USCIB Welcomes a Changing of the Guard at US Mission to OECD

Andrew Havilland
Photo source: U.S. Mission to the OECD

Late summer is traditionally turnover season at U.S. diplomatic missions overseas, according to U.S. Ambassador (ret.) Shaun Donnelly, who serves as senior adviser at USCIB. Pandemic notwithstanding, 2020 is no exception. For USCIB, a key move is at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris. Andrew Havilland is wrapping up three years as chargé d’affaires (i.e. acting Ambassador) at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  Three years ago, Havilland arrived in Paris as deputy chief of mission (DCM) at the OECD but for three years, no U.S. Ambassador has been confirmed.

“Havilland has done a fantastic job leading the U.S. Mission through a very challenging period,” said Donnelly. “He is liked, respected and listened to across the OECD and beyond.”

Throughout his time in Paris, Havilland worked closely with USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and other USCIB staff on a wide range of major policy issues.

Whitney Baird Photo source: US Mission to the EU

“We are, of course, sad to see Andrew depart Paris but are delighted that he’s being replaced as DCM/Chargé by Whitney Baird, another one of the State Department’s very best senior economic experts,” noted Robinson. Baird has a background in EU issues and trade policy and is coming from a tour as deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, in charge of West African and regional issues. She will be arriving in Paris next week to take over leadership of the Mission.

Robinson led a September 2 virtual session with Baird and Havilland for USCIB policy managers to brief Baird on key policy issues ahead at the OECD for USCIB member companies; tax policy, including digital services tax, and Internet and digital economy issues were at the top of the agenda, but other important policy areas were also discussed – from trade and investment, environment, labor and social affairs, anti-corruption and responsible business conduct to health and anti-illicit trade.

Additionally, Robinson and USCIB policy experts thanked Havilland and his team for their access and close cooperation on a range of issues over the past few years and agreed to continue the close, mutually beneficial cooperation on key OECD issues, organizational as well as policy-related, with Baird and her U.S. Mission team going forward. For the foreseeable future, that cooperation, like all USCIB engagement with the OECD and Business at OECD (BIAC) will be by email, conference call and Zoom sessions.

After a three and-a-half year gap in the post of U.S. Ambassador, President Donald Trump nominated current State Department Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh as the next U.S. Ambassador to the OECD on May 5. If confirmed, Singh would assume charge of the U.S. Mission to the OECD and Baird would revert to the DCM role. Assistant Secretary Singh had a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) on August 6. The SFRC will now need to vote on her nomination and then, if voted out of committee, the Full Senate would have to vote on her confirmation before she could be sworn in as the next U.S. Ambassador to the OECD and take up the post in Paris. Until that time Baird will head the U.S. Mission as Chargé d’Affaires.

Note: If members have questions or suggestions related to ongoing OECD issues, please work with the appropriate USCIB policy manager and/or relevant USCIB committee leadership.  USCIB staff stand ready to assist member companies with any OECD-related issues, including introductions to new Chargé Whitney Baird and her senior staff.

USCIB Statement on OECD’s Inclusive Framework

USCIB has issued the following statement on June 23 with regards to the OECD Inclusive Framework process:

USCIB remains committed to proactive participation in the current OECD Inclusive Framework process to achieve consensus on acceptable modifications to the international tax system to properly address the tax challenges of the digitalization of the economy.

USCIB and its member companies will continue to work diligently towards a sustainable agreement and will encourage the U.S. government to remain committed to this process.

COVID-19 Highlights Deep-Rooted Challenges of Informal Sectors

At a recent OECD virtual meeting, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson discussed one of the main, deep-rooted structural challenges underpinning the global economy—informality—the extent of which has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robinson noted during his remarks at the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct that in the longer-term, solutions are going to require dialogue, cooperation and partnership – particularly with regards to issues impacting vulnerable economies.

Informality represents approximately 60% of workers and 80% of businesses worldwide. It is at risk of expanding due to the current economic downturn. The informal sector work is characterized by high degrees of poverty and serious decent work deficits.

“If we can find ways of incentivizing informal firms to formalize, we support both a sustainable recovery by mitigating the size of the problem and advance workers’ rights, good governance and responsible business conduct for the SME and larger companies linked to them through business relationships,” said Robinson. “One critical bottom line in creating an environment that incentivizes and promotes the uptake of responsible business conduct is the fundamental importance of rule of law, enforcement, and well-functioning institutions.”

