USCIB, Business Groups Urge Administration to Prioritize US-China Deal

USCIB, along with dozens of U.S. business and industry groups, sent a letter to USTR Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Vice Premier of China’s State Council Liu He strongly supporting the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement noting its “significant achievement in ongoing efforts to advance a more balanced and mutually beneficial U.S.-China economic and commercial relationship.”

The letter also stated that successful implementation of Phase One will be critical to subsequent negotiation of a Phase Two Agreement.

The organizations noted that continuing fulfillment of the terms of the Agreement particularly with regards to Intellectual Property, removal of market access barriers and tariffs are critical. With regards to market access barriers, the letter focused on U.S. fruits, grains, and nearly all U.S. beef products, the expansion of its list of U.S. facilities eligible to export beef, pork, poultry, seafood, dairy and infant formula to China, as well as the adoption of new domestic standards for dairy powder that will allow imports from the United States.

“Meeting the global public health challenges from COVID-19 and restoring growth to the global economy will depend in part on both countries working together to fully implement the mutually beneficial outcomes of the Phase One Agreement,” the letter stated. “Thorough and timely implementation of Phase One commitments is also the most direct and achievable path to removal of tariffs—and to avoid application of new ones—on both sides, which the U.S. business community strongly supports.”

USCIB Statement to US Government on Remote Worker Relief

USCIB has joined with over a dozen other associations to issue a statement on July 2 to urge the federal government to allow an employee’s wages to be treated as being earned at their normal work location and to have Congress protect health care and other workers travelling across state lines to help with the COVID-19 response. The full statement:

“The dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis have created significant disruption and uncertainty for American workers. To lighten the burden on individuals and families, the undersigned associations strongly urge that you support legislation addressing state and local tax confusion arising for employees required to work remotely because of COVID-19.

“Providing this certainty at an otherwise uncertain time is essential. Without Congressional action, employees may receive unexpected and unwelcomed tax surprises when they file their 2020 state and local income tax returns next year – and face penalties and interest charges (and even potential double taxation) through no fault of their own. A federal solution is needed because the states are taking different and conflicting positions on how the income of workers displaced by the pandemic should be taxed. Solving this problem will ensure employees who are working remotely during the pandemic are not penalized for doing so.

“Currently, wages earned by an employee generally are subject to tax by the state where they work. However, due to COVID-19, many workers are unable to report to their normal work location and are working in a different state than usual due to local law restrictions, closed schools, family health or other reasons, complicating their state tax reporting obligations.

“The solution to this problem is simple: enact federal legislation that reduces uncertainty by allowing an employee’s wages to be treated as being earned at their normal work location. Congress should also protect health care and other workers traveling across state lines to help with the COVID-19 response from surprise or higher tax bills. The Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act of 2020, S. 3995, recently introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would accomplish these goals. These solutions will maintain the status quo by putting wage earners and their employers in the same tax position they would have been in, but for the pandemic, while providing important certainty to workers who temporarily relocate to provide critical assistance during this pandemic.

“We urge the inclusion of these changes in the next COVID-19 legislation.”

Virtual ICANN Focuses on COVID-Related Domain Name System Abuse

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held its second meeting of the year June 22-25. Due to COVID-19-related safety concerns the meeting, originally planned to take place in Malaysia, was again held virtually. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner joined the meeting remotely, along with several USCIB members as part of ICANN’s Business Constituency (BC).

As ICANN President and CEO Goran Marby noted, the ability of the ICANN community to adapt to this challenging time represents a “testament to our shared goal of [working to ensure] the continued security, stability and resilience of the DNS [Domain Name System].” Marby also noted that protecting against DNS abuse never has been more critical since “bad actors” have exploited the pandemic.

According to Wanner, the spike in COVID-related DNS abuse was a hot topic at ICANN 68. USCIB reiterated acute concerns expressed at ICANN 66 and ICANN 67 about inaction by ICANN Org and the contracted parties in mitigating domain name system (DNS) abuse that continues to escalate by the day. The BC asserted there should be an agreed approach to implementing tools to combat such abuse that is institutionalized as a process and memorialized in contracts between ICANN and the registries and the registry/registrar agreements.

