Joint Statement by USCIB and ICC-UK on Enhancing Cross-Border Trade and Investment

London and New York, July 16, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which serves as the American national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), joined with its British counterpart ICC-United Kingdom in issuing the following joint statement today:

“On behalf of our respective business members, USCIB and ICC-UK pledge to work together to deepen commercial and diplomatic ties between our two countries. We will do so in solidarity with the worldwide business community represented by the International Chamber of Commerce network, and in the context of support for stronger multilateral rules and institutions, from which our societies derive tremendous benefits.

“We call on our two governments to also work together – and with other leading nations and regional blocs – to reduce barriers to trade, de-escalate recent actions to increase tariffs in many areas, and take action through the World Trade Organization and other international institutions to improve the climate for cross-border trade and investment.

“Our economies face critical barriers to entry and commercial challenges in key markets. We must address these together, in a spirit of common purpose, and with the understanding that concerted international action, rather than unilateralism, is the best approach. Failing to do so will harm not just our own national competitiveness, but the world’s ability to tackle key common challenges of promoting security and development.

“We further pledge to work together at the United Nations, World Trade Organization and G20 to improve the global business environment benefitting all companies of all sectors and sizes. We will focus on:

  • Championing inclusive free trade, robust international institutions and multilateral rules.
  • Supporting trade in goods and services through open borders, simplified customs, fair and modern tax and IP systems, and free movement of data.
  • Promoting responsible business conduct and good governance through self-regulation and improvement of best practices.
  • Championing sustainable economic growth through the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord, sustainable finance, smart cities and sustainable supply chains.

“We make this pledge as the International Chamber of Commerce prepares to mark its centenary next year. Founded as the “merchants of peace,” out of the ashes of the First World War, ICC continues to play a critical role in bringing the view of the private sector to the attention of governments at the highest levels, and in forging a path for business to lend its critical support to global goals of peace and sustainable development.”

About ICC-UK:
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the largest world business organization representing 6.5 million companies in 130 countries. ICC provides a voice for business at inter-governmental level and is the only business organization with UN Observer Status. ICC United Kingdom is the representative office of ICC in the UK, supporting British business interests and working in partnership with UK business groups and government. ICC has three central functions: 1) Promote responsible free trade; 2) Provide the rules and standards that govern international business; and 3) Help companies and States settle international disputes. More at www.iccwbo.uk.

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 www.uscib.org.

Contact:
Jonathan Huneke, VP Communications
+1 212.703.5043 or jhuneke@uscib.org

USCIB Joins Coalition to Urge Congress to Curb Trump Tariffs

USCIB joined more than 270 national associations and state and local chambers of commerce to send a letter on June 26 in support of the Corker Bill (S. 3013), which would require President Donald Trump to submit to Congress any proposal to raise tariffs in the interest of national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

“The U.S. business and agriculture communities are deeply concerned that the President’s unrestricted use of section 232 to impose tariffs may not be in the national interest,” the letter states. “It is now also increasingly clear that the way the steel and aluminum tariffs have been used will result in retaliatory tariffs from our largest trading partners and closest allies, and that retaliation will have serious negative economic impacts on the United States. The tariffs are also undermining U.S. efforts to build an international coalition of like-minded countries to join the United States in combating the use of unfair trade and investment policies.”

Eva Hampl, USCIB senior director for investment, trade and financial services added, “USCIB strongly supports a more competitive America, which enjoys economic growth and jobs by increasing exports, opening global markets and securing a level playing field for our goods and services. The imposition of tariffs will lead to higher prices for U.S.-made products, reducing the competitiveness of our exports, and will probably eliminate more jobs than it saves. In addition, it is likely to create strong disincentives for foreign investment in the United States, and to spur higher inflation.”

USA Today recently published an article about the letter.

USCIB Statement on U.S. Withdrawal From the UN Human Rights Council

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (credit: U.S. Mission to the UN)

New York, N.Y., June 20, 2018 – The United States Council for International Business, which represents the views of the American private sector to major multilateral organizations, international forums and national governments, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as the separation of families at the southern border:

“We are disappointed that the United States has chosen to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). While we agree with the Administration and Ambassador Nikki Haley that the Council is badly in need of reform, this can only come about through continued, direct and vigorous engagement by the United States, working with allies, civil society groups and representatives of the private sector.

