Addressing Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalization of the Economy: USCIB Submits Comments to OECD

Washington D.C., December 14, 2020 – The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, provided comments to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in response to the OECD’s Public Consultation Request to its Reports on the Pillar One and Pillar Two Blueprints, which would develop coherent rules to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy.

Among its recommendations, USCIB emphasized that the OECD rules should be developed with consideration of their potential impact on global growth and business investment decisions, and should be designed in a way to support the achievement of tax certainty for taxpayers and tax administrations and not be too complex or too onerous in compliance to discourage global investment. According to its comments, USCIB noted that the rules should also be based, to the maximum extent possible, on internationally accepted principles of taxation for coherency in their creation and consistency in their application.

For USCIB’s complete comments to the OECD, please click here.

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.

Brazil’s Accession to OECD: Robinson Provides Input at “Brazil OECD Business Policy Roundtables”

As Brazil continues its reform efforts to accede to the OECD, USCIB partnered with the Brazil-U.S. Business Council of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Brazil’s National Confederation of Industry (CNI) on December 8 to launch a series of Brazil OECD Business Policy Roundtables. The roundtables convene private sector representatives to build sectoral consensus and identify priorities and possible improvements for Brazil.

“The objective of this collaborative effort between the U.S. and Brazilian business communities is to channel private sector input to Brazilian policy makers with the goal of effecting further reforms in line with OECD standards,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson spoke at the event this week and commended the reform efforts that have taken place in Brazil so far as critical to ensuring market access and a level playing field for companies operating in both markets. “Brazil is an important trade partner for the U.S. and therefore a very important market to USCIB members,” said Robinson. “Issues like trade, investment, taxation, intellectual property, and the digital economy are top of mind for our companies as they look to the Brazilian market. We look forward to discussions on all of these important issues with stakeholders in the roundtables following today’s launch event.”

As the U.S. representative to Business at OECD (known as “BIAC”), USCIB has been actively monitoring potential future accessions. Brazil formally requested OECD membership in May of 2017. According to Hampl, since the formal request in 2017, Brazil has taken steps to reform several parts of its economy to meet the OECD’s standards for eventual accession. To date, Brazil has not yet been invited to join the OECD.

In October of this year, the U.S. and Brazil updated the 2011 Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation. While not a comprehensive trade agreement, the update included important provisions on customs and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices and anti-corruption.

As with the accession of Colombia to the OECD, USCIB led the U.S. business effort at the OECD to share priorities on reforms. “We look forward to facilitating a similar conversation regarding Brazil,” added Robinson. “This collaborative effort with CNI, our network partner through Business at OECD, as well as the Brazil-U.S. Business Council of the U.S. Chamber, is an important step in discussing what is at stake for business in the economic relationship with Brazil.”

Robinson Delivers Business Perspective on Investment at UNCTAD High-Level Conference

As the leading business speaker at the opening plenary session of the virtual Global Investment Promotion Conference organized by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) December 7-8, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson laid out a clear message on the importance of investment in driving global economic recovery, trade and jobs. 

Robinson shared the virtual dais with UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi, President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, as well as leading business representatives, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Permanent Observer to the United Nations Andrew Wilson.

Robinson’s remarks on trade focused on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the critical role of governments’ efforts in promoting FDI; he emphasized the importance of a strong investment climate and rule of law as foreign investors evaluate possible foreign investments. Robinson also endorsed UNCTAD’s efforts to build capacity of developing country governments in investment promotion.  According to Robinson, one key element in any investment agreement is access to effective, independent dispute settlement procedures by a potential investor.

“I was honored to be included in the opening panel for UNCTAD’s important virtual conference on investment promotion,” Robinson said. “We appreciate UNCTAD’s work in the critical area of investment policy. UNCTAD has clearly established itself as the global ‘go-to’ source for investment statistics and catalogue of provisions of regional and bilateral investment agreements.  We also greatly support UNCTAD’s efforts to include business perspectives in their conferences, including in panels and debates.  We at USCIB are convinced that FDI flows in all directions are key to getting the global economy back on track. The economy benefits from both inward and outward FDI flows, fostering trade, creating good jobs at home and abroad, as well as bolstering American competitiveness in today’s and tomorrow’s competitive global economy.”

