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.”

The USCIB Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Initiative Lead Scott Ratzan on MSNBC

Dr. Scott Ratzan, who helps lead The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE  initiative, spoke on MSNBC on January 3, 2021 on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and the critical role of all sectors, including business, to engage in order to win “the war” against the coronavirus.

Business Partners to CONVINCE is a vaccine confidence initiative led by USCIB, The USCIB Foundation, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development.

USCIB Leads Business Dialogue on Climate Change and Trade, Investment and Recovery

The Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) held its annual Business Dialogue on December 7, en route to next year’s Glasgow Climate Summit; this year’s BizMEF event was held virtually following the postponement of COP26 in Scotland.  The event, Restoring Momentum, Advancing Synergies – Building Recovery into COP26 with the Private Sector, set the scene for a series of in-depth dialogues in 2021 on trade and climate, climate investment and finance for innovation and national climate pledges that reflect COVID19 impacts and recovery opportunities.

The BizMEF Business Dialogue marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement and welcomed over seventy participants from government, academia and business.  Opening the session were USCIB CEO and President Peter Robinson and the Chief Strategist for Minority, Policy and Communications of the Climate Select Committee from the U.S. House of Representatives George David Banks.  In his remarks, Banks cautioned against unilateralism and stressed that multilateralism, commercial strategies and leveraging domestic policies will go a long way in realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The dialogue discussed free trade and climate change, including the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment mechanism proposal, the impacts and considerations of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic disruption and development of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well as climate change finance and investment.

High-level government speakers at the December 7 dialogue included Ignacio Garcia Bercero, from the European Commission Directorate General for Trade, Motoko Ogawa, deputy director of Japan’s Environmental Economy Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Switzerland’s lead negotiator for climate finance, Gabriella Blatter.

USCIB is a founding member of BizMEF, an alliance of more than twenty leading multisectoral business groups from OECD and non-OECD countries, including BusinessEurope, Brazil (CNI), France (MEDEF), Japan (Keidanren), CGEM (Morocco), the AI Group (Australia) and others. BizMEF Dialogues at Climate Summits have been held every year since 2012 in Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Katowice, Marrakesh, Bonn and, most recently, in Madrid last year.

Foreign Direct Investment More Important Than Ever During Health and Economic Crisis

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly was up early on Thanksgiving morning, participating virtually as a panelist in the annual International Investment Agreements (IIA) Experts conference organized in Geneva by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This year’s conference focused on the theme of IIA reform in the time of COVID-19. Donnelly participated in six of the last seven annual conferences organized by UNCTAD on international trade agreements.

In addition to his role as a panelist, Donnelly submitted a short written statement and a three-minute video message. 

“Our main message was simple,” said Donnelly. “In a time of health and economic crisis, private foreign direct investment (FDI) is more important than ever to restoring global economic growth, trade and jobs.” According to Donnelly, investment agreements, including strong dispute settlement provisions can be a critical factor to incentivizing FDI flows. 

Donnelly, a retired U.S. Ambassador and now a consultant to USCIB, also noted, “Unfortunately UNCTAD and many of the government and NGO speakers seem to share a view that FDI rules and IIAs need to be ‘reformed’ to reduce protections for investors and their access to independent arbitration to resolve investment disputes with host governments.  We have a different view; incentivizing and protecting FDI is more important than ever as we all strive for global economic recovery. So it is for business to speak up and get its views on the table in these international investment policy session. I was pleased to be joined this year on my panel by Winand Quaedvlieg from VNO, our Dutch counterpart national association and Chair of the Investment Policy Committee at Business at OECD.”     

UNCTAD’s link to the conference program presentations (including Donnelly’s) and documents.   

USCIB Members Address Network Security During Crises, Environmental Sustainability at IGF

The fifteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in two phases November 2 -November 17, featured expert commentary from USCIB members that addressed two of the key thematic pillars of this year’s event – trust and improving the environment. Chris Boyer (AT&T) moderated a USCIB-organized workshop, in which Kathryn Condello (Lumen) highlighted how business and government closely collaborated from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure secure, stable and reliable connectivity and, in so doing, create a framework for trust in the online environment.