“We urge the United States to reconsider this decision. In the meantime, USCIB and its global business partners will continue to represent the views of the private sector on matters affecting American business in the UNHRC and other international forums. USCIB will also continue its cooperation with the Administration to represent U.S. business interests on social and human rights issues across the United Nations system, including in the ILO.

“USCIB members are strongly committed to human rights. We will continue to advocate for both governments’ duty to protect and corporate responsibility to respect human rights, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“Lastly, especially in the context of U.S. withdrawal from the UNHRC, harmful U.S. action to separate children of illegal immigrants apprehended at our southern border from their families is contrary to American values. Such troubling practices at home risk calling into question U.S. leadership and dedication to upholding human rights. We are hopeful that President Trump, as he has pledged to do, will address this issue via executive order and reunite these families without delay.”

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 www.uscib.org.

Contact:

Jonathan Huneke, VP Communications

+1 212.703.5043 or jhuneke@uscib.org

 

USCIB Expresses Concern Over China 301 Tariffs

In light of last week’s release of two lists of China 301 tariffs by the Trump administration, USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Financial Services and Investment Eva Hampl expressed concern about the impact the China 301 tariffs will have on the U.S. economy and jobs. “In our submission to the U.S. government we highlighted a number of products of particular concern to our members, for which tariffs would have a significant effect on U.S. production and revenue. Unfortunately it appears that only a handful of consumer products were taken off the list. We are also reviewing the new list of products, and welcome the opportunity to provide input as appropriate. We are, however, troubled by the planned investment restrictions to be imposed on Chinese investments in technology later this month, where stakeholder input is not taken into account. Given the significant impact investment restrictions could have on U.S. companies and jobs, this move by the Administration is problematic.”

The first list of China 301 tariffs was a reduced version of the 1,300 tariff lines USCIB commented on in May. This list of tariffs on about $34 billion of Chinese products is set to go into effect on July 6. The second list, covering about $16 billion of Chinese goods, are products that were suggested to be added. That list will be up for a comment period, with a public hearing to be held in late July. The Federal Register Notice is not yet officially out.

“China is ready to retaliate,” warned Hampl. China has apparently reduced their initial $50 billion list to $34 billion to match what is currently the U.S. tariff list – the Ministry of Finance has apparently posted the list.

Hampl was also quoted earlier today in Politico. Full article is available here, subscription required.

Herzog Leads US Employer Delegation to ILO Conference

2018 International Labor Conference. Photo Credit: ILO

USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibly and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog led a five-member U.S. Employer delegation to the 107th annual International Labor Conference (ILC) of the International Labor Organization (ILO) May 28 – June 8. The ILC is the ILO’s annual policy setting meeting at which global representatives of national governments, employers and workers gather to negotiate and adopt policy and governance on a range of priority issues.

This year’s ILC was attended by over 5,000 participants from across the world, of which 32.7% were women. “Important topics discussed by delegates this year included the role of the ILO in carrying out development cooperation programs in light of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, and what constitutes social dialogue in the workplace and what value can it deliver to industrial relations and productive workplaces,” noted Herzog. The ILO’s Committee on the Application of Standards also met to review in detail 24 cases of governments alleged to not be effectively enforcing a range of ILO standards they had ratified and committed to implement. Without a doubt, however, the topic at the top of this year’s ILC agenda was the first round of a two-year standard-setting discussion on violence & harassment in the workplace.

“The challenge and the opportunity for the ILO and its tripartite constituents is how to develop an instrument that can protect the most people, with special focus on gender-based violence and harassment, in the most places in the world,” stressed Herzog. “This will be a challenge because while violence in the workplace is broadly understood and condemned, there is less universal understanding and consensus around the world on what constitutes harassment. Given this and the growing realization of the prevalence and negative impacts of these unacceptable behaviors, USCIB and global employers are and will continue to work to address these practices where they appear and also push for an effective instrument addressing this issue at the ILO.”

While there was consensus among the government, employer and worker representatives on the need for ILO action, there was unfortunately lack of consensus on core definitions that will determine the ultimate effectiveness of the instrument and its chances to interest governments in ratification. Unfortunately, vague and contested definitions for foundational issues like what constitutes violence and harassment, who is a worker, what are the boundaries of a workplace, and the behaviors from which workers should be protected were adopted. The problems with these overly broad definitions began to become clear to some of the participants when discussions turned to operationalizing the responsibilities of governments and employers.