Robinson also reiterated USCIB’s commitment to responsible business conduct.

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

Robinson Reiterates Commitment to Responsible Business Conduct

Robinson participates virtually in the OECD Global Forum

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson participated virtually in the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), which was held on May 19.

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically disrupted business and exposed major vulnerabilities in the economy and global supply chains. The event gathered thought leaders from government and business, trade unions, civil society, academia and international organizations to discuss how responsible business conduct can build value and more resilient supply chains in a post-COVID-19 world and how we can use the ongoing pandemic to integrate responsible business thinking into policies and action to bring remedy to people, meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackle climate change.

Speakers, including Robinson, discussed a variety of themes including the promotion of business responsibility in a post-COVID-19 world; the role of responsible business conduct in government support and recovery packages and how innovative engagement across stakeholders can promote responsible and resilient supply chains.

Robinson spoke on a panel titled, Building Value: The Role of RBC in Government Support and Recovery Packages. “Business is committed to RBC as highlighted in the MNE Guidelines,” emphasized Robinson. “RBC is good business and the crisis is not an excuse to fail to uphold responsible business conduct. In fact, there are many examples of companies already contributing meaningfully to relief and recovery in terms of donations of personal protection equipment, retrofitting production to produce needed emergency supplies, addressing employee safety, etc.”

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

The annual OECD Global Forum has become the leading event for governments, businesses, trade unions and civil society to promote international dialogue on RBC and contribute to the effective implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

OECD Digital Economy Policy Group Discusses Data Governance, Privacy Amid COVID-19

The OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP) and one of its working parties held virtual meetings April 21-23 against the uncertain global backdrop caused by the COVID-19 virus. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner participated.

By necessity, the normally week-long meetings were streamlined, focusing on only a few items pertaining to data governance and privacy as well as pursuing “alignment and agreement” on the 2021-22 CDEP Program of Work and Budget. These meetings were preceded by webinars on April 15 and April 17, which focused on (1) “Data Governance and Privacy Challenges in the Fight Against COVID-19” and (2) data portability, respectively.

“Not surprisingly, discussions in the data portability webinar and CDEP meetings repeatedly circled back to the appropriate use of digital technologies and data to address COVID mitigation and recovery,” said Wanner.

According to Wanner, CDEP’s consideration of the 2021-2022 Program of Work and Budget featured numerous government interventions noting the importance of addressing COVID-mitigation in the near term, but urging the CDEP to view the COVID-19 crisis through a wider lens in the medium term and consider how technologies and data may be galvanized to address future global crises.

“The CDEP’s focus should be on [the role of data and digital technologies in] crisis management, in general, since the next global crisis may not be health-related,” the European Commission representative urged; the U.S. Government concurred.

Under the auspices of Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB members stepped up in both workshops and in the CDEP meetings to provide expert commentary that detailed how they are endeavoring to develop privacy-respecting COVID solutions. In BIAC’s PWB intervention, BIAC CDEP Co-Chair Makoto Yokozawa echoed the theme of government interventions, encouraging OECD current and future work-streams to consider lessons learned from the pandemic about the use of data and digital technologies.

One example was USCIB members’ Apple and Google application programming interfaces to make it possible to trace COVID transmission. Importantly, the venture addresses many of the issues identified by the data regulators as necessary to build public trust and safeguard privacy protections. For more information on this joint venture, please click here.

USCIB member Microsoft’s Carolyn Nguyen intervened on behalf of BIAC. Addressing the topic at a higher level, she cautioned the OECD to avoid policy siloing in developing COVID-19 policy recommendations, urging a holistic, cross-committee/cross-sectional approach as was used for the Going Digital project. Nguyen further underscored the importance of public-private partnership and voluntary and responsible data sharing in enabling rapid response. She also suggested that the OECD’s review of the 2013 Privacy Guidelines review and the Enhanced Access and Sharing of Data (EASD) initiative should take the Covid-19 experience into consideration before going forward.