In another USCIB-organized workshop, Matt Peterson (Amazon) and Caroline Louveaux (Mastercard) described their respective companies’ efforts to leverage technologies and their networks to address the planet’s environmental challenges through such initiatives as Amazon’s “Climate Pledge Fund” and Mastercard’s “Priceless Planet Coalition.”

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, both USCIB workshops attracted thirty-five to fifty virtual attendees from stakeholder groups throughout the world and garnered praise for the relevance and insightfulness of speakers’ comments in view of the still-rampant pandemic and challenges to the global environment.

Under the overarching theme ‘’Internet for human resilience and solidarity,” the annual IGF was hosted virtually by the United Nations given COVID-related travel restrictions. Given its virtual nature, the IGF Secretariat estimated that the event brought together more than five thousand leaders and ‎stakeholders of all sectors and all parts of the world, to discuss the impact of the Internet on ‎our lives within four key thematic tracks: (1) Data; (2) Environment; (3) Inclusion and (4) Trust.‎ As mentioned, USCIB members chose to showcase their corporate expertise under the trust and environment themes in two of the more than 200 IGF workshops.

Diversity in the Workplace Amid Topics at Annual Engaging Business Forum

USCIB co-organized the twelfth annual Engaging Business Forum on Human Rights on October 7, however due to COVID-19 precautions, the usual two-day forum was condensed into a virtual event. Hosted by The Coca-Cola Company every year since 2008, the Forum has gathered hundreds of practitioners to discuss leading issues at the intersection of business and human rights. Despite the virtual nature of the forum, this year was no different in terms of interest and engagement by over 500 leading practitioners.

With opening remarks from The Coca-Cola Company Chairman and CEO James Quincy and a keynote address from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as well as the International Labor Organization Director General Guy Ryder, participants were guided through a program that included discussion of the increasingly important role of business in respecting human rights as the world works towards a post-COVID-19 recovery that is sustainable for all. As in years past, USCIB led some of the discussions; USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog contributed her expertise on the panel “Diversity at the Workplace and Beyond – What Now Needs to Happen?”

“Diversity covers a range of factors, including age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture and disability,” said Herzog. “Our goal today is to explore the connection between diversity and business and human rights, as well as to bring heightened awareness of the critical role companies play in advancing progress.”

Herzog was joined on her panel by President and CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights Jill Savitt, Chair of the UN Working Group on Business & Human Rights Anita Ramasastry, Founder and Chair of Omnia Strategy Cherie Blair and Global Chief Diversity Officer, The Coca-Cola Company Lori George Billingsley.

The Forum was co-organized by the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and hosted by The Coca-Cola Company.

US Government and USCIB Look Forward to OECD Virtual Ministerial  

OECD member country high-level delegations will meet remotely October 28-29 for three-hour daily sessions of roundtable discussions following the postponement of its annual late-May Ministerial in Paris due to COVID-19. The abbreviated agenda for the Ministerial focuses on global and national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including through trade and investment, sustainability and international cooperation. USCIB is preparing for the Ministerial, including active participation as part of the Business at OECD (BIAC) team in OECD preparatory high-level roundtables over the course of the fall.

Meanwhile, U.S. Government preparations for the Ministerial are being led by the Department of State—Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Environment and Energy Keith Krach will likely head U.S. Government participation. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will chair the Ministerial sessions, and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria will also play a major role in the Ministerial deliberations.

USCIB Vice Presidents and Acting Policy Co-leads Norine Kennedy and Mike Michener consulted on the Ministerial agenda with senior staff at the Department of State and the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris on October 13.

