Robinson Welcomes COVID-19 Vaccine Collaboration Between Merck, Johnson & Johnson

New York, N.Y., March 03, 2021Peter Robinson, president and chief executive of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, released a statement today in reaction to President Joe Biden’s announcement on March 2 that Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine:

“We at USCIB commend our member companies J&J and Merck for collaborating in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership between these two companies and the commitment of their CEOs, both of which are USCIB Trustees, brings us a great amount of pride and excitement. Over the years, our motto at USCIB has been ‘Global Business Leadership At Work’ and we are pleased that our member companies have been demonstrating that and leading by example.

“The USCIB Foundation meanwhile is also building momentum on our most recent initiative – Business Partners to CONVINCE – a global, multi-sector effort to empower a ‘vaccine-literate’ public, led by employers as trusted messengers to their employees and based on trust in science and aligned commitment to future COVID-19 vaccines and other novel countermeasures.”

USCIB Leads Business in UN Discussions on Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly and investment treaty expert Lauren Mandell from USCIB member firm WilmerHale represented USCIB at a virtual Working Group III (WG III) sessions of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).  For over three years, WG III has been discussing possible “reforms” of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration system.  The sessions had delegates and observers participating from around the world and every time zone. 

According to Donnelly, the European Union’s effort to establish a multilateral investment court continued to be the focus of discussions as it has been in the past three years.  Under the EU’s vision, the court would replace traditional ISDS – under which the investor appoints one arbitrator, the state appoints one arbitrator, and the parties jointly appoint the chair of the tribunal – with a “court” consisting of a pool of judges appointed solely by states, assigned to each case on a random basis. 

“The discussion last week focused on technical questions regarding how judges would be selected and appointed, including qualifications, nominations and screening procedures, and terms of office,” said Donnelly.  “However, amidst this technical exercise, numerous states, as well as USCIB and other observer groups, raised larger conceptual questions about the merits of a court. In particular, some states objected to losing their ability to appoint adjudicators in individual cases. Other states raised questions about the cost of establishing and maintaining the court.” 

The WG also started debate on the key issue of adding an appellate body which might review investor-state decisions, whether from an ISDS panel or a new investment court. USCIB actively participated in the discussions and posed many questions regarding the desirability of a court. 

As a next step, the working group tasked the UNCITRAL Secretariat with drafting legal text to flesh out the design of the court. According to Donnelly, it will be important for USCIB and USCIB member companies to actively monitor this drafting and negotiation process to ensure that the working group fully takes into account investors’ interests. 

USCIB is one of only a few non-governmental organizations representing business that is accredited to participate in the working group discussions.  

“It’s not clear how much real progress was made but there was real debate on some important issues,” Donnelly said. “My colleague Lauren and other expert observers got chances to point out major questions and problems with the EU’s investment court proposal. Increasing numbers of member states also seem to be focusing on the flaws in the EU’s radical proposal which would eliminate investors’ role in selecting arbiters. The U.S. government delegation did an outstanding job. We will continue to work with interested government delegations as well as legal, arbitration and business groups allies. We encourage more USCIB members to get involved with us in this important negotiation.”     

USCIB Informs EU With Comments on Sustainable Corporate Governance

As part of the European Green Deal and the European Commission’s (EU) Communication on the (COVID-19) Recovery Plan, the EU has invited stakeholder comments during a public consultation to inform consideration of a possible EU Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative. USCIB has submitted its comments on February 9, drawing on the expertise of its Committees on Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs and Environment.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy, Norine Kennedy, the consultation took the form of an online questionnaire, seeking feedback on numerous elements of ESG, and exploring what form an EU-wide framework to promote due diligence, board of directors’ duty of care and stakeholder engagement should take. 

USCIB comments highlighted the fundamental importance of the UN Guiding Principles.  USCIB set out U.S. business concerns about any promulgation of rigid approaches, such as the application of tariffs, sanctions or import restrictions that rightly seek to address human rights or labor rights concerns but – due to their rigidity – inadvertently create a disincentive for long-term supply chain engagement, the use in accordance with the UNGPs of leverage in company supply and value chains, and sustainable remediation.  

