Remembering Kofi Annan, Who Forged Bonds With Business as UN Secretary General

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at USCIB’s 2003 award gala

USCIB members and friends around the world were saddened by the passing of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who died on August 18 at age 80. Annan’s two terms as head of the UN were marked by intense conflict – but also optimism about the world’s ability to overcome divisions and promote shared goals and values.

“Kofi Annan was a consummate diplomat and global statesman,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “We can honor his legacy by continuing to strive toward the goals he championed so passionately: peace, collective security, economic and social development, and a commitment to ensure that all oars are in the water, moving together toward a common future.”

Overlooked in some accounts of Annan’s legacy was recognition for his work in establishing strong bonds with the private sector, in support of the UN as an institution and in driving the world toward ambitious goals for economic and social betterment. He championed the Millennium Development Goals, and he urged the UN – which carried a legacy of sometimes severe criticism of the private sector – to work more closely with business.

Annan put these sentiments on display when he spoke at USCIB’s International Leadership Award Dinner in 2003, which honored Charles O. Holliday, Jr., then the chairman and CEO of DuPont, who used the occasion to make a strong pitch for business support of the UN Global Compact, Annan’s initiative to secure private-sector support to advance international human rights, environmental protection and related goals.

Speaking just a few months after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq without a mandate from the UN Security Council, the secretary general declared that the UN was at “a fork in the road, with one path leading toward true revitalization and effectiveness, the other toward disappointment and despair.”

Annan urged the business community to stay engaged as the UN undertakes to reinvigorate its efforts to promote peace and stability around the world. “It would be unthinkable for the private sector not to be closely involved, both in policy-making discussions here at headquarters, and in projects on the ground,” he said.

Ellen Blackler of Disney Named to Chair USCIB’s ICT Policy Committee

Ellen Blackler, The Walt Disney Company

New York, N.Y., August 20, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents American business in numerous global policy forums, has appointed Ellen Blackler, vice president of global public policy with The Walt Disney Company, as chair of its Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Committee. As chair, Blackler will spearhead the organization’s development and delivery of business views on information technology and internet policy matters worldwide, working with companies and organizations from across USCIB’s diverse membership.

“Ellen Blackler brings in-depth knowledge of critical issues in international ICT policy and cross-border business,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “She has played a key role in forging consensus across industries to advance business views in the UN, the OECD and other important multilateral forums. Under Ellen’s stewardship of our ICT Committee, and with the ongoing support of USCIB Vice President Barbara Wanner, we look forward to fostering an even more active and constructive role for the private sector in global ICT policy discussions.”

Blackler manages public policy issues for Disney on a range of issues related to internet policy, human rights, privacy, and children and the media. Prior to joining Disney, Blackler worked for AT&T, where she oversaw policy development on privacy, broadband deployment and universal service, access to ICT for people with disabilities, health care and tax-related issues. Blackler previously served on the staff of the Federal Communications Commission, where she led the team drafting the FCC’s annual reports on the availability of broadband service, among other responsibilities, and in the New York State government.

USCIB’s ICT Committee advocates for policies characterized by free and fair competition, minimal government intervention and free information flows that ensure the continued growth of information and communication technologies in a range of strategic forums, including the UN, OECD, APEC and ICANN. In particular, it leverages USCIB’s overseas network of business groups, including the International Chamber of Commerce and Business at OECD, to secure strong industry representation and input to major multilateral discussions of ICT issues.

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 information is available at

Jonathan Huneke, VP Communications, USCIB
+1 212.703.5043 or

Donnelly Talks Trade and Diplomacy (and Soybeans) in Podcast Interview

Shaun Donnelly

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly is featured in a recent interview on the podcast “American Diplomat” demystifying trade policy and negotiations for listeners outside the beltway. The “American Diplomat” series is supported by the American Academy of Diplomacy, which counts among its members both Donnelly and USCIB Vice Chair Thomas Niles, longtime U.S. diplomats who each achieved the ranks of ambassador and assistant secretary. It seeks to give listeners around the country greater appreciation of the work done by American diplomats and public servants – in this case trade negotiators – to advance America’s, and Americans’, interests.

