USCIB Celebrates ILO at Annual Leadership Award Gala

L-R: Peter Robinson (USCIB), Laura Rubbo (The Walt Disney Company), Guy Ryder (ILO), Terry McGraw (USCIB and formerly The McGraw-Hill Companies)

In celebration of The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) centennial this year, USCIB honored the ILO and its Director-General Guy Ryder with its annual International Leadership Award yesterday evening, December 16. The gala event was held at the Lotte New York Palace, under the theme “Resilient Institutions That Matter.” Representatives from business, the United Nations, government and special guests attended the dinner, which also recognized the centennials of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) this past year, and the upcoming centennial of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) in 2020. Esteemed guests included USCIB Chairman Terry McGraw, IOE Secretary-General Roberto Suarez Santos, ICC Permanent Representative to the UN Andrew Wilson, Acting U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council Jason Mack, Chief of Staff of the UN Global Compact Melissa Powell, Permanent Observer of the OECD to the UN Robin Ogilvy, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships Rob Skinner, Chief of the Intergovernmental Policy and Review Branch for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Irena Zubcevic and many others.

“Imagine what we could accomplish if all stakeholders are at the table working to improve education, reduce poverty, ensure social protection, provide job opportunities and tackle such challenges as climate change and environmental protection,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson in his opening remarks. One thing we do know at USCIB, and that is if we are to find solutions to those challenges…business is an essential partner.”

UN Under Secretary General and Special Advisor on Preparations for the UN’s 75th anniversary Fabrizio Hochschild agreed, recognizing the essential role of business and global cooperation in his remarks at the gala as the UN looks towards the next twenty-five years: “We hope to have strong voices from the business community. We want to hear from you about how we perform for the next twenty-five years.”

Throughout the course of the evening USCIB presented videos honoring the influential roles of the ICC, IOE and ILO over the past century.

Established in 1919 in the waning days of World War I, the ILO’s founders believed that universal peace could only come about if it was based on social justice.

USCIB Chairman Terry McGraw presents the USCIB International Leadership Award to ILO Director General Guy Ryder

“On behalf of the ILO, I am extremely honored by this award. The recognition and support of your influential organization is especially valuable in these uncertain times, when technology, climate change, globalization and demographics are all reshaping the worlds of enterprise and work,” said Ryder. “By continuing our cooperation, I am confident that we can meet this existential challenge and create a new model of business and employment that is human-centered, equitable and sustainable.” Ryder also joined The Walt Disney Company’s Laura Rubbo in a fireside chat, during which he highlighted ILO’s achievements and shared the organization’s priorities for the future.

Ryder was elected as ILO Director-General by the ILO’s Governing Body in May 2012 and took office on October 1, 2012. Since then, Ryder has launched a reform process geared towards assuring the ILO’s authority on matters falling within its mandate. Ryder was re-elected by the ILO’s tripartite Governing Body on November 7, 2016, and his second term started on October 1, 2017. The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. The unique tripartite structure of the ILO is intended to give an equal voice to workers, employers and governments so that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labor standards and in shaping policies and programs.

Established in 1980, USCIB’s International Leadership Award is presented annually to a leading CEO, international figure or institution, recognizing outstanding contributions to global trade, finance and investment, and to improving the global competitive framework in which American business operates. Recent recipients have included Paul Polman of Unilever (Chairman of ICC), Ajay Banga of Mastercard and Randall Stephenson of AT&T. The annual USCIB award dinner attracts hundreds of top business executives, policy makers and members of the diplomatic community.

Robinson Talks Policy With Senior State Department Leaders

USCIB’s Peter Robinson and Rob Mulligan meet with State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science Ambassador Marcia Bernicat

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson had three successful senior-level meetings at the U.S. Department of State this week. On August 5, Robinson and USCIB VP Shaun Donnelly met Ambassador Kevin Moley, who serves as assistant secretary for International Organization (IO) Affairs for a tour d ’horizon of shared interests across a wide range of UN and other international organizations. IO Deputy Assistant Secretary Nerissa Cook joined the meeting. Much of the meeting focused on the shared objective of USCIB and the U.S. government of ensuring maximum access to and participation in international organizations for American and international business.

On August 6, Robinson, accompanied by Donnelly and USCIB SVP for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan, followed up with a wide-ranging meeting with the new Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach, along with his new leadership team in the Undersecretary’s office. Finally, the three met with Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) Ambassador Marcia Bernicat to discuss climate change and other important environmental issues.