“USCIB – together with our members and IOE’s global affiliates – will work hard over the coming year to meaningfully engage tripartite ILO partners with an eye towards a refresh in 2019 and a hopefully more balanced text that is both bold in its aspiration but practical in its direction to governments on the important task of working to eliminate both violence and harassment from the workplace,” said Herzog.

Herzog gave remarks at the closing ceremony in support of the IOE violence and harassment spokesperson. Her full speech can be found here, and below.

Hampl Testifies Regarding Proposed China Tariffs

 Following the Trump administration’s proposed Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl testified before the Section 301 Committee, chaired by USTR on May 16 regarding the proposal. Hampl’s testimony reflected USCIB member concerns about potential consequences the proposed tariffs will have on sectors vital to the U.S. economy. Her testimony was drawn from comments USCIB sent earlier this month to the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Hampl was joined by over 100 other business representatives to share specific concerns regarding the proposed tariffs.

“We believe that the imposition of tariffs will not achieve the important goal of changing China’s behavior in the space of emerging technologies and intellectual property rights,” said Hampl in her testimony. “China’s threat of retaliation further exacerbates uncertainties caused by this proposed action. Rather than create more opportunities for U.S. business, sweeping tariffs will stifle U.S. agriculture, goods, and services exports and raise costs for businesses and consumers.

Hampl emphasized the need for a “holistic structure” to address the aforementioned issues. Speaking on behalf of USCIB, Hampl applauded the Trump administration for looking at alternative approaches, such as initiating a WTO dispute by requesting consultations with China.

“It is important for the administration to address these issues with a broad view, working collectively with U.S. industry, Congress, and our trading partners, to adequately address China’s unfair trade practices and get China to be WTO compliant,” noted Hampl.

The proposed tariffs pose a unique challenge to industrial inputs, which represent over 80 percent of the proposed list. Tariffs on industrial goods are especially problematic because they represent not just a tax on U.S. consumers but a tax on U.S. manufacturers and workers, and on the products they export. Tariffs on aerospace, machinery and IT parts and other advanced technologies can undermine the most competitive sectors of American manufacturing, driving up production costs in the U.S., impacting U.S. manufacturing employment, and making U.S. manufacturers less competitive against global rivals.

“Tariffs on industrial parts imported into the U.S. could have the unintended consequence of prompting manufacturers to move final production outside of the U.S.,” warned Hampl. “To see how U.S. companies will be affected by the tariffs, it is important to look to how the supply chain functions. China is the second largest economy and the largest manufacturing economy in the world. We cannot ignore that China may have some unique capabilities, at the product level, that U.S. businesses need to tap into in order to remain globally competitive. For many products or inputs, there is no feasible alternative to procuring from China. We urge the Administration to use this process to ensure that its actions do not inadvertently harm some of the most competitive sectors of the U.S. economy, and the hundreds of thousands of American jobs that depend on them.”

In addition to the testimony, USCIB also co-sponsored a reception last week for Hill staff centered around the China 301 hearing, as well as NAFTA, celebrating Great American Jobs Supported by Trade. Representatives from U.S. government, companies, and associations, spent the evening discussing various important developments in the trade space.

The Hill: Trump Aiming to Make NAFTA Like a Football Game Without Referees

Op-Ed by USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson as appeared on TheHill.com

The business community is broadly supportive of efforts to update and strengthen the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA has been a major success for the United States, as well as our Canadian and Mexican partners.

But it’s now a quarter-century old and lacks rules in important new areas like digital trade, data flows and treatment of state-owned enterprises. A modernization that will bring NAFTA into the 21st century would be a welcome development, provided that it keeps what is already working in the agreement.

Since we are living in an age where the benefits of global economic integration are not well understood or appreciated, it’s worth backing up a bit to ask: What is a free trade agreement (FTA) anyway? Also, why would countries want to enter into an FTA?

The United States currently has FTAs with 20 countries, but other countries around the world have entered into several hundred bilateral and regional FTAs since the end of World War II.

They have done so not to cede sovereignty or export jobs overseas — two of the widely held misconceptions about trade agreements. Rather, they enter into FTAs in order to grow their economies through mutually beneficial cross-border trade and investment.

FTAs historically have provided preferences to the negotiating parties primarily centered around tariff-free trade. More recent trade agreements, including NAFTA, also include provisions on customs and trade facilitation, investment protection, regulatory standards, environment and labor and many other issues.

