USCIB Urges US Participation in WTO’s Procurement Agreement

USCIB joined over twenty industry associations in signing a letter to high-level government officials emphasizing the critical importance of continued U.S. participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). The letter was sent to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, Secretary of the Treasurer Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow.

The letter argues that the GPA provides benefits to the U.S. economy, businesses and workforce by empowering the United States to negotiate reciprocal terms under which GPA signatory countries open their government procurement markets to U.S. companies and commit to transparency and procedural protections that support the rule of law.

“The GPA is the only part of the WTO system that provides binding guarantees of the right to sell to foreign governments (which are not covered by other WTO disciplines). The GPA is also unique among WTO plurilateral agreements in that only the forty-seven current country signatories to the agreement benefit from and can enforce its binding commitments,” the letter stated.

Additionally, the letter warns that if the U.S. withdrew from the GPA, it could no longer negotiate the terms under which China could join the GPA. As a result, other GPA signatory countries would be less likely to demand comprehensive access to Chinese government procurement markets.

USCIB Supports Respect for Arbitration Awards in U.S. GSP Program

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly (left) and Chevron Supervising Counsel Andres Romero-Delmastro (right) testifying as panelists before the US Government’s GSP Subcommittee

USCIB went on the record at the January 30 Public Hearing of the USTR-led interagency Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Subcommittee, supporting respect for the GSP eligibility criteria, specifically the need for “respecting and enforcing international arbitral awards.”  USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly joined member company Chevron as the two business experts testifying on the specific issue of Ecuador’s continuing eligibility for GSP in light of the country’s very troubling record in a long-running major investment arbitration case filed by Chevron.

USCIB joined Chevron in recommending that, in light of Ecuador’s continuing refusal to enforce final arbitral awards by the panel, Ecuador’s access to GSP unilateral trade preferences should be suspended until they come into full compliance with those panel orders. According to Donnelly, after a senior official from the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s office presented the government’s case, a senior Chevron attorney detailed the long saga of Ecuadorian non-compliance. Donnelly then offered broader comments to the sub-committee on the important policy implications of Ecuador’s non-compliance and the importance of maintaining and enforcing the clear eligibility criteria laid out in the GSP statute. The Ecuador investment arbitration case was one of nine “country eligibility cases” on the agenda for public comments before the GSP subcommittee in its two-day meeting January 30-31.

“We at USCIB are strong supporters of the GSP program but it is not an entitlement for Ecuador or any other beneficiary developing countries” Donnelly explained.  “When a country refuses over many years to respect legitimate arbitral awards, in this case from an investment arbitral panel under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), the U.S. government’s patience must have a limit. Ecuador has clearly fallen short of the standards under the GSP statute. I think the detailed case presented by Chevron was compelling.”

Chevron and USCIB have been filing formal comments and testifying to the GSP sub-committee along these same lines regularly since 2012. USCIB has long been a leading voice in the U.S. and international business communities on the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI)  to economic growth and development in both the capital exporting and destination countries.  A vital key to incentivizing FDI flows in all direction is strong, transparent and enforceable investment protection, most often in the form of international investment agreements such as BIT treaties or investment chapters in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs.)  When investment disputes arise, access to and respect by all parties for the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration system under those legally-binding investment agreements is essential.

USCIB has led international business advocacy on investment and ISDS issues, including respect for arbitral panel decisions, for many years including at meetings of the OECD, UNCTAD, and UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL.)

To read Donnelly’s full testimony, click here.

USCIB Welcomes New Vice-Chair of Anti-Illicit Trade Committee

Fernando Peña

Director of Customs and Regulatory Affairs for DHL in the Americas Region Fernando Peña has been appointed vice-chair of USCIB’s Anti-Illicit Trade Committee (AITC).  Illicit trade is a major threat to the U.S. economy and profoundly harms American businesses and citizens.Today’s global illicit markets generate trillions of U.S. dollars every year for organized crime, corrupt facilitators and other bad actors.  Counterfeits, illegal goods and other contraband are sold on our main streets, social media, online marketplaces and the dark web. USCIB Is committed to fight illicit trade globally.

According to Megan Giblin, who leads USCIB’s work on customs, the AITC takes a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to elevating the fight against illicit trade, particularly as it relates to the work of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, the Asia Pacific and Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and other international organizations.

Peña joins AITC chair, David M. Luna, president and CEO of Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies LLC, in providing leadership of the Committee and its critical work such as engagement of China and other Source Markets of Fakes, targeted Action on Illicit Trade including Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, AIT Enforcement at Free Trade Zones (FTZs), strengthening Information sharing across sectors and markets as well as addressing “small parcels” trade in contraband and illicit commodities.

“We are very excited that Fernando has accepted a role in leading USCIB’s efforts to elevate the fight against illicit trade” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan. “Fernando will be a valuable asset to the AITC objectives and strategic planning.  His wealth of private and public sector experience, including working for U.S. Customs & Border Protection, knowledge of international organizations, focus on Americas region for DHL and his overall understanding of the small parcels environment will be an asset to the work of the Committee.”

“Business has a critical role in mobilizing collective action to counter illicit trade” said Luna. “DHL and other USCIB AITC members can partner with governments to effectively disrupt illicit economies and criminals’ exploitation of global supply chains and FTZs.”

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.”

USCIB Statement: 25th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties

COP25 in Madrid, Spain
Photo credit: UNFCCC

USCIB issued the following statement on December 6 for the 25th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Conference of the Parties (COP25). The statement reflects U.S. business priorities.