“I was very fortunate, especially in early August, to get three very high-level meetings at the State Department within twenty-four hours,” Robinson said. “Each meeting was uniquely useful for USCIB and our member companies. With Ambassador Moley and his leadership team in the IO Bureau, we were able to compare notes on a range of shared interests, many of them related for access for American and global business to important international organizations. From Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in multiple UN bodies, to global health at the WHO, to UN climate and environmental negotiations, the private sector has a vital role to play. We are very grateful for the strong support the U.S. Government and Ambassador Moley and his team have provided us at USCIB. Although our USCIB team and member companies have worked closely with Ambassador Bernicat over her year on the job in OES, this my first chance to meet her personally.  We had a good, candid exchange on the challenge confronting the U.S. Government, American business, and the world in the climate and environmental areas. We will be working very closely with her going forward on a range of important issues.

“I especially appreciate all the time new Undersecretary Krach and his ‘E office’ leadership team spent with us today. We touched on a lot of important areas for cooperation going forward, from trade and technology to economic security and international organizations, including the OECD. Undersecretary Krach brings a very impressive private sector background to his new role as the senior economic policy official at the State Department. I assured him that USCIB stands ready to assist him and his team on any and all issues.”

Staff Contacts:

VP, Investment & Financial Services Shaun Donnelly (202.682.1221)

VP, Strategic International Engagement, Energy & Environment Norine Kennedy (212.703.5052)

USCIB Helps Celebrate ILO Centennial, Business Role in Sustainable Development

Ringing the closing bell at Nasdaq. L-R: Mamadou Diallo, deputy secretary general, International Trade Union Confederation; Moussa Oumarou, deputy director general, ILO; USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, IOE VP for North America. USCIB Vice President Gabriella Herzog is immediately to the right of Robinson.

As leaders assembled in New York for the United Nations’ annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, USCIB and its global network were on the scene, making the case for inclusive multilateralism and celebrating the hundredth anniversary of a key pillar of global cooperation, the International Labor Organization.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson helped ILO ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange on July 11, joined by officials from the ILO, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

“It was an honor to help celebrate the ILO’s centennial in such auspicious surroundings, and in a tripartite way,” said Robinson, who serves as the IOE’s regional vice president for North America. “Here’s to another hundred years of growth, opportunity and success for workers, employers and the societies they continue to help build.”

USCIB’s Peter Robinson speaks at the UN High-Level Political Forum.

Robinson also took part in the first week of UN meetings around the HLPF, with many more planned for this week as well. He appeared alongside IOE Deputy Secretary General Matthias Thorns at a panel discussion on “Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.”

Robinson focused his remarks at the UN to emphasize three key elements that will provide an enabling environment allowing business to contribute the most:

  1. Improved governance and rule of law:“Some of the areas of the world in most need of business infusion are ones with big enough governance gaps that business has little incentive to invest; and trying to get business to shoulder the responsibilities that are primarily governmental in nature will be a further disincentive.”
  2. “Inclusive Multilateralism”:“Intergovernmental organizations must ensure that all voices are heard, and in particular must ensure that all business sectors have a seat at the table and prevent the arbitrary exclusion of interests—everyone has a role to play in solving societal challenges, and some of those sectors that many of you in the room might be most critical of, are in fact developing new and innovative approaches to furthering SDGs such as those related to health and climate”
  3. Governments need to facilitate public/private partnerships:“Since many institutions are not yet adequately structured or resourced to support the needed scale of working toward the SDGs, there is an urgent need to develop new and inclusive partnership models that engage business and other non-state actors as equal partners with government. This model will embrace innovation, mobilize resources and expertise, and create shared accountability and value.”

 

Robinson Speaks at ILO Conference, ICC-UK

USCIB’s Peter Robinson (far left) speaks at the annual meeting of ICC United Kingdom, chaired by ICC-UK Chairman Sir Michael Rake (center).

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson took part in high-level panel discussions at the recent International Labor Conference, the ILO’s annual high-level gathering, as well as the annual general meeting of ICC-UK, the International Chamber of Commerce‘s chapter in the United Kingdom. At both events, he discussed new challenges of multilateralism in an era when some observers have called the multilateral model’s viability into question.

At the ILO, Robinson took part in a discussion of multilateral institutions and the future of work, alongside ILO Director General Guy Ryder, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo, OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos and Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, among others. He said that, from the perspective of employers, it is clear that businesses do well in stable and prosperous societies where inequality is not as rampant.

“The real question is whether governments, who are the ones to tackle inequality, are able to create the right kind of legal and regulatory frameworks to do so,” Robinson observed. “Global institutions need to continue to help governments by providing appropriate research and statistics and policy prescriptions – the OECD and ILO play important roles in those areas.”

The USCIB president called for an “inclusive multilateralism,” where all stakeholders are present and a climate of trust prevails. “Business wants to be part of the solution,” he said. “But we need to feel like we are listened to, and that we have a seat at the table. Just as we need more inclusive forms of economic growth, so we also need a more inclusive model of multilateralism, one that draws on the best ideas from broadly representative groups in civil society, including business and employers’ organizations.”