The key to reaping the benefits of an FTA and ensuring that it benefits U.S. companies, workers and consumers is to enforce the rules of the agreement in the event of a breach. In short, a new NAFTA must be fully enforceable.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Trump administration may want to weaken NAFTA’s core enforcement provisions. Such a change would spell disaster, akin to playing football or any other sport without a referee.

NAFTA currently has three strong chapters that provide for enforcement and redress: Chapter 11, which covers disputes between investors and states; Chapter 19, which covers anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties; and Chapter 20, which covers state-to-state disputes.

The United States has put forth proposals on each of these chapters, ranging from weakening the provision to entirely eliminating the chapter. If all of these proposals were to be included in NAFTA 2.0, there would be no provision available to provide legal recourse to an injured party against the party in breach of any of the substantive provisions.

Simply put, an agreement without enforceability would be bad for business. The Trump administration’s proposal for an “opt-in” approach to NAFTA’s existing dispute resolution mechanisms is no substitute for real, recognized, agreed and enforceable rules in this area.

Without substantive provisions protecting investment, including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), it’s very unlikely that the United States would gain the very tangible benefits it gets from open investment among the three NAFTA partners.

ISDS depoliticizes the enforcement of important investment rules by putting the dispute in the realm of neutral and legal arbitration.

U.S. investors, including the many smaller and medium-sized companies that have expanded sales and operations north and south of the border under NAFTA, would be far less willing to do business in Canada or Mexico if those governments couldn’t be held responsible for poor treatment or abuse of power.

The same goes for Canadian or Mexican investors in the United States, who have created many thousands of jobs here at home since NAFTA came into effect.

More broadly, you have to ask yourself: What good is a free trade agreement without enforcement provisions? The law of the Wild West is not the sort of formula needed to govern international trade and investment in today’s complex globalized international economy.

To extend the sports metaphor, the Trump administration seems to be more focused on playing defense than offense, preoccupied with eliminating tried-and-true principles because they impinge on our unilateral ability to block imports, discriminate against foreign products or projects and simply ignore inconvenient rules and regulations.

Historically, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has played offense. Indeed, we have been the star quarterback of the pro-growth team, leading international efforts to open markets, fight protectionism, promote greater international competition and uphold the rule of law.

A key part of this has been our insistence on strong enforcement provisions, i.e., referees with real whistles and real authority. For the U.S. now to focus on defense while also throwing away the rulebook is truly troubling.

Peter M. Robinson is president and CEO of the United States Council for International Business a business advocacy group that was founded in 1945 to promote free trade and help represent U.S. business in the then-new United Nations.

USCIB Disappointed at Lack of Multilateral Progress at WTO Ministerial

But business group holds out hope on promising efforts by major groups of countries

Buenos Aires and New York, December 13, 2017 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents America’s most successful global companies, expressed disappointment at the lack of meaningful multilateral progress at the World Trade Organization ministerial that concluded today. But it said that potential new group efforts on electronic commerce and other issues offered some limited hope for the future.

“Expectations for Buenos Aires were low coming in, and unfortunately the results largely lived up to them,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson, who represented USCIB at the ministerial. “The business community, which relies on cross-border trade and investment to help contribute to economic growth and societal well-being around the world, is disappointed. But we do hold out some hope for future progress based on the commitment by large groups of countries in pursuing new agreements.”

On the sidelines of the ministerial, 70 countries, led by Australia, Japan, and Singapore, and including the United States and the European Union, agreed to begin discussions toward negotiations on electronic commerce. USCIB joined the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), for which it serves as the American national committee, in welcoming the move.

“Today’s statement is a very welcome step forward by governments representing 77 percent of global trade,” said ICC Secretary General John Danilovich. “We firmly believe that with the right global policies in place there is an opportunity to unleash a new era of inclusive trade, one in which all companies – regardless of size, sector or location – can benefit from equal access to the global trading system.”

Separately, ministers from over 60 countries issued a joint statement pledging to pursue negotiations on domestic regulations that limit cross-border trade in services. They also renewed a landmark 1998 moratorium on duties on electronic transmissions.

“Taken together, these results offer some hope for the future, and set a new and positive direction for the WTO,” said Robinson. “We are especially grateful for the persistence and vision of those members that pushed for continued positive movement on e-commerce.”