“We were able to underline USCIB and international business priorities, emphasizing the role the private sector can play in restoring global economic growth and the contribution of U.S. business to COVID-19 response and recovery in that context,” said Kennedy. “Open, transparent trade and investment regimes advancing rule of law and substantive U.S. business engagement to develop, resource and deploy sustainability and COVID-19 solutions are key to enabling economic recovery.”

BIAC, with strong USCIB leadership, has been actively contributing to preparations for the OECD Virtual Ministerial. USCIB provided substantive input and expertise into the BIAC policy submission to the OECD and for the September 14 consultation for the Ministerial.  Rick Johnston from Citi (who also chairs the USCIB Trade and Investment Committee and serves as a vice chair of the BIAC Board), played a key role in BIAC’s October 7 Board meeting, which reviewed how best to represent the business agenda and priorities for the Ministerial.

“We at USCIB are encouraged that the OECD is persevering with its Ministerial this year, albeit in an abbreviated virtual format,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson.  “And we fully support the focus on national and international actions, measures and international cooperation that can drive economic recovery.  The private sector, led by USCIB member companies, can play a vital role in driving that growth and job creation. The BIAC Statement, Strengthening International Coordination to Overcome COVID-19: Business Recommendations for the Recovery, reflects USCIB priorities, highlighting the importance of technology-neutral, all-of-economy measures that balance economic, social and environment considerations as countries enact stimulus measures.”

Hampl Joins BIAC-OECD Discussion on Building Resilient Supply Chains

USCIB joined Business at OECD (BIAC) for a joint meeting on October 7 with the OECD to discuss building resilience in global supply chains to ensure that trade and investment can contribute to a robust, inclusive and sustainable recovery.

BIAC raised some key messages, such as the economic fallout from COVID-19 which has highlighted the need to strengthen supply chain resilience amid significant disruptions and containment measures that were especially stark during the early phase of the pandemic. BIAC added that because OECD work has demonstrated the gains from deepening and expanding international specialization in global value chains, the Organization should provide an important evidence-base on how countries can better prepare for future crises without disrupting global value chains and imposing restrictions at a time where global trade and investment are essential elements for innovation, job creation and getting our economies back on track.

Eva Hampl, who is leading USCIB’s work on trade and investment, participated in the conversation along with several USCIB members including from Apple, DHL, JPMorgan, Walmart and Pfizer.

In her remarks, Hampl noted the critical role of government cooperation as business is working to strengthening supply chains. “Consistency and predictability is critical for business,” said Hampl. “That’s why government cooperation and engagement with business is necessary to find effective solutions. This is where the OECD can provide crucial value by facilitating the conversation between business and governments.

Hampl Discusses Role of Open Markets, Inclusive Multilateralism in COVID-19 Recovery

USCIB Senior Director for Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl provided a U.S. business perspective at the Joint Conference on Reviving the Global Economy by Opening Markets and Enhancing Cooperation. The event was co-organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on September 28.  During her panel, Hampl discussed what USCIB has been focusing on to advance open markets and an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been active in all available forums to advocate that governments refrain from misusing the COVID-19 pandemic to adopt arbitrary, discriminatory or protectionist policies which only disrupt supply chains and put further strains on the economy – this also includes measures already in place that are now being justified by the pandemic,” said Hampl. “We consistently emphasize the crucial role of open trade and global value chains as fundamental drivers to recover from this global crisis.”

Hampl also discussed longer-term solutions, such as diversifying supply chains, so that global issues, such as a pandemic, do not endanger the reliable supply of necessary goods and services.

According to Hampl, the pandemic has highlighted the transformative power of digital technologies.

“Companies across all sectors stepped up to work closely with governments and other stakeholders to respond to urgent medical, economic and social needs by deploying and driving digital technology solutions,” said Hampl. “Looking ahead, digital technologies have the potential to shape the sustainable recovery from the pandemic. This also includes accelerating the digitization of government services such as licensing, permitting, tax collection and procurement.”

