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.

OECD Focus on “National Security” as Factor in Inward Investment Reviews

After its opening all-day Foreign Investment Treaties conference (reported in USCIB’s International Business Weekly report last week) on “level-playing fields” in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the OECD committee devoted a full-day of its meeting last week to a wide-ranging discussion of increasing reliance on “national security” factors in reviews of inward FDI flows by many OECD member and other governments.

“Business at OECD” representatives were  active participants in all those discussions, with USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly among the business speakers.  David Fagan, a partner in USCIB member firm Covington and Burling’s Washington office and a leading FDI/investment security lawyer, was a featured expert speaker during the discussion where the U.S. Government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. or “CFIUS” and the recently enacted Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act  (“FIRRMA”) of 2017 were much-discussed.

“David did a great job of explaining recent development in US policy on reviewing FDI,” according to Donnelly. “Our Business at OECD team was able to get across our key messages on the importance of closely delineating national security investment reviews around the world to specific, legitimate security issues and avoiding opening the door to abuse of “national security” provisions for blatantly projectionist discrimination against foreign investors around the world.”

Wanner Shares Perspectives on OECD Going Digital Summit

USCIB and nearly 20 member company representatives, under the aegis of Business at OECD (BIAC), joined 600+ OECD members and stakeholders at the Going Digital Summit, March 11-12 in Paris, which showcased a two-year project to examine digital transformation across all sectors of the economy. This ambitious horizontal endeavor, involving 14 OECD committees, undertook a largely evidence-based and holistic approach to considering both the economic and societal benefits and challenges of the evolving digital ecosystem.

The Summit presented the main findings and policy messages included in the final synthesis report, Going Digital: Shaping Policies, Improving Lives, an accompanying measurement report, Measuring the Digital Transformation: A Roadmap for the Future, and offered a first look at the Going Digital Toolkit web portal. The latter is designed “for policy and diagnosis,” in the words of OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, to help countries assess their state of digital economic development and formulate appropriate policy responses.

The event was organized to reflect the seven pillars of the OECD’s Going Digital integrated policy framework, i.e., enhancing access, increasing effective use, unleashing innovation, ensuring jobs, promoting social prosperity, strengthening trust, and fostering market openness.

“During the past year, USCIB members and BIAC colleagues played an influential role shaping development and refinement of this integrated policy framework, which highlights the inter-related nature of the policy dimensions and underscores the need for coordination to make digital transformation work for prosperity,” said USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner who attended the meetings in Paris.

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.

USCIB Lays Out Priorities for WTO Modernization

Washington, D.C., March 13, 2019 – Responding to this week’s hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on the future of the World Trade Organization, the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents America’s most successful global companies, has submitted a business roadmap for the WTO laying out priorities for the organization’s modernization.

“The continued existence and effectiveness of the WTO is vital to U.S. business,” stated USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and USCIB Trade and Investment Committee Chair Charles R. Johnston in their transmittal letter.

“The WTO is a cornerstone of the global rules-based trading system and has helped spread growth and development for decades. The WTO’s existing agreements, such as those on intellectual property rights, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and technical barriers to trade, provide practical commercial benefits for business because they establish global frameworks of rules designed to facilitate international trade.”

USCIB’s roadmap focuses 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 statement notes that 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. “In fact, the U.S. has prevailed in over 90% of the complaints it filed,” USCIB observed.

USCIB urged WTO members to actively solicit the views of the business community, which undertakes the vast majority of cross-border trade and investment that is impacted by WTO rules. “The private sector has a direct stake in the rules that will be the outcome of the government-to-government discussions and, accordingly, private sector comments and recommendations should be actively solicited and given careful consideration,” the statement said.

About USCIB:
USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world, generating $5 trillion in annual revenues and employing over 11 million people worldwide. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

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

 

USCIB to Hold Meeting on APEC Essentials

You have heard about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation regional forum, also known as APEC, but you are not entirely sure of the format, or how your company or business association would benefit from participation.  Here is a rare opportunity to have all of your APEC questions answered, and to bring you up to speed on recent developments at the most recent Senior Officials’ Meeting under this year’s leadership of Chile.

On March 27, USCIB will join with the National Center for APEC (NCAPEC) and C&M International to host APEC Essentials, a workshop to help participants understand the fundamentals of APEC including its history, objectives and opportunities. Learn from practical case studies led by industry discussants on how several sectors approach priority issues and leverage the APEC platform.

Besides USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, the program will also feature His Excellency Alfonso Silva Navarro, ambassador of Chile to the United States; Emily Fischer, principal APEC coordinator, economic policy advisor, U.S. Department of State; Jillian DeLuna, director for APEC affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; Monica Hardy Whaley, president, National Center for APEC; and Ambassador Robert Holleyman, president and chief executive, Crowell & Moring International; Partner, Crowell & Moring; former Deputy U.S. Trade Representative.

Private sector participation in APEC is organized under the leadership of the NCAPEC, which serves as the designated 2019 U.S. Strategic Partner for the CEO Summit, Secretariat to the U.S. members of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and as Chair and Secretariat of the U.S. APEC Business Coalition.