USCIB member and Microsoft’s Vice President for UN Affairs in NY John Frank was a featured speaker on a December 8 panel “Executive Dialogue of Investment Facilitation and Advocacy.”  The Conference program and full list of speakers is available at Global Investment Promotion Conference – World Investment Forum – UNCTAD

USCIB Contributes to Discussion With OECD on China

USCIB participated in a Seminar with the OECD Informal Reflection Group on China as part of the Business at OECD (BIAC) delegation of the China Expert Group on November 27. The BIAC China Expert Group was created for the purpose of contributing expert guidance to China–OECD cooperation in areas that improve the investment climate and overall business environment in China. According to USCIB’s China lead Eva Hampl, who participated in this meeting, the group promotes adherence to OECD instruments and the sharing of knowledge on policy practices, contributing to a more level playing field for all businesses operating both inside and outside of China. It consults annually with the OECD Informal Reflection Group on China, which includes OECD Ambassadors from a wide range of countries. It also works with the OECD’s senior representative in Beijing to help scale–up the OECD presence in China. China is not a member of the OECD but participates in many of its meetings as an observer.

The focus of the discussion was “The OECD and China in the post-COVID scenario. Avoiding decoupling –strengthening resilience.” The business presentation provided an economic assessment, noted the global challenges, and included several so-called reflection topics on technological decoupling, artificial intelligence, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and supply chain resilience.

Hampl, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services, spoke on the issue of supply chain resilience, highlighting current business challenges globally in the context of the pandemic, as well as specifically related to China.

Hampl encouraged the OECD not to shy away from addressing the difficult issues, highlighting successful OECD workstreams on SOEs and subsidies.

“The relationship with China is complex, multifaceted and can be challenging for business,” stressed Hampl.

The OECD’s December 2020 Economic Outlook released yesterday highlights that China, where the recovery from the pandemic started earlier, is expected to grow strongly at 8% in 2021, accounting for over a third of global growth. Given China’s importance in the global economy, its practices and policies have a significant impact on its trading partners, providing strong incentives to work together to address common challenges and responsibilities.

Foreign Direct Investment More Important Than Ever During Health and Economic Crisis

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly was up early on Thanksgiving morning, participating virtually as a panelist in the annual International Investment Agreements (IIA) Experts conference organized in Geneva by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This year’s conference focused on the theme of IIA reform in the time of COVID-19. Donnelly participated in six of the last seven annual conferences organized by UNCTAD on international trade agreements.

In addition to his role as a panelist, Donnelly submitted a short written statement and a three-minute video message. 

“Our main message was simple,” said Donnelly. “In a time of health and economic crisis, private foreign direct investment (FDI) is more important than ever to restoring global economic growth, trade and jobs.” According to Donnelly, investment agreements, including strong dispute settlement provisions can be a critical factor to incentivizing FDI flows. 

Donnelly, a retired U.S. Ambassador and now a consultant to USCIB, also noted, “Unfortunately UNCTAD and many of the government and NGO speakers seem to share a view that FDI rules and IIAs need to be ‘reformed’ to reduce protections for investors and their access to independent arbitration to resolve investment disputes with host governments.  We have a different view; incentivizing and protecting FDI is more important than ever as we all strive for global economic recovery. So it is for business to speak up and get its views on the table in these international investment policy session. I was pleased to be joined this year on my panel by Winand Quaedvlieg from VNO, our Dutch counterpart national association and Chair of the Investment Policy Committee at Business at OECD.”     

UNCTAD’s link to the conference program presentations (including Donnelly’s) and documents.   

USCIB Competition Committee Hosts DOJ Antitrust Division Deputy

USCIB’s Competition Committee held its fall meeting on October 28 in a virtual format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following welcome and introductory remarks by Dina Kallay (Ericsson) and Jennifer Patterson (Arnold & Porter), Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee, respectively, the group received an update on the upcoming meetings of the OECD Competition Committee from John Taladay (Baker Botts), Chair of the Business at OECD (“BIAC”) Competition Committee, and on the current work of the ICC Competition Commission from USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment, and Financial Services Eva Hampl.

The meeting featured Alexander Okuliar, deputy assistant attorney general, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as the main speaker. Okuliar recently returned to the DOJ following two decades at both federal antitrust agencies and the private sector, and is responsible for civil merger and conduct investigations and litigation. He delivered remarks to USCIB members that included the DOJ’s recent work regarding competition in digital markets; the recent DOJ Business Review Letter to IEEE; and China, including due process challenges in China’s antimonopoly agencies and the new China Standards 2035 policy. Following his remarks, DAAG Okuliar engaged in an open Q&A session with committee members.

The Committee, under the direction of Kallay also discussed various issues of concern, including on advocacy for international convergence re compliance. Finally, Lisa Kimmel (Crowell & Moring) provided the group an update of the recent report of the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative law, on the Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets.