Robinson continued: “However, the lack of truly meaningful multilateral deliverables is worrisome. Members will need to think long and hard about what kind of WTO they really want – one that simply adjudicates trade disputes and sanctions trade enforcement remedies, or one that expands trade through new, market-opening agreements.”

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 several leading international business organizations, including ICC, USCIB provides 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.

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

 

US Business Helps Launch First Ever Business Meeting at UN Environment Assembly

President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lascak

The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), the highest level policy making forum on environment in the UN system, opened its 3rd session under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP or UN Environment) on December 4 in Nairobi, Kenya.  Environment Ministers from over 60 countries and delegates from all UN member states are gathered to refocus UN system environmental policy towards combatting pollution and its impacts. 

The overall theme of this session is, “Towards a Pollution Free Planet,” and governments are considering decisions to limit plastic debris in oceans, increase cooperation on air pollution and more closely link environment and health policies, with an emphasis on the “precautionary principle.”  Responding to numerous statements welcoming business involvement at UNEA3 and encouraging greater involvement by business at future UNEA meetings by UN officials and government representatives, USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy stated, “U.S. business is attending this meeting to keep the focus on infrastructure, alignment with SDGs and enabling frameworks for private sector innovation and investment, and is keen to keep this fruitful dialogue and partnership going.”

USCIB and its members have led the U.S business presence at this session, working closely with the American Chemistry Council, American Plastics Council and Croplife, among others.  USCIB took part in the first ever Science-Policy-Business Forum, and organized for the first time a Global Business Symposium at UNEA with the Global Business Alliance for Environment.   The President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lascak welcomed the business initiative, stating that “Businesses are critical to achieving sustainable development.”

In his presentation at the Business Symposium, Erick Omollo Juma, Novozymes, drew attention to how his accompany is pursuing opportunities to link cooperative implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and environmental protection through business action.   

Commenting on the examples of business initiatives to reduce risks from pollution during the Business Symposium, Walker Smith, director of global affairs and policy, U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), recognized efforts by USCIB members, including the Walt Disney Company, the Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical, IBM and Procter & Gamble, to reduce food and plastic waste, and eliminate lead in paint.  USCIB has worked closely with the U.S, Department of State, EPA and NOAA representatives attending these meetings to reflect U.S. business views and achievements.

As part of her statement on behalf of the Business and Industry Major Group at the UNEA3 Opening Plenary Kennedy stated, “We need tailored specific responses to each source of pollution, reflecting economic and social circumstances. Business emphasizes the importance of building national capacity and infrastructure to address pollution through sound regulation and management, stimulating innovation and seeking pragmatic policy options and partnerships.”

On partnerships, Kennedy noted, “Business in its diversity is a critical part of solutions and investment, and is ready to work with governments and other stakeholders to act on UNEA outcomes to reduce pollution and associated risks – let’s identify practical solutions and policies and get to work.”

USCIB will present and discuss outcomes and next steps from UNEA3 at its next Environment Committee meeting on December 15 in Washington DC.

Business Makes It Happen: American Business at the UN General Assembly

By Peter M. Robinson
President and CEO
United States Council for International Business

 

“We live in a complex world. The United Nations cannot succeed alone. Partnership must continue to be at the heart of our strategy. We should have the humility to acknowledge the essential role of other actors, while maintaining full awareness of our unique convening power.”

-Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General

The 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) gets under way this week at a time of stresses and strains in the international community. The nature of these stresses is particularly acute for the U.S. business community: a growing need for financing and investment in infrastructure, the open trading system called into question, and calls by some for a retreat from engagement in multilateral forums. How does American business plan for these challenges, and where can we make the biggest difference?

For USCIB and its members, an important place to start tackling these questions is the UN’s 2030 Development Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework that will be at the center of this week of high-level meetings, also known as Global Goals Week.

In the face of challenges such as unemployment, climate change and population growth around the world, USCIB believes we have to pursue the SDGs as “must-wins” for the United States and for the American business community. We know that economic growth abroad helps create jobs at home. Open markets and policies that foster private investment offers new markets for our products. Innovation aimed at improved sustainability give the U.S. a leg-up in global competition while advancing investment in energy sources and new technologies to combat climate change.

That is why, this week, USCIB is holding a series of discussions on the margins of the UNGA to cultivate the “ingredients for impact” to catalyze business contributions to the SDGs. We are doing this under the theme, “Business Makes It Happen,” because we believe that, without strong commitment and incentives for the private sector, we won’t be able to achieve the Global Goals.