Hampl also emphasized the importance of global cooperation through multilateral institutions and discussed the role of inclusive multilateralism in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“A COVID-19 response must be an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” she noted. “When USCIB advocates for multilateralism, we mean multilateralism that promotes peace, cooperation and social justice, relies on effective and transparent multilateral bodies, advances collaborative approaches among states, encourages international dialogue and cooperation to design and implement effective policies and, finally, engages business across all sectors and other stakeholders in substantive dialogue and partnerships.

To view the video in English, please click here.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Digital Transformation of the Economy

USCIB released a thought piece with concrete policy recommendations on “What COVID-19 has Taught Us About Digital Transformation of the Economy: Early Lessons Learned,” with a specific focus on the role of digital technologies, including on the issues of infrastructure, connectivity, capacity building and the digital divide, data flows and trust, as well as on the importance of Artificial Intelligence. To download, please click here.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the transformative power of digital technologies. These cutting-edge technologies not only have enabled real-time information exchanges about the virus, but also have facilitated the provision of critical medical services and government financial support for business and individuals as well as provided a means of continuing commercial and economic activity. The ability to connect online has served as a lifeline to literally millions of global citizens anxious for safe, virtual social engagement and a way to continue their children’s education, among other societal needs.

Responding quickly to the global crisis, companies across all sectors stepped up to work closely with governments and other stakeholders to deploy and drive digital technology solutions in response to these urgent medical, economic, and social needs. Whether it be via AI-powered applications, enhanced broadband connectivity, cloud computing services, data and cybersecurity or other digital technologies, companies in all sectors have been proving how important digital technology is for the health and well-being of all.

Even more important, digital technologies have the potential to shape a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, including accelerating the digitization of such government services as licensing, permitting, tax collection and procurement. Key to realizing this, however, is a policy framework that creates an enabling environment for investment in technology innovation and deployment. Such policies may address economic, social/cultural, technical, and governance issues, all of which are interlinked and cross-cutting. This holistic approach will best enable development of a secure digital infrastructural foundation to realize greater resilience and preparedness in the face of whatever natural or man-made challenge we may face going forward.

As of September 2020, the COVID-19 virus still was far from under control – and was anticipated to remain a challenge well into 2021.  U.S. business regards the following issues as key early lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. These lessons will require the urgent attention of policymakers to address healthcare, employment, education, commercial, and economic development needs in the near-term. Equally important, is imperative that we accelerate policy implementation in order to realize the best chance of a soft landing and solid return to commercial and economic activity when the pandemic eventually has been conquered through rigorous scientific means.

Infrastructure, Connectivity, and Spectrum – Public policies should focus on fostering robust connectivity. The benefits of digital transformation in responding to a global crisis can only be realized if there is adequate broadband infrastructure and spectrum.  In addition, the availability of licensed spectrum for exclusive use and shared use as well as unlicensed use has an important and complementary role in promoting the accessibility of the Internet and its developmental potential. There are many important uses of spectrum, including broadcast and mobile broadband as well as for Wi-Fi.

Policy Recommendation – Governments should incentivize investment in broadband technologies and streamline regulatory policies in order to facilitate broadband deployment, focusing on under-served areas. In addition, effective and technologically neutral management of spectrum – and increasingly scarce resource — must be a priority for policymakers while ensuring the integrity of services offered by existing spectrum license holders.

Capacity Building and Bridging the Digital Divide – The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the gap between the digital “haves” and “have nots,” the latter group suffering most acutely from the virus access to healthcare and medical resources. In a 2017 report, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) found that while more than 7 billion people now have access to voice services, more than 70 per cent of those living in the least developed countries (LDCs) still cannot afford a basic Internet connection, and less than half the people in the world regularly use the Internet.

Policy Recommendation – In order to proactively safeguard against the devastating effects of future crises, the global community must join in building digital and connectivity capacity in developing countries as well as enabling the necessary digital skills, especially for marginalized communities, to fully utilize internet connectivity.

