that, you would be wrong: many delegations are surprised that entire economic sectors are not engaged despite the potential ramifications on their businesses. The Ambassadors of some of the world’s largest economies tell me that their ministry is not hearing from the private sector in the capital, or they are hearing only generalities and not the specifics necessary to create negotiating positions. The intensity of activity by the private sector in Geneva is also not much different now than it was in 2017, or 2016 or 2015. To give you an example of how serious the problem is, almost half of the written submissions to the talks during 2018 reference financial services – yet many Ambassadors say they cannot remember the last time a representative from a bank came to see them.

The private sector’s limited engagement could be explained by the fact that their limited pool of experts are busy elsewhere trying to prevent a trade war or keep their companies out of escalating tariffs. The relative newness of the talks could also explain it.  Whatever the reason, for me to hear increasingly frustrated ambassadors across countries at all levels of development asking me ‘where is business and when will they tell us in specific what they need and why’ when a negotiation has already started is, frankly, worrying, especially given that the participating 76 states have agreed to table proposals by mid-April of this year with the objective of having a draft agreement by the end of July. While in my view that timeline is likely to slip, clearly time is of the essence.

WTO delegations are looking at some of the world’s most important economic questions, such as:

  • What can trade policy do to help narrow the “digital divide” (connecting the half of humanity not yet online)
  • Will data flows be protected from trade distorting interference – interference which is presently growing globally – and how will the need to ensure other public policy priorities like the protection of personal information be factored in?
  • Should the moratorium on applying customs duties to digital goods be made permanent?
  • How can trade rules help the spread of mobile financial services to close the financial inclusion gap? (almost two billion people do not have access to financial services)
  • What can trade policy do to foster consumer and business trust in purchasing goods and services across borders?
  • How can trade rules promote use of digital contracts, adoption of digital signatures and customs and logistics processes, and make trade finance easier to get and use, all to help SMEs trade more?

The trade policy community needs and deserves the best advice both in Geneva and in national capitals as they work to answer these big questions. The answers could profoundly benefit not just commerce but everyone. But as I have so often heard from delegations – and I have often said it myself – if countries don’t understand what’s in it for their economies in adopting new rules to promote digital trade, they won’t. The private sector has a critical role to play in making that case. So far, frankly, it is failing to do that effectively enough.

Meanwhile non-governmental organisations that are skeptical, or opposed, to any new rules for the digital economy are both well-organised and very active in Geneva and international capitals. This statement will be released on April 1, signed by a very large number of NGOs, on the first day of the biggest digital-trade event of the year in Geneva, UNCTAD’s Ecommerce Week. You can find a large collection of NGOs have been active for many years on-the-ground and there are several people employed in Geneva just on trade policy advocacy generally opposed to any new trade rules related to the digital economy. Meanwhile, the only dedicated industry person in Geneva on digital trade is myself.

Opportunities like these negotiations don’t come by very often in international affairs: time is short. The private sector has been asking for new rules for online trade for years. Now is the time for it to make clear what it needs and why in enough detail and invest in helping countries at all levels of development understand why it matters to them … or watch the opportunity slip away.

Nick Ashton-Hart is the Geneva representative of the Digital Trade Network.

You can follow him at @nashtonhart.

An earlier version of this column appeared on the Council of Foreign Relations website at: 

https://www.cfr.org/blog/global-trade-talks-digital-economy-nobodys-talking-about.

Hampl Gives Testimony on US-UK Trade Agreement

Eva Hampl provided testimony before the Trade Policy Staff Committee, chaired by USTR, on January 29.
USCIB supports negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of U.S. jobs.

 

Following USCIB’s submission on January 16 to USTR regarding negotiating objectives for a U.S.-UK Trade Agreement, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl provided testimony before the Trade Policy Staff Committee, chaired by USTR, on January 29.

“USCIB supports negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of U.S. jobs,” said Hampl in her testimony. “We strongly believe that continued U.S.-UK free trade is overwhelmingly in the interests of both countries and their global trading partners, provided that the agreement is a high standard and comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement. A successful trade agreement with the UK should cover not just market access for goods, but also address important services issues.”

Hampl’s testimony also emphasized the importance of regulatory cohesion across the United States, the UK and the European market as a key component in further liberalizing trade. Regulatory discrimination and differentiation between trade partners can be an obstacle to trade, investment and the ability to conduct business. Affected sectors include pharmaceuticals, chemicals and fintech.

Hampl also raised the issue of digital trade. “U.S. companies rely on cross-border data flows as part of their day-to-day operations,” said Hampl. “A U.S.-UK agreement should include requirements that data can flow unimpeded across borders except for limited and well-defined public policy exceptions, ensuring that they are not used as disguised barriers to trade.”

Regarding intellectual property (IP) protection, Hampl noted that at a minimum, a U.S.-UK agreement should enshrine existing protections and enforcement mechanisms. It should also address sectoral IP issues, such as in the pharmaceutical space.

To read Hampl’s testimony, please click here.