“ICANN Org continued to insist while it expects registry operators to enforce their agreements with registrars prohibiting DNS abuse, there continues to be a lack of clarity about what constitutes DNS abuse which complicates contractual enforcement,” said Wanner. “The contracted parties, in turn, underscored their commitment to combatting abuse and highlighted voluntary efforts to develop a Guide to Abuse Reporting Best Practices. By the meeting’s conclusion, there was no clear path forward, although several approaches were proposed.”

Robinson Featured in ILO’s “First Person: COVID-19 Stories” Series

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched a series of “First person: COVID-19 stories from the world of work,” collecting stories from around the globe and giving a voice to government officials, business owners and essential workers, those working from home and those who have lost their jobs, young people just entering the world of work and retirees-turned-volunteers.

Recently, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson gave an interview of how the pandemic has affected USCIB, how it is responding, lessons learned from the experience and how we will all be “confronting a new reality” rather than a “return to normal.”

“One major lesson of this pandemic is a reaffirmation that we are all global citizens and we are fighting against an enemy that knows no border, so we must ensure that we join hands across borders and work together in a multilateral way on an economic recovery that is inclusive,” said Robinson.

Robinson also discussed USCIB’s approaches in ensuring the safety of its employees, objectives to support USCIB’s international network (such as that of the International Organization of Employers), and engaging in global work in more vulnerable economies where livelihoods are being upended and where Small and Medium Enterprises deserve special attention.

To view Robinson’s video, click here.

To view the collection of stories compiled by the ILO, please visit here.

USCIB, Global Industry Urge WTO to Resume Full Work

As international organizations such as the UN Security Council, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are routinely working online, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has yet to fully empower its substantive bodies to meet and take decisions virtually. In light of this, USCIB, along with major industry associations across the world, issued a statement on June 15 urging WTO Members to restart a full, regular schedule of work online. The statement emphasized that the international business community needs the WTO fully engaged across its existing work program, as well as to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath.

The statement noted: “Trade law and policy has an important, indeed integral, role to play in recovery. The replacement of the departing Director-General Roberto Azevêdo makes a return to regular working using virtual tools even more important…We cannot return to where we were, we must move forward, and this will require a whole of society approach at the local, national, and international level.”

The industry groups also reiterated commitment to the WTO and the international rules-based trade architecture for which it is responsible.

For the full statement, click here.

USCIB Concerned Over Reported Administration Changes to US Nonimmigrant Visa Programs

June 17, 2020, New York, New York — The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) expressed concern over reports of potentially restrictive changes to the U.S. nonimmigrant work and exchange visa programs under consideration by the U.S. Administration. The confusion caused by these reports creates uncertainty for U.S. businesses at the worst possible time – when companies are working to join with government and labor to secure a successful economic recovery following the negative health and economic impacts that COVID-19 has had on the U.S. and global economies.

As USCIB has long expressed, labor migration contributes to vibrant economies and requires clear, transparent, stable and efficient government migration policies that support U.S. workers and businesses. We support meaningful dialogue to reform U.S. immigration laws through a consultative regulatory process that includes engagement with the U.S. employer community. We join our members in the belief that drastic restrictions to nonimmigrant work visa programs and added burdens on companies seeking to use these programs will only constrain efforts to revive the U.S. economy to the detriment of workers and employers. Such restrictions also pose potential short- and long-term consequences for U.S. competitiveness by disconnecting domestic businesses from vital sources of talent and innovation and risk the loss of critical jobs and investments to foreign competitors.

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.

Contact:
Kira Yevtukhova, USCIB
+1 202.617.3160, kyevtukhova@uscib.org

COVID-19 Highlights Deep-Rooted Challenges of Informal Sectors

At a recent OECD virtual meeting, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson discussed one of the main, deep-rooted structural challenges underpinning the global economy—informality—the extent of which has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robinson noted during his remarks at the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct that in the longer-term, solutions are going to require dialogue, cooperation and partnership – particularly with regards to issues impacting vulnerable economies.

Informality represents approximately 60% of workers and 80% of businesses worldwide. It is at risk of expanding due to the current economic downturn. The informal sector work is characterized by high degrees of poverty and serious decent work deficits.

“If we can find ways of incentivizing informal firms to formalize, we support both a sustainable recovery by mitigating the size of the problem and advance workers’ rights, good governance and responsible business conduct for the SME and larger companies linked to them through business relationships,” said Robinson. “One critical bottom line in creating an environment that incentivizes and promotes the uptake of responsible business conduct is the fundamental importance of rule of law, enforcement, and well-functioning institutions.”