Closing the E-Government Utilization Gap – Related to the above, the pandemic also exposed significant gaps in the ability of our governments to pivot online quickly to provide services.  Government services simply have not digitized fast enough or taken full advantage of the availability of broadband to improve their customer service, capacity, resiliency, adaptability, transparency, and security. Not only is the physical infrastructure lacking, but the rules for provisioning virtual services and teleworking for government employees remain unclear as well.  Given the demonstrated capacity and capability of our networks, governments are suffering from a utilization diffusion lag, which particularly harms marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Policy Recommendation – Governments should take aggressive steps to address their technology utilization gaps and leverage the capacity and capability of networks to conduct government business and offer online citizen services. In doing so, governments should ensure data and cybersecurity are prioritized to protect government and citizen information and harness the benefits of cloud computing for operational efficiency. To speed the rebuilding of the economy, governments should prioritize the digitization of the licensing and permitting process, such as in construction, to provide rapid stimulus to a global economy slowed by COVID-19. Governments also should leverage public-private partnerships and invest in the development, deployment, and procurement of digital services for the benefit of their citizens.

Data Flows and Trust – U.S. business embraces the view that the free flow of data and information is critical for economic development and addressing societal needs. The pandemic underscored the imperative for medical professionals around the world to share data in real-time critical to containing and mitigating the virus. That could not happen if a country’s policies hampered data flows. At the same time, however, U.S. business realizes that the medical, economic and other societal benefits enabled by data flows will only be embraced by consumers, businesses, and governments who trust the online environment. Users must feel confident that the privacy of their personal data will be respected and that their online systems are secure.

Policy Recommendation – Business believes that trust in the online environment is best achieved through risk-based and globally interoperable approaches to privacy and security protections. These conditions will ensure that data free flows with trust, an approach endorsed by the G20 countries in 2019.

Data and Cybersecurity – The importance of data and cybersecurity to the accelerated digital transformation brought on by the pandemic should not be understated.  As business and government networks have become more decentralized with remote work, new data and cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities have emerged. Organizational leaders have needed to ensure they are extending the same security capabilities and best practices in their enterprise networks to all at-home network environments, leveraging cloud-delivered security technologies to do so rapidly and at scale. The pandemic has reshaped many global governments’ understanding of critical infrastructure and “essential” services, to better recognize the complex and interdependent nature of modern supply chains and that data and cybersecurity are essential to business continuity. 

Policy Recommendation – Governments should recognize the criticality of cybersecurity to continuity of essential services across all critical infrastructure sectors; help educate businesses and citizens about data and cybersecurity risk management and their respective responsibilities related to secure remote networking; incentivize the use of cloud-delivered security to enable secure remote workforces and schools at scale; and promote greater voluntary sharing of cyberthreat information and online safety best practices.

E-Commerce and Delivery of Essential Goods and Services – While the COVID-19 crisis accelerated digital transformation in general, the accelerated progress was especially evident with respect to the online sale and provision of goods and services. E-commerce driven by large companies and SMEs alike helped to ensure economic continuity especially during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy Recommendation – Policies should be reviewed and updated, if necessary, to ensure that they do not impede expeditious online provision of goods and services, including public sector services.

Importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The pandemic highlighted how AI could be used to control the impacts of the virus as well as aid mitigation. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, committing $20 million to accelerate diagnostic research, innovation, and development to speed collective understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other innovate diagnostic solutions to mitigate future infectious disease outbreaks.  More broadly, U.S. business recognizes the potential of AI to address economic, societal, and environmental inequalities. AI and other virtual/augmented reality technologies will continue to evolve and develop in ways that will facilitate mitigation of future crises.

Policy Recommendation – Business believes that existing regulations are sufficient for many AI applications and that any new requirements should be carefully considered in consultation with stakeholders to ensure they are narrowly tailored to address specific concerns as they arise. It is essential that all stakeholders work together to shape the development of AI to foster trust and broaden deployment so we are poised to use it effectively in addressing future crises.