USCIB Urges US Participation in WTO’s Procurement Agreement

USCIB joined over twenty industry associations in signing a letter to high-level government officials emphasizing the critical importance of continued U.S. participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). The letter was sent to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, Secretary of the Treasurer Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow.

The letter argues that the GPA provides benefits to the U.S. economy, businesses and workforce by empowering the United States to negotiate reciprocal terms under which GPA signatory countries open their government procurement markets to U.S. companies and commit to transparency and procedural protections that support the rule of law.

“The GPA is the only part of the WTO system that provides binding guarantees of the right to sell to foreign governments (which are not covered by other WTO disciplines). The GPA is also unique among WTO plurilateral agreements in that only the forty-seven current country signatories to the agreement benefit from and can enforce its binding commitments,” the letter stated.

Additionally, the letter warns that if the U.S. withdrew from the GPA, it could no longer negotiate the terms under which China could join the GPA. As a result, other GPA signatory countries would be less likely to demand comprehensive access to Chinese government procurement markets.

USCIB Supports Event on Gender Equality in Sciences, Education

In celebration of the five years since the United Nations formally recognized the need to increase gender equality in the sciences to support implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Royal Academy of Sciences International Trust (RASIT), with co-sponsorship from USCIB and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), hosted the 5th International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly from February 11-12 at the UN headquarters in New York.

The event drew widespread support and interest from countries such as Hungary, Zambia, Montenegro, St. Kitts and Nevis and Portugal, as well as UN agencies, including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Academics, UN officials, ambassadors, royalty, young scientists and business representatives, including USCIB Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves, joined the event to discuss the forum’s theme of driving investment in equality in science, technology and innovation in the digitalization era for inclusive green growth.

According to Goncalves, several young women, as young as eleven, made inspiring interventions, detailing their efforts to bring about equity through robotics and coding applications, use of emerging technology in agriculture and irrigation, medicine and more.

“Together, the accounts illustrated a pressing need for movement in the gender pay gap, skilling and access to research, while simultaneously displaying the work of the next generation of female scientists and technologists in solving these issues,” said Goncalves.

Lithuanian Business Delegation (ICC Lithuania) Visits USCIB

The Lithuanian Business Confederation (LVK or ‘ICC Lithuania’) visited USCIB’s New York office on February 3 to meet with USCIB’s President and CEO Peter Robinson and other policy staff. LVK’s General Manager Andrius Nikitinas, Project Director Gabrielė Gaubienė and Senior Policy Advisor Ineta Rizgelė led the delegation of over twenty LVK member representatives.

With a membership base consisting mostly of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the Lithuanian companies and industries represented included architecture, residential and commercial design, solar panel manufacturing, mattresses, software for cargo transportation and food.

“We appreciated the opportunity to meet with our ICC Lithuania partners,” noted USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “The meeting allowed us to better understand each other’s structures, policy priorities and target audiences.

 

 

Business at OECD Head Shares 2020 Policy Priorities With USCIB

Business at OECD’s Russel Mills (left, center) with IOE’s Shea GoPaul and USCIB policy staff

Secretary General of Business at OECD (BIAC) Russel Mills visited USCIB’s Washington DC and New York offices the week of February 3 to update staff on Business at OECD and OECD priorities for the year.

Mills shared that environment, biodiversity, plastics and climate change issues are moving to the top of the agenda, however there will also be a mushrooming of digitization plans and digital economy work related to changing business models and digitally enabled companies. Mills also noted that policies around digital taxation and re-skilling will be on top of the agenda for both organizations.

“We really valued our time with Russel, which gave us an opportunity to touch base on our respective organizations’ policy priorities,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “USCIB looks forward to a productive year working with BIAC to help drive the work of the OECD.”

USCIB Supports Respect for Arbitration Awards in U.S. GSP Program

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly (left) and Chevron Supervising Counsel Andres Romero-Delmastro (right) testifying as panelists before the US Government’s GSP Subcommittee

USCIB went on the record at the January 30 Public Hearing of the USTR-led interagency Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Subcommittee, supporting respect for the GSP eligibility criteria, specifically the need for “respecting and enforcing international arbitral awards.”  USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly joined member company Chevron as the two business experts testifying on the specific issue of Ecuador’s continuing eligibility for GSP in light of the country’s very troubling record in a long-running major investment arbitration case filed by Chevron.