For the 25th year, USCIB is participating in deliberations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Madrid. USCIB joins with many others in highlighting the critical importance of inclusive multilateralism as a means to increase pace and impact to meet climate commitments and objectives, involving all societal partners, including the private sector. Economic policies that drive growth and create jobs in the green economy will be critical to generate the necessary resources and enable business to make its strongest contributions to implementation of the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, and to sustainable development.

Since its conclusion in Paris in 2015, USCIB has supported the Paris Agreement. USCIB recognizes and expresses its deep appreciation to U.S. delegations for attending and engaging responsively with U.S. business at UNFCCC meetings. We continue to encourage the Administration to remain at the Paris Agreement table to advance and defend U.S. environmental protection, economic growth, innovation and competitiveness, as it has done consistently in the UNFCCC since COP1.

USCIB recognizes that urgent action to tackle climate change is needed on all fronts. According to the IPCC, reducing future climate-related risks in the context of sustainable development will depend on the upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching climate mitigation and both incremental and transformational adaptation. In this regard, business investment, innovation and action, working in partnership with governments, society and other stakeholders will be vital.

We continue to call for the commitment of all governments to this global effort, so that business and government can work together to enact economically sound policies that:

  • Promote development, deployment and use of cleaner and more efficient technologies and energy sources
  • Enhance sustainable energy access and security in all countries
  • Utilize markets and market-based approaches to animate least-cost GHG reductions, working through multilateral trade
  • Drive investment in innovation for mitigation and adaption
  • Seek to strengthen synergy across multilateral trade, investment and climate policy frameworks

As we work to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, we need to include all of society’s stakeholders working together towards a sustainable path for communities, workers and the climate that leaves no one behind. Of particular importance will be government education and training policies that are inclusive and support workers and their communities in securing the skills, capabilities and investments needed to thrive in the face of transformative change.

We share the concern about the need for more rapid and widespread progress toward the Paris goals, and encourage renewed efforts to get back on track, in particular with relation to Article 6.

We welcome ambitious aspirations on the part of organizations and companies and look forward to mobilizing the best of business forward in addressing this critical global challenge, delivering energy access and security, job creation and shared economic prosperity.

Trade Conference Focuses on Inclusive Global Economy

Amid backlash to increased international trade and rising populism and protectionism across the globe, the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB) held a conference on December 3 in London entitled Next Generation Trade: Building a Principled, People-Centred Global Economy. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog and Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl represented USCIB.

The conference focused on the issue of building a principled, people-centered global economy, and highlighted issues including climate, the future of work, the multilateral trading system, inclusive trade, and data and technology.

USCIB is very active in the space of trade and investment, as well as corporate responsibility and business and human rights.

“With an increasing public focus on international trade, it is imperative for the business voice to be heard in a variety of fora, emphasizing the message that trade and investment are vital contributors to economic growth and development,” said Hampl.

USCIB continues to believe that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a pillar of the multilateral trading system and that the value of this trade institution cannot be overstated, and its continued existence is critical.

Hampl Weighs In On WTO Discussions on E-Commerce

The sixth negotiating round of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce is taking place at the WTO in Geneva this week. The JSI is negotiating a plurilateral agreement on digital trade, also referred to as the WTO E-Commerce Agreement. USCIB Senior Director, Investment Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl is on the ground in Geneva this week on behalf of USCIB and members in support of this important initiative at the WTO, which attempts to write global rules on digital trade.

The JSI started out with seventy-six WTO members and as of this week that number has risen to 81, with Indonesia being the latest to join the plurilateral effort. Issues discussed this week include customs duties, access to internet and data, business trust, capacity building, legal issues, and market access.

“This will be the final round before the WTO General Council meeting taking place December 9-11 in Geneva. Negotiations are expected to resume in the new year at a similar pace, with an eye toward an outcome by MC12 in June 2020,” stated Hampl.

Earlier this year, USCIB issued recommendations on the E-Commerce negotiations, reflecting member priorities, including issues like data flows and localization. USCIB is actively engaging with governments involved in the negotiations in Geneva through various efforts, including the Digital Trade Network and the International Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, November 21, USCIB is supporting a side event by the ICC on the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmission (E-Commerce Moratorium), which is currently expiring at the end of the year. The panel will discuss the implications of not extending the moratorium, including in the context of the recent OECD Report. At this time, fifteen WTO members have proposed to extend the Moratorium until MC12 in June 2020. In order for an extension to be possible, unanimous support is required.

Donnelly Pushes for Strong Investment Protections at UNCTAD

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly led a small but vocal team of international business representatives at the November 13 annual High-Level Experts Group on International Investment Agreements (IIAs) at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva. In a room dominated by developing country and NGO reps and academics, Donnelly was the sole business speaker on the opening keynote panel. Donnelly also joined a French business delegate on the key follow-up panel on “Reforming Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).” Other panels included business representatives from USCIB’s BDI colleagues (German industry group) and from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“In both my presentations, I emphasized a business view on the need for strong investment protections to help reduce risk and mobilize much-needed foreign direct investment (FDI) flows,” said Donnelly. “With limited public finance and official development aid resources, FDI is key to global economic growth and progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, strong IIAs are key to mobilizing FDI. In turn, strong ISDS provisions are essential to effective IIAs.”

According to Donnelly, on the ISDS panel, he was able to rebut a European Commission official who was pitching, as they are in multiple fora these days, their proposal for a standing multilateral investment court to replace the well-established ISDS arbitration system.

“UNCTAD can be a challenging organization, often promoting unhelpful non-market views, but in the investment area it offers a unique opportunity for good dialogue with developing country officials and a platform to confront unhelpful EU initiatives,” he added.