“We would welcome an EU approach to these issues that would include sustainability risks, impacts and opportunities into corporate strategy and decisions, as many companies already have,” added Kennedy. “However general principles would be preferable over rigid legal requirements. Flexibility afforded to each company to decide how to include such considerations would be crucial for such general principles to be effective.”

USCIB also encouraged the EU to pursue a fuller holistic dialogue with business and other stakeholders on how to advance sustainable corporate governance in environmental and social areas.

“We support the role business can and should play in respecting human rights” said USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog.  “We strongly encourage the EU to gather business and other stakeholder views through actual dialogue and consultation, with due attention to context, such as ongoing impacts and burdens on companies because of the pandemic’s economic disruption and ongoing constraints, as well as existing business initiatives and systems.”

USCIB will continue to follow and stay in close contact with U.S. government and EU authorities as these deliberations go forward.

USCIB Statement on the WTO’s New Director-General

Photo credit: Martial Trezzini/EPA, via Shutterstock

New York, N.Y., February 08, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, welcomed news ​of the Biden administration’s decision to support Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This decision is indicative of a shift in U.S. support for the WTO and its view of the criticality of the multilateral trading system. Further, the decision has been viewed as an affirmation of the U.S. commitment to constructively address substantive and procedural reforms.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who will be the first woman to lead the organization, has shared that she intends to take a more active role as Director-General and to act as a sounding board to try to find common ground among the trade body’s disparate membership. Since the departure of former Director-General Roberto Azevedo in August of 2020 and the prior refusal of the U.S. to support Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the ​future leadership of the WTO has been uncertain.

“Open trade and global value chains are fundamental drivers for recovery from the current global crisis,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation, and Trade Brian Lowry. “Once formally approved by the WTO General Council, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will have the opportunity to lead the organization into a new era of increased action and inclusive multilateralism.”

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. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

Donnelly Co-Authors Op-Ed in The Hill on Commercial Diplomacy

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly and his longtime State Department colleague Ambassador (ret.) Tony Wayne recently co-wrote an op-ed in The Hill titled, “Biden’s Trade Policy Needs Effective Commercial Diplomacy.”

Wayne and Donnelly, both retired U.S. ambassadors, ran the State Department’s Economic and Business Bureau in the early 2000s; Wayne served as assistant secretary and Donnelly was his principal deputy assistant secretary.  Their recent op-ed recommends that the new Administration focus on strengthening a government-wide effort to support U.S. companies (and thereby, U.S. workers and localities) to win more business opportunities overseas in order to bolster American revenues, jobs, and global competitiveness across the United States.

According to both, the international competition is fierce, and getting increasingly more fierce every day. “Frankly other governments have upped their games in recent years, so we have some catching up to do,” they argue in the op-ed.

“High-level political support, interagency teamwork, strong Ambassadorial leadership in the field, and in-depth partnership with the U.S. private sector will be essential.”

“Both in our days together at the State Department and now as colleagues in the American Academy of Diplomacy, Ambassador Wayne and I have been working on these important issues of how the U.S. Government can best support U.S. companies and workers, to help them win more deals, contracts and partnerships around the world,” said Donnelly.  “We’ve worked with the Obama and Trump Administrations on these issues and we anticipate engaging actively with the incoming Biden team at key agencies, as well as key players at the White House, on the Hill and beyond.  The U.S. needs to up its game, play stronger offense on international commercial battlefields. I see this work as a natural extension of my earlier work at State and USTR on international economic and trade policy and also of the important work we at USCIB have been doing to support U.S. business.”

USCIB Announces New Policy Leadership

Brian Lowry

New York, N.Y., February 01, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) announced that Brian Lowry, a former executive in the agriculture and crop science industry, and longtime USCIB corporate member leader, has joined USCIB’s staff as senior vice president of innovation, regulation, and trade. Lowry will be replacing Mike Michener, vice president for product policy and innovation, who is departing USCIB to join the Biden Administration to coordinate international food security policy.

Norine Kennedy

In addition, USCIB announced the promotion of Norine Kennedy to the position of senior vice president, policy and global strategy. With over 25 years’ experience as USCIB’s lead on environment, energy and climate change, Kennedy has been a forceful and respected voice for U.S. business at the UN Rio, Johannesburg, and Rio+20 sustainability conferences, at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meetings, all Conferences of the Parties of the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Kennedy also spearheaded USCIB’s strategic international engagement initiative to advance meaningful business engagement, partnership and regulatory diplomacy across the UN system.