In the podcast interview, host Peter Romero (a retired U.S. ambassador and assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere) leads Shaun through an informal discussion of the nuts and bolts of trade negotiations, with soybeans arising often as an example how any specific products factor into broad trade policy.

Donnelly claims to have enjoyed the discussion. “Over the years, I’ve done a fair number of speeches, panels and interviews trying to help build public understanding and support for an aggressive, pro-engagement, pro-growth trade policy, and have not always succeeded,” he noted with a self-deprecating chuckle. “I found this more informal, extended conversation format with Peter and his colleague Laura Bennett allowed more opportunity to get behind the sound bite, the bumper sticker and the talking point. Trade remains a complex, controversial and politicized topic these days. All of us who believe in open trade and investment policies need to keep reaching out to help build public understanding and support for common sense trade policies. I hope this sort of podcasts can make a modest contribution to the public discourse on trade.”

The New York Convention Turns 60

By Grant Hanessian

Hanessian is a partner at Baker McKenzie in New York and chair of USCIB’s Arbitration Committee. He is the U.S. member of the ICC Court of Arbitration and an adjunct professor of law at Fordham Law School. Contact him at

Grant Hanessian

A few weeks ago, the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards – the “New York Convention” – was celebrated at United Nations headquarters and the U.S. Courthouse in New York.

The tremendous success of the New York Convention, which provides for national court enforcement of foreign arbitration awards and agreements, is one of the principal reasons arbitration has become the preferred choice of parties around the world for resolving cross border commercial disputes. Virtually all the world’s major trading nations have ratified the convention.

Following a conference at the UN featuring representatives from the International Chamber of Commerce, UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), International Bar Association, International Council for Commercial Arbitration, and U.S. Department of Commerce, a “birthday” celebration was held at the U.S. Courthouse on Pearl Street in Manhattan. ICC and UNCITRAL served as co-hosts of the event.

“The New York Convention is a tremendous example of how business and governments can work together to strengthen global governance, and its enduring relevance is a testament to ICC’s leadership in shaping the global environment for private dispute resolution over the past century,” ICC Secretary General John Denton observed at the reception. USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin, who is immediate past chair of the New York State Bar Association International Section, helped organize the event and also made remarks.

ICC’s preeminence in international commercial arbitration is of course well known. The ICC International Court of Arbitration, created in 1923 to encourage settlement of disputes arising from international trade, has administered more than 23,000 disputes involving parties and arbitrators from 180 countries and independent territories.

It may be less well known that ICC initiated the process that led to creation of the New York Convention. At the UN conference, Anna Joubin-Bret, secretary of UNCITRAL, noted that ICC’s Commission on Arbitration and ADR prepared the first draft of the convention and submitted it to the UN in 1953. The UN Economic and Social Council then produced an amended draft that was discussed during a conference at UN Headquarters in May and June 1958, resulting in the UN’s adoption of the New York Convention on June 10, 1958.

Prior to adoption of the New York Convention, parties seeking to enforce foreign arbitral awards usually had to obtain two court decisions of exequatur, one from the country where the award was issued and another at the place of enforcement.  The convention eliminated the requirement of double exequatur, significantly restricted the grounds for national court refusal of recognition and enforcement and placed the burden of proving such grounds on the party opposing such recognition and enforcement.

Under the New York Convention, national courts considering applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign awards may not review the merits of the arbitral tribunal’s decision. National courts have generally construed the grounds for refusal of recognition and enforcement under the Convention narrowly, and they have exercised their discretion to refuse recognition and enforcement only in exceptional cases. Enforcement of arbitral awards by national courts is now considerably easier than enforcement of national court judgements in many countries, greatly facilitating resolution of international business disputes.

The New York Convention, and complementary UNCITRAL texts such as the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration in 1985, have led to an increasingly harmonized arbitration law. The UNCITRAL model law, which has now been adopted by 111 jurisdictions in 80 countries, essentially repeats the grounds of the New York Convention for enforcement and setting aside foreign awards.