Robinson also reiterated USCIB’s commitment to responsible business conduct.

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

USCIB Urges Administration to Remove China Tariffs on Products Needed to Fight COVID-19

USCIB submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on China tariffs on May 18. The comments focused on Additional Modifications to the 301 Action to Address COVID-19 in relation to China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.

As noted in previous comments that USCIB has submitted on 301 actions, USCIB continues to hold the position that tariffs stifle the U.S. economy and will not achieve the Administration’s goal of changing China’s behavior.

“Rather than creating more opportunities for U.S. business, sweeping tariffs restrict U.S. agriculture, goods, and services exports and raise costs for businesses and consumers,” said USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the negative impacts of the tariffs on companies’ supply chains and the U.S. economy.”

USCIB highlighted several products that should be removed from the tariff list, including medical equipment central to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 response and of related ailments, as well as medical equipment parts, components and 3D printers.

The comments also highlight chemicals and plastics, which have been recognized for their critical role in the production of cleaning and disinfecting products, as well as medical equipment such as masks, diagnostic equipment and disposable gowns.

For a complete list of products and USCIB’s comments to USTR, please click here, please click here.

Robinson Reiterates Commitment to Responsible Business Conduct

Robinson participates virtually in the OECD Global Forum

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson participated virtually in the annual OECD Global Forum on COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), which was held on May 19.

The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically disrupted business and exposed major vulnerabilities in the economy and global supply chains. The event gathered thought leaders from government and business, trade unions, civil society, academia and international organizations to discuss how responsible business conduct can build value and more resilient supply chains in a post-COVID-19 world and how we can use the ongoing pandemic to integrate responsible business thinking into policies and action to bring remedy to people, meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackle climate change.

Speakers, including Robinson, discussed a variety of themes including the promotion of business responsibility in a post-COVID-19 world; the role of responsible business conduct in government support and recovery packages and how innovative engagement across stakeholders can promote responsible and resilient supply chains.

Robinson spoke on a panel titled, Building Value: The Role of RBC in Government Support and Recovery Packages. “Business is committed to RBC as highlighted in the MNE Guidelines,” emphasized Robinson. “RBC is good business and the crisis is not an excuse to fail to uphold responsible business conduct. In fact, there are many examples of companies already contributing meaningfully to relief and recovery in terms of donations of personal protection equipment, retrofitting production to produce needed emergency supplies, addressing employee safety, etc.”

USCIB has advocated with the U.S. Department of State to mobilize multilateral development bank assistance for vulnerable economies, particularly for social protection systems and rapid access to relief funds to SMEs to prevent closures and provide funding to workers until they can get back to work.

The annual OECD Global Forum has become the leading event for governments, businesses, trade unions and civil society to promote international dialogue on RBC and contribute to the effective implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Robinson Shares US Perspective During Virtual Briefing on Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 With ILO Director General

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson joined International Organization of Employers (IOE) members from around the world in a virtual dialogue meeting with ILO Director General Guy Ryder. The April 30th briefing allowed for employers to gain better understanding of how the ILO is responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

According to the IOE, this briefing attracted 112 participants from across the world.

Robinson’s remarks included the state of the U.S. economic situation, which included somber statistics regarding U.S. GDP, which has contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of this year and U.S. unemployment claims as of April 30, which reached a total of over thirty million.

“The impacts in the U.S. are sadly not unique,” said Robinson. “Every IOE member on this call and every ILO member state has been similarly laid low – especially vulnerable economies already beset by existing challenges.”

“At USCIB we’re particularly concerned with the inadequacies of social protection systems worldwide, but especially in vulnerable economies, as well as lack of access for SMEs in those countries to capital to maintain their financial viability during this crisis,” added Robinson.

USCIB has raised this issue, and others, with the U.S. government.

“As we look to the future and recovery, let’s be bold,” urged Robinson. “We’re in the first year of the ILO’s second century and we are faced with an enormous challenge. Now, more than ever is the time to take clear and focused action together to harness the unique strength of the ILO and its tripartite constituency. Let’s find unity in purpose to support the ILO’s role in helping the world ‘build back better’ by focusing on core issues of shared priority – looking to the ILO Centenary Declaration as our guide. Count on USCIB, our members and the IOE as your committed partners for our recovery together.”