USCIB Outlines AI Policy Priorities

Digital technologies and the online environment enabled by them present unprecedented opportunity to raise productivity and generate economic growth.
Close cooperation with business can ensure that regulatory approaches create a holistic framework that enables business investment.

In response to a Federal Register request for information concerning the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development Strategic Plan, USCIB submitted comments outlining AI policy priorities.

“USCIB members believe that digital technologies and the online environment enabled by them present unprecedented opportunity to raise productivity, foster creativity and innovation, generate economic growth, build trust, and enhance social prosperity,” said USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner. “Key to realizing these social and economic benefits, however, are policies that ensure an open, safe, secure, stable, interoperable, seamless, and sustainable Internet.”

The comments submitted by USCIB emphasized that serving as essential complements are policies that encourage both private investment and public-private partnerships in the R&D needed to drive innovation and realize the potential of AI and other emerging technologies. Such policies are most effectively developed when informed by stakeholder engagement.

“Government policymakers can benefit from close cooperation with business, academia and other stakeholders to ensure that the legal, policy, and regulatory approaches implemented create a holistic framework that enables sustainable business investment in infrastructure and product innovation, includes technically feasible solutions, and offers appropriate privacy and human rights protections,” added Wanner. “The participation of a full complement of stakeholders best ensures that decisions concerning R&D and related policies avoid unintended consequences or outcomes that fall short of expectations. Importantly, a multistakeholder approach will help to build trust and dispel fears that could undermine realization of AI’s economic and societal benefits.”

Robinson Contributes Letter to FT on Making Internet Affordable to All

FT featured a letter by USCIB CEO and President Peter Robinson in response to an editorial “The web should be open to all the world’s citizens” on October 11.

In the letter, Robinson emphasizes the important role of public-private partnerships as crucial to broadening access to the internet, noting that companies such as Google, Ericsson, Facebook, Intel and Microsoft are already moving ahead in this regard.

“Focused on driving prices down to meet the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5 percent of monthly income, they are working with governments and other stakeholders in countries as diverse as Nigeria, the Dominican Republic and Myanmar to make the internet more affordable and accessible,” writes Robinson.

The full letter can be found here, subscription to FT required.

USCIB Supports an EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework

On the occasion of the first joint review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework, USCIB reaffirmed support for the Framework and issued a statement underscoring its importance in ensuring continued robust and reliable transatlantic data flows, which have proved vital for healthy U.S.-EU commercial relations.

In just one year, nearly 2,500 U.S. business entities have self-certified with the Department of Commerce and publicly committed to comply with the Framework requirements – with many of them already in the process of re-certifying.

“This impressive ‘track record’ substantiates our view that many U.S. companies see the potential of the Framework to provide greater legal certainty and consumer confidence in data transfers,” said Barbara Wanner, USCIB’s vice president for ICT policy. “In the longer term, this will promote commercial activities and investments yielding increased economic and societal benefits on both sides of the Atlantic,” she added.

USCIB highlighted three important points for consideration in the Annual Review: (1) the Framework is realizing stronger personal data protections; (2) the Framework is serving as an effective mechanism for certification by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); and (3) the longevity of the Framework remains important.

USCIB Discourages Regulatory Overreach in Comments to ITU

USCIB filed comments with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last week as part of the agency’s public consultation on policy considerations for “over the top” services, 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.

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.

Business Urges Policymakers to Avoid Trade-Distorting Data Privacy Measures

dataflows

Paris and New York, March 22, 2016 – Some 10.2 billion new connected devices are expected to come online over the next five years – nearly double the number in existence today. Many of these devices will transmit user data for processing across borders. But a proliferation of forced localization measures and other government policies to restrict cross-border data transfers threaten to choke off essential cross-border electronic commerce.

Businesses from across the developed world are urging policymakers to avoid imposing rules on data privacy and security that distort global trade. In a new paper, BIAC, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, points to the crucial role of cross-border data flows for the recovery and future of the global economy, and calls on the OECD and governments to develop policies and regulatory frameworks that address concerns for security and privacy in the least trade-distorting way.

“Governments must avoid restricting trade through data localization measures”, said Clifford Sosnow, chair of the BIAC Trade Committee and partner with the Canadian law firm Fasken Martineau LLP. “Considering the importance of this issue for competitive markets, this paper offers recommendations to address the impact of data localization and at the same time deal with privacy and security concerns.”

The BIAC paper had significant input from the U.S. private sector via BIAC’s American affiliate, the United States Council for International Business. The paper estimates that, if fully enacted, government forced localization measures currently in place, or under consideration, could reduce global trade by $93 billion annually.

BIAC recognizes the OECD’s unique capacity to gather and develop evidence on trade restrictive measures on data flows, and accordingly requests the OECD to:

  • highlight to governments the impact of data localization on trade and investment
  • raise awareness among all industries on the importance of data flows for business operations and participation in global trade
  • promote policies that enable open flow of data, to support the rapidly growing number of business models that rely on data flows.

BIAC will work with the OECD to promote best practices in the field of cross-border data flows and encourage governments to refrain from measures that compromise the benefits of open markets and investment for growth.

Read the BIAC policy paper.