At the UN event, Helene van Lith, the secretary of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR, emphasized the role ICC continues to play in applying and interpreting the convention through Court of Arbitration scrutiny of awards and the publication of the forthcoming third revised edition of the ICC Guide to National Procedures for Recognition and Enforcement of Awards Under the New York Convention. The increasing availability of national court decisions interpreting the Convention and UNCITRAL model law, through such sources as the ICC Guide and the online Case Law on UNCITRAL Texts, has importantly contributed to a uniform and predictable application of arbitration law around the world.

In these times when multilateral trade arrangements are under stress, everyone interested in the continued growth of international business should applaud the extraordinary vitality of the New York Convention as it enters its seventh decade.

August 14, 2018


USCIB Represents Business at State Department Anti-Corruption Training

USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly was the business community panelist at an August 10 State Department anti-corruption training session during a week-long “Tools and Strategies to Combat Corruption” course for State Department officers headed overseas this summer.

The session, at State’s Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia was an informal give-and-take on how U.S. embassies and consulates abroad can work with the private sector to combat bribery and corruption. Donnelly was filling in for USCIB colleague Eva Hampl, who has participated in previous anti-corruption training sessions.

“I thought we had a very useful discussion of how U.S. business and local U.S. embassy staff members can cooperate on win-win efforts to combat corruption and bribery by local firms and government officials as well as third-country competitors,” Donnelly said. “Corruption anywhere is a cancer on governance and politics; it can also cost American businesses and workers a fair shot at winning major trade and investment deals. Business and government need to be full partners in combating this cancer.”

Congress Sends Revised “CFIUS” Foreign Investment Rules to President for Signature

USCIB was very pleased to see both houses of Congress adopt (the House on July 25 and Senate a week later on August 1) as part of the compromise Conference Report on the overall 2019 “John McCain” National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), some fundamental long-gestating revisions to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (“CFIUS”) process for U.S. Government review of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the U.S.

Over the last year, Congress, the Administration and key stakeholders, including USCIB and the broad U.S. and international business communities, have been debating a wide range of potential major reforms to CFIUS.  Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Robert Pittinger (R-NC) have taken the lead with their Foreign Investment Risk Review Mechanism (“FIRRMA”) bill but a wide range of possible revisions and reforms have been put on the table by various players on the Hill and beyond.

“Some of the proposed ‘reforms’, especially the idea that CFIUS should dramatically expand its remit to cover outward investment, joint ventures, licensing deals, and other innovative partnerships, were very troubling to us at USCIB and many member companies,” noted USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly. “USCIB and others in the business community raised fundamental objections to some of those more expansive proposals.”

In the end, according to Donnelly, the compromise “FIRRMA” provisions hammered out and included in the NDAA package seem a fair balance, strengthening CFIUS’s security overview of sensitive investment proposals, especially those in sensitive emerging technologies which also maintaining America’ commitment to open investment policies.

Donnelly endorsed the compromise FIRRMA provisions, stating, “We at USCIB commend the Congress and the Administration for the serious approach they’ve taken to these important investment security issues. We especially appreciate that the Treasury Department, other agencies, and many players in the Congress have all been open to a real substantive dialogue with business and other stakeholders on fundamental issues on investment security and business practices. We think they got the balance about right in the final compromise package, which is not easy.”

USCIB Gathers Stakeholders to Discuss E-Commerce Framework

On July 31 and August 1, USCIB teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to host the second in a series of meetings tied to e-commerce and the work being undertaken by the World Customs Organization (WCO). Dubbed “Industry Days,” these meetings included robust participation from both private sector and public sector representatives from multiple U.S. government agencies aimed at continuing the established dialogue on the WCO’s E-Commerce Framework of Standards (FoS).  Last week’s meetings were conducted in a small group fashion, which were stakeholder specific (i.e., carriers, customs brokers, e-payment, marketplaces and vendors).