 

US Nominates Liddell for OECD Secretary General

Chris Liddell

The United States government formally nominated Chris Liddell on October 20 to be the next Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the influential Paris-based thirty-seven-member international economic policy group.  Current OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria’s third five-year term will expire mid-2021. The selection process is underway with multiple candidates nominated, headed toward a final selection in early 2021.

Liddell is currently serving as Assistant to the President and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination. He is a dual national, American and his native New Zealand. According to USCIB Senior Advisor and Former U.S. Ambassador Shaun Donnelly, Liddell brings a very impressive private sector resume to his current White House senior position and to his OECD candidacy. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Liddell served as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer at General Motors, where he led global finance operations and managed the company’s $23 billion IPO in November 2010, which, at that time, was the largest public offering in history. Liddell has more than three decades of experience in corporate leadership, including Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Microsoft Corporation and Chief Financial Officer of International Paper.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson welcomed Liddell’s nomination. “We at USCIB are pleased to see the U.S. government coming forward with a strong nominee for the important OECD Secretary General position, succeeding Angel Gurria with whom we have enjoyed working over the past fourteen years,” said Robinson. “We are particularly pleased to see a nominee with strong private sector background and hands-on policy experience at the top levels of the U.S. government. The competition for the post will be tough with other strong nominees but there has never been an OECD Secretary General from the U.S.”

The nomination process closed on November 1. The governments of Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Geece, Poland, Switzerland and Sweden have also formally nominated candidates for the Secretary General position. The United Kingdom Ambassador, as Dean (i.e. longest serving) of the OECD’s Council of Ambassadors, is leading the selection process. According to Donnelly, the target is to have the next Secretary General elected by the Council by March 1, 2021 and in place for a five-year term beginning June 1, 2021, presumably shortly after the organization’s annual Ministerial meeting scheduled to take place in Paris.

“USCIB and our business colleagues in the OECD’s Business at OECD (”BIAC”) organization hope to be able to play a constructive, informal role in the selection process,” said Donnelly.

USCIB Provides Feedback on AI to the National Institute of Standards and Technology

As the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) works on its principles of explainable “Artificial Intelligence (AI),” USCIB welcomed an opportunity to submit comments on behalf of its members. The comments, sent to the NIST Director and Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology Dr. Walter Copan, draw from industry experience, as well as from USCIB’s direct input to the development of the OECD’s AI Principles through USCIB’s affiliation with Business at OECD (known as “BIAC”).

“NIST’s effort represents a positive first step in terms of grappling with the issue of AI explainability,” remarked USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner. “The draft, and NIST’s broader program to develop approaches to AI trustworthiness, should significantly contribute to the private and public sector’s understanding of the many considerations necessary to implement AI, while ultimately enabling broader, faster and more responsible use of AI. We believe that, to be most effective, humans and machines should collaborate, combining their respective strengths to provide sustainable value for consumers, businesses, governments and society.”

In its comments, USCIB also highlighted the work of USCIB members such as Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft within an Experts Group that developed the OECD’s AI Principles. The U.S. government also contributed actively to the development of the OECD principles, under the leadership of the State Department.  On May 22, 2019, the OECD’s 36 member countries, along with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, and Romania,  endorsed the OECD Council Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence. The principles contained in the recommendation were subsequently endorsed by the G20.

Hampl Joins BIAC-OECD Discussion on Building Resilient Supply Chains

USCIB joined Business at OECD (BIAC) for a joint meeting on October 7 with the OECD to discuss building resilience in global supply chains to ensure that trade and investment can contribute to a robust, inclusive and sustainable recovery.

BIAC raised some key messages, such as the economic fallout from COVID-19 which has highlighted the need to strengthen supply chain resilience amid significant disruptions and containment measures that were especially stark during the early phase of the pandemic. BIAC added that because OECD work has demonstrated the gains from deepening and expanding international specialization in global value chains, the Organization should provide an important evidence-base on how countries can better prepare for future crises without disrupting global value chains and imposing restrictions at a time where global trade and investment are essential elements for innovation, job creation and getting our economies back on track.

Eva Hampl, who is leading USCIB’s work on trade and investment, participated in the conversation along with several USCIB members including from Apple, DHL, JPMorgan, Walmart and Pfizer.

In her remarks, Hampl noted the critical role of government cooperation as business is working to strengthening supply chains. “Consistency and predictability is critical for business,” said Hampl. “That’s why government cooperation and engagement with business is necessary to find effective solutions. This is where the OECD can provide crucial value by facilitating the conversation between business and governments.

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.