USCIB joined Chevron in recommending that, in light of Ecuador’s continuing refusal to enforce final arbitral awards by the panel, Ecuador’s access to GSP unilateral trade preferences should be suspended until they come into full compliance with those panel orders. According to Donnelly, after a senior official from the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s office presented the government’s case, a senior Chevron attorney detailed the long saga of Ecuadorian non-compliance. Donnelly then offered broader comments to the sub-committee on the important policy implications of Ecuador’s non-compliance and the importance of maintaining and enforcing the clear eligibility criteria laid out in the GSP statute. The Ecuador investment arbitration case was one of nine “country eligibility cases” on the agenda for public comments before the GSP subcommittee in its two-day meeting January 30-31.

“We at USCIB are strong supporters of the GSP program but it is not an entitlement for Ecuador or any other beneficiary developing countries” Donnelly explained.  “When a country refuses over many years to respect legitimate arbitral awards, in this case from an investment arbitral panel under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), the U.S. government’s patience must have a limit. Ecuador has clearly fallen short of the standards under the GSP statute. I think the detailed case presented by Chevron was compelling.”

Chevron and USCIB have been filing formal comments and testifying to the GSP sub-committee along these same lines regularly since 2012. USCIB has long been a leading voice in the U.S. and international business communities on the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI)  to economic growth and development in both the capital exporting and destination countries.  A vital key to incentivizing FDI flows in all direction is strong, transparent and enforceable investment protection, most often in the form of international investment agreements such as BIT treaties or investment chapters in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs.)  When investment disputes arise, access to and respect by all parties for the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration system under those legally-binding investment agreements is essential.

USCIB has led international business advocacy on investment and ISDS issues, including respect for arbitral panel decisions, for many years including at meetings of the OECD, UNCTAD, and UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL.)

To read Donnelly’s full testimony, click here.

USCIB Adopts Carbon Offset Program for Employee International Travel

USCIB today announced that it has initiated a program to support carbon offsets for its employees’ international travel.

This initiative reflects USCIB’s continuous engagement in international climate policy deliberations supporting U.S. private sector engagement and solutions towards GHG emissions reduction, adaptation and resilience, and its recognition of its global carbon footprint.

In 2019, USCIB staff, together with member company representatives, participated in over 90 meetings and negotiations of some 18 international institutions in over 25 locations around the globe.

Beginning this month, January, 2020, carbon offset tables are being used by USCIB to calculate the carbon equivalent costs of international airline flights. That amount is being donated to sustainability programs such as forest conservation and management. The contributions will go to organizations participating with airlines most often used by USCIB staff.

In many cases, specific options of sustainability programs are provided to enable the contributor to make a “greatest impact” choice.  Where an airline does not work directly with an established organization, USCIB will decide on the recipient program.

USCIB recognizes that in the future, airlines themselves may be required to offset emissions under the UN International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), agreed in 2018 in Montreal, which when enacted would make USCIB’s program redundant for international passenger offsets. However, the lack of agreement on an implementation schedule at the recent COP 25 meeting in Madrid of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) resulted in a postponement of enactment beyond the original 2021 goal. Until that time, USCIB believes that its carbon offset program is a positive contribution that it can make in the face of the global climate challenge.

USCIB will maintain a record of the offsets that will be available to members who might wish to see progress updates.

ICC Launches Report on Climate Change Related Dispute Resolution

L-R: Edna Sussman, Matthew Draper, Kevin O’Gorman, Nancy Thevenin, and Hélène van Lith

The ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR recently released a report on settling business disputes related to climate change with arbitration. The report, titled Resolving Climate Change Related Disputes Through Arbitration and ADR and initially launched in Paris earlier this month, was launched in New York at the offices of Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP on January 21. The New York launch was co-sponsored by USCIB and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration©.

The report defines climate change-related disputes and uses hypothetical case studies to demonstrate the potential circumstances in which such disputes may arise. Contracts identified as dealing with climate change include agreements for the creation of wind farms, solar power energy plants, smart cities or to decarbonize. 2019 is a pivotal year in the development of global climate policy with the UN seeking to raise ambition of commitments from states and other actors in line with the imperative to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“This report provides sample language for ICC arbitration clauses, as well as terms of reference and guidance for case management,” said USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin, who spoke on a panel titled Users’ Perspectives. “Because of the tools this report provides, climate change related disputes can be resolved more effectively. It is an invaluable product for the business community as industries take into account international agreements concerning the environment.”

Featured speakers also included, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of New York Office at UN Environment Satya S. Tripathi, ICC International Court of Arbitration President Alexis Mourre, Co-Chair of the Task Force on Arbitration of Climate Change Related Disputes Patrick Thieffry and other renowned members of the international Arbitration community.