USCIB joined with ABAC and APEC Business Coalition partners to advance common objectives during last year’s APEC leadership by Papua New Guinea. Throughout 2018, USCIB addressed a number of issues through APEC to advance discussions across a range of issue. These include chemicals regulation, advertising self-regulation, data privacy, customs, and digital trade. USCIB members and staff have engaged in several APEC working groups, including the Chemical Dialogue, APEC Business-Customs Dialogue, Customs Procedures Virtual Working Group, Alliance for Supply Chain Connectivity, the Electronic Commerce Steering Group and Data Privacy Subgroup.

“USCIB looks forward to the APEC Essentials workshop and we thank Crowell & Moring for hosting this event,” said Vice President of Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener, who leads USCIB’s work on APEC.  “USCIB appreciates the numerous committed partnerships that APEC has established with the private sector.  These partnerships are addressing many economic opportunities, particularly on trade and regulatory issues, that will help foster greater economic integration among APEC’s twenty-one member economies.”

Donnelly Visits Google During Trade Tour in Switzerland

USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly spent the week of March 4 as the business representative on a Washington Think Tank study tour of Switzerland, focusing on trade issues and possibilities for a potential U.S.-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

While in Zurich, Donnelly and the 12-member study tour visited Google Switzerland’s major operations and R&D center. Google’s Zurich operations are the company’s third-largest R&D operation globally and their largest outside the United States. Google opened its first office in Zurich only fifteen years ago and it has quickly grown into one of the largest and most respected employers in the city.

Coincident with the study tour’s visit, Google invited the leadership of economiesuisse, Switzerland’s largest and most influential business association to a luncheon meeting with the visiting Washington team. Economiesuisse is USCIB’s Swiss counterpart and partner in Business at OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and other international business fora.

USCIB Speaks at Annual OECD Investment Treaties Conference

Shaun Donnelly (USCIB) speaks at the 2019 OECD Investment Treaties Conference in Paris

OECD’s annual all-day conference in Paris on International Investment Treaties had a distinctly USCIB flavor this year.  The conference, held on March 11, included leading academics, lawyers, civil society and business representatives under the auspices of the Business at OECD (BIAC) team in addition to the government experts delegates in Paris for the OECD Investment Committee meetings.

This year’s conference theme was a “Level Playing Field for Foreign Direct Investment.” USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly led the Business at OECD team, serving as a panelist during the discussion on addressing State-Owned-Enterprises (SOE) Investment Issues and again as the business representative on the final wrap-up panel.  In addition, USCIB member lawyers and leading international arbitrators Jeremy Sharpe of Shearman and Sterling and a former chief of investment arbitration in the State Department Legal Advisor’s Office, as well as David Rivkin of Debevoise and Plimpton, formerly president of the International Bar Association, spoke on different panels.  Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Investment Policy Lauren Mandell was also a panelist.

“Investment policy issues, investment treaties and especially ‘ISDS’ international arbitration to resolve investment disputes are increasingly under political attack internationally so the conference did spark some interesting debate,” said Donnelly. “USCIB will be on the front lines defending strong investment treaties, including effective dispute settlement disciplines and arbitration provisions.”

IOE Secretary General Shares Global Priorities With USCIB

L-R: Gabriella Rigg Herzog (USCIB), Peter Robinson (USCIB), Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB), Roberto Suarez Santos (IOE)

On March 1, Roberto Suarez Santos, secretary general of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), visited USCIB’s New York headquarters to discuss the group’s global priorities and evolution as it gets ready to mark its centennial next year.

The IOE, based in Geneva, is part of USCIB’s global network and serves as the voice of the private sector on employment, labor and social affairs in the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as a number of other multilateral bodies.

Suarez Santos met with USCIB staff and members (with help from a video link to our Washington, DC office), led by USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who serves on the IOE management board and as an IOE regional vice president for North America. The IOE secretary general outlined the organization’s recent growth, now up to 30 staff members, and its engagement beyond its traditional ILO role, especially in the area of sustainability, business and human rights, and broader responsible business conduct policy and practice.

Suarez Santos also noted the IOE’s longstanding complaints against the government of Venezuela due to its harassment of the Venezuelan employers federation Fedecamaras, which has resulted in the creation of an ILO commission of inquiry – the ILO’s highest level investigative procedure. USCIB and its fellow IOE members remain concerned about the situation for employers in Venezuela and will follow this ILO procedure closely.

USCIB Co-Sponsors China-US Foreign Policy Association Panel

USCIB co-sponsored a recent Foreign Policy Association event titled, “U.S.-China Trade: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead” on February 28. The event, hosted by Citi in New York, featured a panel of experts who discussed the state of trade between the two countries, including the geopolitical and economic implications of the trade war, the 90-day truce, and the negotiations currently taking place.

USCIB member Citigroup’s Global Head of Subsidiaries Marc Merlino moderated the panel. Experts included Bloomberg’s Chief Economist Tom Orlik, Director of CSIS’ Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy Scott Kennedy and Global Head of Research for JP Morgan Joyce Chang.

Technology issues, particularly as they relate to data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), were a common theme of discussion across all panelists. AI is a necessary investment for China due to their demographics and life expectancy. However, while China is focused on AI and data, they lag in the quality of their commercial aircraft and semiconducters, making economic partnerships with the United States a necessity, particularly as China’s debt continues to grow.