Working from St. Louis and USCIB’s Washington, DC office, Lowry will lead the organization’s policy work on trade, health, food, agriculture, chemicals, and intellectual property. He will also coordinate USCIB’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

“Brian brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to USCIB, especially his background in working within a multinational corporate entity and with international organizations, that will contribute greatly to our efforts on behalf of members,” said Peter Robinson, USCIB CEO and president. “We are excited to have him join our team at a time when the policy and regulatory issues facing American companies are complex and growing—but also when the innovative capacity of the private sector can contribute so much to solving the global challenges we face today.”

Lowry most recently served in St. Louis as deputy general counsel at Bayer U.S. – Crop Science Division (formerly Monsanto) and headed the Office of Law & Policy. He was responsible for key legal functions and public policy efforts including international trade policy, negotiations, and compliance; multi-lateral undertakings and conventions and UN-related matters; human rights, human resources, and immigration; business conduct, ethics, and anti-corruption; intellectual property policy; and stakeholder and socially responsible investor engagement. Lowry also co-chaired the USCIB working group on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda and was the first board chair of the UN Global Compact Network USA.

In 2017, Lowry was recognized by the Financial Times as one of the six best leading in-house counsel specialists as “The Thought Leader.” In 2011, he was a finalist in the International Law Office Global Counsel Awards, and in 2014, he was recognized as the American Corporate Counsel International Lawyer of the Year. He is regularly engaged in university discussions on food security and business and human rights, and participates in a number of philanthropic, arts and community boards and activities. Lowry has taken advanced studies at Stanford University and Harvard University, and holds degrees from the University of Dayton, BS Education, and Washington University, Juris Doctorate.

Mike Michener

Michener is a former administrator of the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service who has also served as a U.S. diplomat in Rome and association executive in Brussels; he also worked with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and he served with the United States Army for seven years in Europe.

Robinson said, “We are sorry to see Mike Michener leave us, but happy as always to see USCIB alumni going on to key corporate and governmental positions. And we are fortunate to be able to count on the collaborative leadership of Norine Kennedy and Brian Lowry in advancing opportunities for private sector solutions to critical global issues at a time when multilateralism matters to business.”

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.

As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE Launch COVID-19 Challenge

In a recent press release, The USCIB Foundation, the education and research arm of USCIB, announced that its Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) initiative has launched a ‘Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge,’ inviting companies and organizations around the world to listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19 and encourage vaccine confidence and uptake, among other things.

TheBP2C initiative is the private sector arm of the global, multi-sector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement)initiative that advances vaccine literacy and promotes vaccine acceptance.

Members of the BP2C Steering Team, which includes global organizations such as Business Fights Poverty, Business at OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the International Organization of Employers, jointly agreed to develop vaccine literacy strategies based on science, facts and emerging information to counter hesitation and vaccination opponents through communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.

Companies joining the Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge agree to do the following:

  • Listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19
  • Follow the latest public health guidance to protect myself, my employees, my workplace, my customers, and my community from COVID-19
  • Promote vaccine literacy based on the latest scientific evidence of vaccination benefits and risks
  • Encourage vaccine confidence and uptake
  • Advocate for accessible, equitable, and timely vaccination of employees
  • Engage with communities, schools, faith-based organizations and public health leaders to stop the spread of COVID-19

“BP2C is developing a ‘toolkit’ of activities to help businesses address the COVID-19 Challenge,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Research has shown that businesses are a trusted source of information, and are well suited to engage, inform and educate workers, their families and communities with messages that inspire confidence in vaccination and encourage acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Scott Ratzan MD, executive director of BP2C and co-founder of CONVINCE, stated: “The potential for business to engage meaningfully in the growing international movement to address COVID with evidence-based vaccine literacy strategies is massive. Employers have the trust, respect and reach to support vaccine confidence with communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.”