At the ICC-UK meeting, Robinson joined a panel on the future of the WTO and the multilateral trading system. He recalled recent USCIB papers on WTO modernization as well as the ongoing e-commerce negotiationsUSCIB’s vision for the WTO, he said, “focuses not only on strengthening existing agreements, but also on addressing subsidies and other market-distorting support provided to state-owned enterprises, the establishment of new rules for current issues such as digital trade and customs processes on electronic transmissions, and ensuring a properly functioning appellate body, among other issues. The U.S. has been a major beneficiary of the WTO’s dispute settlement system, bringing and winning more cases than any other WTO member.”

Robinson was also a guest at ICC-UK’s board meeting (as was Crispin Conroy, ICC’s new Geneva representative), where he provided an overview of USCIB/ICC-USA priorities.

United Nations General Assembly Commemorates ILO Centennial

L-R: Secretary General of IOE Roberto Suarez; IOE Vice-President to the ILO
Mthunzi Mdwaba; President of the International Organization of Employers Erol Kiresepi; USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

As the International Labor Organization celebrates its one-hundredth anniversary this year, the United Nations commemorated this milestone at the UN General Assembly on April 10 under the theme “The Future of Work.” The commemorative plenary was attended by heads of state, ministers, heads of delegations from permanent missions to the UN, and representatives from the private sector, including USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. 

Opening statements were made by President of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Secretary General of the UN António Guterres, Director General of the International Labor Organization Guy Ryder, President of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) Erol Kiresepi, and others.

As IOE Vice President for North America, Robinson also took part in a luncheon, co-hosted by Espinosa Garcés and Ryder, to discuss progress, good practices, and lessons learned toward achieving the eight Sustainable Development Goal (decent work and economic growth). The luncheon provided an opportunity for participants to take stock of the progress in the implementation of sustainable development objectives in the area of promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. According to Robinson, the luncheon provided a terrific opportunity to support the ILO as an example of inclusive multilateralism embodied in its tripartite structure.

“We at USCIB are proud to celebrate the ILO’s centennial, alongside our partners in the Department of Labor, the AFL-CIO and the International Organization of Employers’ worldwide membership,” said Robinson.

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.

At B20, Robinson Stresses Need for International Cooperation

Peter Robinson at the B20 in Japan

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson was in Japan the week of March 11 for the B20 Summit, alongside other business leaders such as John Denton, secretary general and Paul Polman, chair of the International Chamber of CommercePhil O’Reilly, chair and Russell Mills, secretary general of Business at OECD, as well as Erol Kiresepi, chairman of the International Organization of Employers.

Robinson spoke on a panel titled, “Global Economy for All: International Cooperation for Global Governance.” In his remarks, Robinson proposed looking at international cooperation from two perspectives: strengthening global institutions and rules, while also encouraging bottom-up approaches and a general spirit of cooperation, rather than confrontation, in international economic relations.

“For the foreseeable future, we will need to accept that many electorates and governments view the world through a more nationalistic, mercantilist lens,” said Robinson. “We need to demonstrate the value in international cooperation, not just through new binding rules and official structures, but through voluntary, bottom-up initiatives. Efforts such as the Paris Climate Agreement, or the plurilateral agreements being pursued by WTO members on several issues including digital trade, should be welcomed and encouraged.”

Throughout the course of the panel, Robinson also touched upon trade conflicts with China, WTO modernization, and the need to radically reform education, job training and retraining approaches around the world.

Robinson also called out climate change as being a crucial long-term global challenge. “Climate impacts everything – economic growth, jobs, health care, where people live,” stressed Robinson. “We therefore need to view climate and energy policy in a more holistic manner.”

The Japan Times covered the B20 and quoted Robinson in their piece, “At B20 in Tokyo, World Business Leaders Urge Stronger Cooperation on Looming Challenges.” The Japan Times quoted Robinson emphasizing that “The American business community still believes in open trade, globalization and multilateralism.”

Robinson also applauded the B20’s prioritization of adoption and dissemination of artificial intelligence to ensure that AI development deployment remains “human-centric”. This issue will be a big focus of the digital economy conference that USCIB is organizing with Business at OECD (BIAC) and the OECD on March 25 in Washington, DC.

ICC Secretary General Meets With USCIB Members, Staff

John Denton

John Denton, the Australian lawyer and diplomat who last year took the reins as secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world business organization that serves as the linchpin of USCIB’s global network, met with USCIB members and staff during a visit to New York in early February.

Leading representatives of USCIB member companies from a variety of industries, and reflecting a wide spectrum of expertise across USCIB’s various policy committees, gathered in USCIB’s New York and Washington, D.C. offices. Joined by video conference, they provided the ICC secretary general with their views and priorities across multiple practice areas. Denton took advantage of the opportunity to compare notes on a variety of global economic and business challenges, and laid out his efforts to streamline and re-imagine ICC’s vision, structure and services.