“It’s clear that technology can and must play a part in creating the environment in which we can safely and carefully begin to return to work and re-open businesses. It also is clear that any solution needs to be approved by elected officials, designed with strong privacy protections in mind, include clear and transparent communications with citizens, and only be used to address public health needs,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen further noted Microsoft’s efforts to build privacy compliance into its tools and services has made it easier for the organizations that it supports to focus their efforts on advancing their missions of combating the pandemic. For example, she noted that Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot is being used to build COVID-19 self-assessment tools by organizations around the world, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

USCIB Members Play Active Role on OECD’s Illicit Trade During COVID Panel

The OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade hosted a webinar on April 23—”Illicit Trade at the Time of Crisis.” In advance of the webinar, USCIB worked closely with Business at OECD (known as BIAC) and the OECD Secretariat on developing a robust panel dedicated to the BIAC Anti-Illicit Trade Expert Group (AITEG) and the good work of the AITEG and USCIB on illicit trade in the COVID-19 crisis environment.

“As the U.S. affiliate for Business at OECD, USCIB has been working closely with BIAC on anti-illicit trade matters since the establishment of our Anti-Illicit Trade Committee (AITC) in 2018,” said Director for Customs and Trade Facilitation Megan Giblin.

In addition to statements by BIAC’s Anti-Illicit Trade Expert Group chair and vice chair, the panel was rounded out by USCIB member representatives; Pfizer’s Senior Director David Shore, who leads the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional Global Security Team, as well as Amazon’s Senior Public Policy Manager Chris Oldknow, who discussed counterfeiting and intellectual property in Europe and gave poignant remarks on Pfizer and Amazon’s, respective, efforts on illicit trade in the COVID environment.

Prior to the webinar, BIAC published a statement, “Illicit Trade in Context of COVID-19 and Future Pandemics,” which was widely shared with webinar participants and built off earlier contributions of the work of the OECD Task Force.

USCIB’s AITC is chaired by David Luna of Luna Global Networks and vice-chaired by Fernando Pena of DHL. Luna also chairs the recently elevated BIAC AITEG, which is vice-chaired by Alvise Giustiniani of PMI.

USCIB Congratulates Colombia on Formally Becoming OECD Member

Pictured from left: Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD (Photo: OECD/Victor Tonelli)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that Colombia has formally become an OECD Member as of April 28, 2020. Colombia is the 37th country to do so in the Organization’s near 60-year history.

According to the OECD, Colombia has now completed its domestic procedures for ratification of the OECD Convention and deposited its instrument of accession. This brings to a successful conclusion an accession process that began in 2013.

“Colombia is an important market for many companies, and we commend Colombia on successfully concluding this lengthy process and committing to the high standards of the OECD,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl. As the official voice representing U.S. business in this process, USCIB was actively involved in providing input into Colombia’s accession process via Business at OECD (BIAC), the official business voice at the OECD.

OECD Member countries formally invited Colombia to join the Organization in May 2018, following a five-year accession process during which it underwent in-depth reviews by twenty-three OECD Committees and introduced major reforms to align its legislation, policies and practices to OECD standards. These spanned the breadth of policy fields including labor issues, reform of the justice system, corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, anti-bribery, trade, and the establishment of a national policy on industrial chemicals and waste management.

Michener Shares USCIB’s COVID-19 Response with ICC Americas Group

At a recent virtual meeting of the ICC Americas group, USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener discussed USCIB’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, which first and foremost, is to continue important functions as the entire USCIB team works from home in the New York and Washington metro areas.

“We are still representing member interests in multilateral institutions while highlighting individual company responses in tandem with international organizations, and featuring the important work of global affiliates such as International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as well as the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (known as BIAC),” said Michener.

According to Michener, USCIB is also flexing its institutional muscle as a thought leader in the nexus between business and the multilateral system, publishing op-eds and press releases, and promoting partnerships with international organizations through its new venture Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD).

Michener outlined how USCIB is fulfilling its function in representing member interests through virtual events; all committee meetings have been converted into a virtual format and USCIB continues to engage with global partners on events, such as the one held on April 29 with the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs on SDG 17 & Public-Private Partnerships: COVID-19 Response & Recovery in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda.

“We are proud to share the work being done related to COVID-19 across the world by our global network of affiliates on our web page, in particular focusing on ICC’s partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICC campaign to Save our MSMEs and ICC actions via the G20,” added Michener.