BP2C Steering Committee member Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project and co-founder of CONVINCE added that: “The COVID-19 pandemic challenges all of us to engage in meaningful ways. We urge businesses of all sizes and in all industries – from multinational corporations to small- and medium-sized national and local enterprises to sign up to the COVID-19 Workplace Challenge and help expedite our return to a pandemic-free society.”

To read the full press release, click here.

USCIB Member Spotlight: Coca-Cola Wins Prestigious State Department ACE Award

The Coca-Cola Company wins the “ACE” Award for third time

In a virtual ceremony late last week, the U.S. Department of State announced the winners of its annual “ACE” Award (Award for Corporate Excellence) honoring U.S.-based companies, large and small, for their exemplary corporate responsibility efforts.  U.S. State Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach and Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Manisha Singh, both friends of USCIB and of American business, led the ceremony.  And for the fifteenth time in the twenty-one years that State has been presenting the ACE Awards, a USCIB member company has won in the large company category. 

This year, the winner in the women’s Economic Empowerment category is Coca-Cola Azerbaijan for its business training program targeting rural women entrepreneurs, advancing women-led businesses in the tourism sector and promoting entrepreneurship among young women throughout Azerbaijan. 

U.S. companies are nominated for the awards by the local U.S. Ambassador. This is the third time Coca-Cola has won the ACE Award – Coca-Cola Philippines (2014) and Coca-Cola Egypt (2002). 

Last year, two other great USCIB member companies, PepsiCo and Proctor and Gamble won the award.   

“We are delighted to see, again this year, a USCIB company among the select group of winners of the State Department’s Award for corporate Excellence,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Year in and year out, USCIB member companies are winning awards and setting pace for corporate responsibility here at home in the U.S. and around the world. Our member companies are showing the way with best practices in a wide range of important areas – environmental stewardship and sustainability, empowering women and underrepresented communities, promoting staff development and improving lives in local communities. Coca-Cola has long been seen as a global leader in these areas and I heartily congratulate them. But they are not alone; many USCIB companies are doing incredible, creative things in the corporate responsibly area around the world.”          

Global Business Statement on Safeguarding International Data Flows

USCIB joined dozens of global associations in a letter to the EU expressing concern to ongoing developments in the European Union on international data flows. The letter notes that international data flows are an integral pillar of global trade, and any disruption to their free flow constitutes a major challenge to every economic sector.

“The recent developments in the European Union are creating deep uncertainty throughout the world, as the wide geographic variety of co-signatories to this statement demonstrates,” emphasized USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner.

In addition, the repercussions of an unduly restrictive approach to data flows, the letter notes it will also hit hard more traditional European industries, as the recent BusinessEurope-led coalition statement underlines.

“We underline the importance of providing certainty for all businesses and their data transfers to third countries,” the letter notes. “Any disruption must be avoided in order to minimise negative economic consequences, particularly in the wake of the global COVID-19 crisis and the economic recovery phase that we will enter in 2021. Crucially, our organizations believe that this can be achieved while respecting European data protection law, if a pragmatic and flexible approach prevails.”

USCIB Statement on Riots and Electoral College Certification

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Washington, D.C., January 7, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and its members were deeply troubled by lawless efforts by some to disrupt and derail American democracy yesterday, January 6. The mettle of our nation’s governance and dedication to upholding American values were tested like never before. Orderly transition, rule of law and the right to peacefully express views are fundamental for the U.S. private sector, and abuses of those bedrock principles cannot be tolerated. They undermine and endanger our economy, our society and the international community. USCIB calls on all Americans to respect our democratic institutions, and support a peaceful transfer of power.

On the day after, we are encouraged by the determination of Congress to certify the electoral college outcomes in spite of the shameful invasion of the Capitol and the chaos that ensued. Our system of government withstood an unprecedented test, laboring overnight to discharge its sacred duty to voters and to the American people. We thank the members of government at all levels, as well as police and security forces that persevered to enable this resolution. 

We are proud to welcome incoming President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and newly-elected Senators and Representatives. We resolutely stand with you in optimism and readiness to defend our democratic system and to work with you to recover, and to further the core principles of the United States for which we are known and respected the world over. Together with our global partners, we look forward to exerting business leadership to foster international collaboration and partnership through inclusive multilateralism.

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 (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.