USCIB Holds Annual Arbitration Luncheon

USCIB held its annual Arbitration Committee Luncheon in New York on January 22, bringing together local arbitration professionals for an update on new initiatives and goals for 2020, as well as a look back on 2019 accomplishments by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration©.

Hosted by the Chair of the USA National Committee Grant Hanessian in the offices of Baker and Mckenzie LLP, the luncheon featured executive summaries from key members of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and the USCIB-ICC USA Committee, including President Alexis Mourre, Deputy Secretary General Ana Serra e Moura, Counsel for North American Cases Marek Krasula, Secretary of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR Hélène van Lith, and General Counsel USCIB-ICC USA Nancy M. Thevenin.

According to Thevenin, Mourre emphasized on the positive perception of the ICC’s new policies by businesses, noting that ICC is perceived as an open, transparent and dynamic institution and as a well-known quality decision maker in part due to its serious scrutiny process. Serra presented the statistics showing that 2019 was the second-best year in newly-registered arbitration and discussed the ICC’s new tendency to act as amicus curiae in cases that impact international arbitration practice. Krasula provided insight into trends in U.S. cases during the past year and expected developments in the coming year. Van Lith presented the role of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR, its previous task forces, and current task forces on addressing issues of corruption in international arbitration as well as on ADR and arbitration.

Thevenin also presented USCIB-ICC USA’s role and its recent strategies to impact the country and provide more transparency.

USCIB Welcomes New Vice-Chair of Anti-Illicit Trade Committee

Fernando Peña

Director of Customs and Regulatory Affairs for DHL in the Americas Region Fernando Peña has been appointed vice-chair of USCIB’s Anti-Illicit Trade Committee (AITC).  Illicit trade is a major threat to the U.S. economy and profoundly harms American businesses and citizens.Today’s global illicit markets generate trillions of U.S. dollars every year for organized crime, corrupt facilitators and other bad actors.  Counterfeits, illegal goods and other contraband are sold on our main streets, social media, online marketplaces and the dark web. USCIB Is committed to fight illicit trade globally.

According to Megan Giblin, who leads USCIB’s work on customs, the AITC takes a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to elevating the fight against illicit trade, particularly as it relates to the work of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, the Asia Pacific and Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and other international organizations.

Peña joins AITC chair, David M. Luna, president and CEO of Luna Global Networks & Convergence Strategies LLC, in providing leadership of the Committee and its critical work such as engagement of China and other Source Markets of Fakes, targeted Action on Illicit Trade including Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, AIT Enforcement at Free Trade Zones (FTZs), strengthening Information sharing across sectors and markets as well as addressing “small parcels” trade in contraband and illicit commodities.

“We are very excited that Fernando has accepted a role in leading USCIB’s efforts to elevate the fight against illicit trade” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan. “Fernando will be a valuable asset to the AITC objectives and strategic planning.  His wealth of private and public sector experience, including working for U.S. Customs & Border Protection, knowledge of international organizations, focus on Americas region for DHL and his overall understanding of the small parcels environment will be an asset to the work of the Committee.”

“Business has a critical role in mobilizing collective action to counter illicit trade” said Luna. “DHL and other USCIB AITC members can partner with governments to effectively disrupt illicit economies and criminals’ exploitation of global supply chains and FTZs.”

ICC Comments to ITU Emphasize Enabling Environment

In an effort to inform the work of the United Nations about the tremendous potential of emerging ICT-technologies to help realize economic and social prosperity, USCIB has been working with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) over the past several years to develop policy papers and statements. On January 22, USCIB submitted comments to the Open Consultation convened by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Working Group on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues, which focused on required components that would foster the development and disseminations of emerging technologies for sustainable economic development. Importantly, this approach would help to meet specific targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, these components go beyond simply building infrastructure. The components include a foundation composed of infrastructure, applications and services and user engagement, a layer composed of policy issues – economic, technical, social/cultural, governance, and another layer featuring participation of relevant stakeholders from business, government, civil society and the technical community to inform the policymaking process.

USCIB cited ICT, Policy and Sustainable Economic Development, a policy paper prepared by the ICC Commission on the Digital Economy with active contributions from USCIB members, as the basis for its comments.

“We urge the ITU to use this document as a reference since underlying elements of the framework – everything from infrastructure and spectrum allocation, to data protection and cross border data flows, to digital skill development and access – will continue to be necessary to effectively harness the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies going forward,” said Wanner.

USCIB also endorsed comments submitted by ICC BASIS as part of this public consultation.