USCIB continues to spotlight what member companies are doing to address the COVID-19 crisis; featured companies include ExxonMobil, Qualcomm, Procter & Gamble, Nike, SAP, Google, Amazon, Apple, CenturyLink, IBM, AT&T, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Mastercard, Salesforce, Microsoft and HanesBrand, with additional spotlights in the pipeline.

More information can be found on this web page: Ensuring Business Continuity During COVID-19

USCIB Competition Committee Hosts FTC Antitrust Expert

USCIB’s Competition Committee held its spring meeting on April 16 in virtual format due to the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting included distinguished speaker Gail Levine, deputy director of the Bureau of Competition at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Jennifer Patterson (Arnold and Porter), who serves as vice chair of the USCIB Competition Committee, introduced Levine and USCIB Competition Committee Chair Dina Kallay (Ericsson) moderated the discussion with members.

“The off-the-record exchange included an update on antitrust enforcement in the time of COVID-19, as well as on recent cases, and the recent Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines, to which USCIB provided comments,” noted USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services.

Another issue of interest to members was the technology task force the FTC created in February 2019, which has since then been converted into a “Technology Enforcement Division” (TED) that now has 25 FTEs. The TED was created to monitor competition and investigate potential anticompetitive conduct in markets in which digital technology is an important dimension of competition.

Following the exchange with the government official, the Committee received an update from John Taladay (Baker Botts), chair of the Business at OECD Competition Committee on the upcoming OECD Competition Committee meetings in June. Lisa Kimmel (Crowell & Moring), also provided a summary of USCIB comments on the Department of Justine (DOJ)/FTC Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines, and Eileen Cole (White & Case) provided an update on the recent hearing of the 1-800 Contacts case, for which USCIB submitted an amicus brief, urging the reversal of the FTC ruling.

USCIB Talks OECD Accession with Brazilian Ambassador

On the heals of USCIB’s mid-March virtual meeting with newly sworn-in U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd C. Chapman, USCIB senior staff, led by Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan, had an excellent introductory call with Brazilian Ambassador Nestor Forster on April 2.  Ambassador Forster, currently charge d’affaires heading the Brazilian Embassy in Washington DC, is awaiting formal confirmation by the Brazilian Senate to assume the title of Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Ambassador Forster reached out to USCIB seeking an early direct connection with the organization as the representative of U.S. business to the OECD and U.S. government on all things OECD, including accessions.

USCIB Senior Adviser Shaun Donnelly and Senior Director for Investment, Trade, and Financial Services Eva Hampl joined Mulligan on the call.  Ambassador Forster’s embassy economic counselor also joined.

Ambassador Forster strongly reaffirmed Brazil, and its President Jair Bolsonaro’s, commitment to the OECD accession process as a key pillar of the government’s overall economic reform strategy and move to a more market-based, private sector-driven, competitive economy.

The Ambassador committed that the Brazilian Government would work closely with USCIB and other business organizations from OECD member countries in the “Business at OECD (BIAC)” consortium throughout the accession process – in Paris, in Brazil and in Washington.

“We were able to assure the Ambassador that USCIB and our member companies see Brazil’s OECD accession process as a high priority,” said Donnelly, who is a former U.S. Ambassador and now serves as USCIB’s senior adviser. “We were also able to preview some early specific priority areas where we expected the international business community and OECD member governments would be pressing Brazil for important reforms. We agreed to stay in close contact with Ambassador Forster’s team at the embassy.”

USCIB’s Hampl will be the key staff coordinator on accession issues but almost all USCIB policy staff and committees will be involved in the rigorous review of Brazil’s candidacy by each of the OECD’s committees and related bodies.

“We really appreciate Ambassador Forster making time for an early call with USCIB about Brazil’s OECD accession process,” said Mulligan. “We anticipate working closely with his embassy team, key U.S. government agencies, the OECD staff, our Brazilian counterpart business group CNI, and, of course, all our USCIB members and committees, throughout this important and rigorous accession process.  As the formal accession process gets underway via a formal invitation letter from the OECD Secretary General, we will draw on our experience from Colombia’s accession process.  But even in advance of that formal launch, we will begin seeking member company views and priorities on key issue areas.”

Several times during the meeting, Ambassador Forster emphasized that Brazil would also be seeking to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, at the same time as it is pressing ahead its OECD accession candidacy. USCIB staff indicated USCIB’s interest in such an agreement, noting it would need to comprehensive and high-standard.