Per the WCO, “The Framework of Standards is intended for Customs administrations wishing to develop legislative and operational frameworks for cross-border e-commerce.” In June, the WCO Council endorsed the draft FoS that included an introduction, 15 Standards and related introductions, as well as a U.S. tabled Resolution. In addition, the Council approved a one-year extension of the E-Commerce Working Group as well as a draft Work Plan noting the need for flexibility with respect to timelines and adherence. The next meeting of the WCO’s E-Commerce Working Group will take place in October.

Currently, the U.S. government and other WCO Member administrations are working to develop and  provide inputs on such intersessional topics as Definitions, Work Plan, and Data Elements. These “Industry Day” meetings are critical to the development of the U.S. government – one government – position, and provide the opportunity for private sector stakeholders to advance general and specific comments and concerns regarding aspects of the FoS, topic specific questions (e.g., Flow Charts, Data and Data Privacy, risks, etc.,) as well as overall views related to e-commerce.

“The purpose of these meetings was to bring together relevant intermediaries to discuss and gather perspectives in efforts to assist in USG policy and position development,” said Megan Giblin who leads USCIB’s work on customs and trade facilitation.  “Overall the meetings were successful and brought together USG agencies including: Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Treasury, Department of Energy, Department of State, U.S. Postal Service, Federal Trade Commission as well as many private sector stakeholders including many who are new to the WCO E-Commerce Framework of Standards.”

USCIB Urges G20 to Get More Active Combating International Bribery

USCIB has joined with other major U.S. business associations as well as the AFL-CIO labor federation and the Coalition for Integrity, a leading anti-corruption NGO, to send a joint letter to President Trump requesting that the Administration take major steps this year to combat international bribery and corruption.

The group recommends a particular focus on the G20, the largest economies and major competitors and partners, with a view to getting those G20 members which are not yet signatories to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention become signatories and full partners to that convention by the end of 2018.  China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia are key G20 members falling into that category.

“Our letter also recommends that the Administration should step up its efforts to ensure vigorous and consistent enforcement of foreign bribery laws as well as its OECD convention obligations by all G20 member nations,” said USCIB Vice President for Investment and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly. “International bribery is not only morally wrong, it is also an attack on the U.S. economy, our companies and workers following the highest standards of integrity. When foreign competitors use bribery and corruption to win business away from American companies and workers, that is a direct hit at our economy and is unacceptable. We look forward to working with our partners in this initiative and key U.S. Government agencies in the lead-up to the G20 senior meetings later this year to advance the battle against international bribery and corruption.”

USCIB Joins ICC in Celebrating Anniversary of NY Convention

USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin

New York’s international arbitration community recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the New York Convention, which provides a universal basis for enforcement of arbitration agreements and awards is a source of particular pride to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which initiated the drafting process that led to the Convention’s adoption by the United Nations in 1958. 

USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin, who is also the Immediate Past Chair of the New York State Bar Association International Section and George Bermann Professor at Columbia Law School, helped organize the reception and noted in her remarks, “There is an elegance to the fact that this sparely worded document has been one of the mightiest tools employed by the international business community to foster trade and investment worldwide.”

The Convention, and the many complementary UNCITRAL projects, demonstrate the abiding importance of state cooperation to promote efficient, effective and equitable resolution of commercial and investment disputes.

For more information on this event, please visit ICC’s website.

Registration Open for USCIB’s Engaging Business Forum

USCIB, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring the 10th Engaging Business Forum, hosted by The Coca-Cola Company. The Forum will take place on September 13-14, in Atlanta, GA.

This year’s Forum will focus on collaboration through partnerships to address business and human rights trends and developments. Panels will discuss what works/doesn’t work in partnerships, access to remedy, human rights defenders, supply chains, among other topics. Speakers include Guy Ryder, Phil Bloomer, Anita Ramasastry, John Morrison and many more. In addition to hearing from our speakers, there will also be opportunities for networking and peer-to-peer learning roundtables. The full agenda can be found here.

If you would like to participate, please register here. Space is limited, so registration will be on a first-come first-serve basis. If you have any questions, please reach out to Elizabeth Kim (