Denton was elected to head the secretariat of the Paris-based ICC in March of last year. A legal expert and adviser on global policy, international trade and investment and infrastructure, Denton previously served on ICC’s Executive Board and, in 2016, became the first Australian to hold the position of first vice chair of ICC.

 

Robinson Contributes to OECD’s Going Digital Work in Paris

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson (left) with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria

USCIB CEO and President Peter Robinson was in Paris January 15 as part of the business delegation at the annual Business at OECD Liaison Committee Meeting (LCM) consultation with OECD Ministers. The focus of this meeting was on the OECD’s “Going Digital” work and titled “Expanding Digital Opportunities: Agreeing Priority Actions”. Robinson served as a moderator of one of three concurrent panels composed of business leaders, OECD Ambassadors and OECD staff.

Robinson’s session was “Future Proofing to ensure broader societal success” and engendered discussion around two questions: What approaches best enable dynamic policy-making, and where are they most needed? And what does good multi-stakeholder collaboration look like in this context?

“I see the latter being a big component of the former and was able to point to OECD’s general leadership in multi-stakeholder engagement, which has been setting an example at a time when some other international organizations seem to be not as open to business involvement,” reflected Robinson.

“The ambassadors on my panel seemed to truly appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with business in this way, and their contributions consisted of a mix of reactions to Business at OECD’s position paper and examples of initiatives in their own countries—including from Italy, Japan, and Latvia—reflecting multi-stakeholder engagement in the digital age.”

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and Business at OECD Chair Phil O’Reily circulated among the panels and shared leadership of the plenary sessions. Business at OECD Secretary General Russell Mills also served as a moderator, as did Julie Brill, Microsoft Corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, who chairs the Business at OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy. USCIB Board member and Business at OECD Vice Chair Rick Johnston was also on hand, as were other USCIB member executives from firms including IBM, Cooley LLP, Google and PwC.

OECD will hold its “Going Digital” Summit March 11-12 in Paris. The USCIB/BIAC/OECD “Going Digital: OECD Insights for a Changing World” will be held on March 25-26 in Washington, D.C. The annual OECD Ministerial will be held May 22-23 in Paris, at which Digital will figure centrally.

 

OECD Emphasizes Adverse Impact of US-China Trade Tensions on Economy

The OECD’s semi-annual Economic Outlook, issued on November 21, warns that U.S.-China trade tensions are adversely affecting the global economic outlook and that the majority of the burden will be felt by U.S. consumers.  And if the U.S.-China trade disputes continue to escalate, world trade could reduce significantly by 2021.  In his remarks presenting the latest Economic Outlook, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria highlighted downward adjustments in OECD’s forecasts for GDP growth rates from their May Outlook: dropping from 3.7% to 3.5% growth globally for 2019, with an additional 3.5% drop in 2020.

For the U.S. specifically, the OECD forecast for 2019 growth drops from 2.9% in May to 2.7% in this report and a further drop to 2.1% in 2020. For Europe’s “Euro Area”, the OECD now estimates 1.6% (down from 1.8% in the May Outlook) and 1.6% growth again in 2020. For China, the OECD is now forecasting 6.32% annual growth in 2019 (down from 6.6% in the May forecast) and 6.3% growth again in 2020.  The slides from the OECD presentation demonstrate in more detail key trends the OECD identifies over the coming years.

Gurria highlighted one major reason for this decline in global growth prospects is a breakdown in international cooperation. The imposition of new tariffs and uncertainty about further restrictive trade actions are contributing to a marked slowdown in trade growth, dampening global investment and threatening jobs and living standards. The international rules-based system that has governed trade since the end of the Second World War has been undermined. Gurria’s perspective is blunt – “Protectionism is not the answer.” While Gurria does not explicitly call out U.S. trade policies, it seems clear that the U.S.-China trades disputes and U.S. more aggressive unilateral trade policy are significant factors helping drive down global economic forecasts.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson took note of the OECD’s semi-annual Economic Outlook. “The OECD has earned international respect for its detailed and apolitical economic outlooks,” said Robinson.  “All of us – governments, businesses and citizens – need to take heed to this OECD alarm bell.  Economic growth is the force that drives investment, trade, jobs and better lives for citizens around the world.  It seems clear that one key concerns causing the OECD and other experts to adjust their economic forecasts downward is increased protectionism.  I agree with Secretary General Gurria that protectionism is not a solution; protectionism begets protectionism and downward pressures.  We call upon the U.S. government, as well as other leading trade powers, to reject protectionism and provide global leadership to open trade and investment opportunities around the world.”

The OECD’s press release provides an excellent summary of their key analysis, findings and recommendations.