USCIB supports multilateral solutions to global challenges, with business constructively involved. We rely on solid, long-term dialogue and a close working relationship with both our government and the UN system to advance U.S. business contributions to sustainable development, delivering economic benefits at home and abroad. When it comes to what business depends on to succeed, thrive and lift the American economy, we look to Washington, D.C., and to the United Nations. We depend on both, and that is why USCIB has chosen to step forward as a U.S. business organization, working closely with our partners in the U.S. government as UNGA gets underway.

The Three I’s

The 2030 Agenda provides a blueprint for action that enjoys wide business and government support. But there are still three broad challenges in terms of implementation by business – inclusiveness, innovation and information.

  • Information: While there is more and better information available from companies on SDG action, we are overwhelmed with the quantity of data, and so we – business, governments — don’t know where to begin to understand or prioritize action. We have too much information and not enough analysis. The business community needs to develop ways to present its progress that are accessible and relevant for the international community and national governments.
  • Innovation, which is the best source of solutions for sustainability, still faces obstacles due to a lack of proper incentives for researchers, inventors and investors. The UN must do better in creating a fully welcoming environment and institutional framework for technology innovation that is genuinely involving business experts.
  • Inclusiveness: A basic tenet of the Agenda for 2030 is that no one is left behind. That suggests that everyone needs to be involved to deliver solutions. Yet in some UN forums, the private sector is still not regarded as a full partner in the effort. At times, there are still political sensitivities when business wants to come to the table, or even just listen in on policy deliberations. Clearly, we in business need to do more to demonstrate commitment and deliver actual results.

Statements by both United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák suggest that, under their leadership in the UNGA this year, we could see progress towards a more inclusive and transparent framework to involve the business community across the board. USCIB would endorse and welcome such a development.

By their very nature, many of the SDGs depend on partnerships to be implemented, and we regard business as indispensable in collaborative action to deliver the SDGs. On its 2nd anniversary, the USCIB web platform, Business for 2030, now showcases 200 initiatives from 52 companies, in over 150 countries, covering 85 of the 169 SDG targets. These encompass both philanthropic and corporate responsibility initiatives as well as core business operations that all contribute to achieving one or more of the 17 SDG targets.

Progress has been made, as witnessed by the strong response to this year’s SDG Business Forum on the margins of last July’s High-Level Political Forum – it literally filled the UN’s largest room, the General Assembly Hall. Governments and the UN have to continue to create those new kinds of spaces in which that exchange on policy and practice can occur substantively and with good governance.

With our affiliations to leading global business organizations embedded in the UN system, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), we have been fortunate to be on the front lines of the collaborative discussions that brought forward the SDGs, and to foster recognized opportunities for the private sector to cooperate with the UN. The process of multilateralism does move slowly, demanding investment of time and effort, but the rewards are outcomes in which business is invested and knows what to expect.

It is already clear to USCIB that one element of success towards efficiency and effectiveness in the reform of the UN is to create the most open and inclusive institutional structures to consult with representative business bodies, and then to recognize and include those inputs. We have seen time and again how the ILO, the OECD and other inter-governmental forums have demonstrated that including business in a recognized manner is a value add because it is brings on board those societal partners that invest, innovate and implement.

At USCIB, we are more convinced than ever that a more open and accountable policy dialogue, with recognized involvement of representative business groups, is a fundamental element of good governance (which is in fact the aim of SDG16), and will deliver real results. By and large, UN bodies are involving business in more substantive ways, and we are looking forward to this year’s UNGA to keep that discussion going, particularly in the context of UN reform.

In his report laying out his vision of UN reform, Secretary General Guterres presents eight big ideas for reform of the UN system.  At the heart of those are the 17 big commitments which the global community made in 2015: the SDGs. Our main goal this week is to join the international dialogues and offer ways to make those big ideas a reality for, and with, U.S. business.

Throughout the negotiations leading to the SDGs, and now in the period of their execution, we have underscored the need for business to be embedded in the process. This is necessary to leverage all the resources that the private sector can provide through investment, innovation and know-how. With dialogue and the right mix of incentives, business really can make it happen and we will be working throughout this year’s UNGA to continue the evolution towards collaborative and impactful SDG partnerships with business.