USCIB Member HP Presents at WTO Symposium on Information Technology Agreement

The World Trade Organization (WTO) hosted a two-day workshop in mid-September celebrating trade liberalization under the Information Technology Agreement titled “ITA Symposium: 25th Anniversary of the Information Technology Agreement.” WTO Director General Dr. Ngozi Okojo-Iweala opened the conference, which explored the benefits of ICT in combatting COVID-19 and bridging the digital divide, as well as the latest advances in technology and justifications for a new, third, round of ITA expansion.

Given the topic of the Symposium, USCIB was pleased to secure a speaking role for member company HP, Inc. Karen Bland, HP’s Head of Global Trade, presented on “3D Printing: A Vital Technology for Economic Development and Sustainability,” where she outlined the economic benefits of 3D printing, as well as the innovative technology’s contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Additionally, HP highlighted how it leveraged 3D printing to address extreme supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by partnering with more than ninety-two global digital manufacturing companies to deliver millions of 3D printed items including CPAP components, nasal swabs and face shields.

“The ITA must keep pace with technological advances in ICT.  HP encourages coverage of 3D printers and parts as a critical printing innovation in any future ITA expansion,” commented Bland.

USCIB is part of an industry coalition led by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) working with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to advance a new expansion of the ITA (ITA-3).  During the conference SIA President John Neuffer addressed “How a Third ITA Expansion Would Benefit Developed and Developing Nations Alike While Advancing Climate, Health, and Sustainability Goals,” with Stephen Ezell from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation releasing a comprehensive report on How an Information Technology Agreement 3.0 Would Bolster Economic Growth and Opportunity, including a focus on potential benefits to developing countries. The report includes a list of products proposed to be included in an ITA 3, including many submissions from USCIB members.

“USCIB supports ITA expansion, increased geographic participation, and further efforts to provide duty free treatment to critical ICT products which have become more important in the COVID environment,” said USCIB Director, Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark. Clark is leading the ITA expansion effort at USCIB, with USCIB Director, Customs and Trade Facilitation Megan Giblin as customs advisor.

USCIB Event at UN General Assembly Reaffirms Business’ Commitment to Countering Global Challenges

Top: Brian Lowry (USCIB), Norine Kennedy (USCIB) Bottom: Michele Parmelee (Deloitte), Hans-Jorn Weddige (Business at OECD)

On the margins of this week’s 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), USCIB partnered with the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD to organize a virtual discussion titledReinvigorating Inclusive Multilateralism: A Business Townhall at UNGA76.” The meeting was dedicated to the memory of John Ruggie, former UN Special Envoy for Business and Human Rights, who recently passed away.

Ester Baiget, Novozymes chief executive, and USCIB Trustee and Sustainability Champion, opened the event. “We must drive the change we want to see together,” said Baiget in her opening remarks.

Other USCIB Board members, namely Michele Parmelee (Deloitte) and John Frank (Microsoft), also served as speakers, on climate change, business and human rights, and on new ways for the business community to engage with and strengthen the effectiveness of the multilateral system en route to a sustainable and inclusive recovery.

UNGA76 convenes at a time of multiple challenges, which are putting the multilateral system to the test and raising questions about the resilience of the UN and such basic values of democracy, rule of law and inclusive societies. The event focused on three fireside chats, specifically aligning with key priorities of the President of the UN General Assembly —climate change and environment; human rights and business; pandemic response and recovery.

“UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently issued a report, ‘Our Common Agenda,’ clearly highlighting the need to reinvigorate multilateralism,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Business is ready to work with the international community and contribute to ‘break throughs’ that protect people and planet.”

Participants from business and industry, the UN, governments, and civil society tuned into the session, which highlighted the critical role of the private sector in being able to achieve ‘Our Common Agenda,’ and particularly of the U.S. private sector in aligning with global business to respond to global challenges, and provide solutions working through inclusive multilateralism.

Speakers included:

Robin Ogilvy, OECD Special Representative and Permanent Observer to the UN

Matthias Thorns, IOE Deputy Secretary General

Dr. Scott Ratzan, Executive Director, Business Partners for Sustainable Development, an initiative of The USCIB Foundation

Larry O. Gostin, Georgetown University Law School

Fernando Ylanes Almanza President, Social Security Commission, CONCAMIN

Business Partners to CONVINCE Supports Global Workplace Vaccine Requirements

New York, N.Y., August 02, 2021—Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C), a global communication and education initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among private sector employers and employees, released a statement commending the Biden administration’s announcement on July 29 that it will require all federal employees to attest their vaccination status or be subject to masking, social distancing and COVID-19 testing requirements.

The following statement was made by Scott Ratzan MD, executive director of Business Partners to CONVINCE, an initiative of The USCIB Foundation:

“As COVID-19 vaccination rates wane for a variety of reasons, the COVID delta variant is spreading globally. With vaccination as our principal hope to stem the pandemic, we are pleased by the Biden administration’s decision to require federal employees and onsite contractors to get safe and effective vaccines. We encourage all eligible Americans to get fully vaccinated. We welcome opportunities to work with government, business and civil society to help achieve the vaccination levels for community immunity.

“We call on BP2C’s vast global network, which consists of organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), Business at OECD (BIAC), Vaccines Europe, and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to support their local governments across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America in communication and education initiatives around COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective and the best way forward out of this pandemic and towards economic recovery.

“We applaud BP2C steering team partner the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as well as USCIB members Facebook, Google, The Walt Disney Company, Walmart and Uber that have announced new requirements to encourage vaccinations among their workers and ensure a safe workplace. We encourage other companies to do the same and we stand ready to offer resources and communications strategies to employers about vaccine literacy.”

ABOUT BUSINESS PARTNERS TO CONVINCE: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), The USCIB Foundation, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) have launched Business Partners to CONVINCE, a global communication and education initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among private sector employers and employees. The new partnership will play an integral role in a broader, global CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement) campaign to advance vaccine literacy and help ensure a strong and swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through widespread acceptance of safe, effective and accessible vaccines.

ABOUT THE USCIB FOUNDATION: The USCIB Foundation is the research and educational arm of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). The principal purpose of the Foundation is to carry out research and educational activities designed to promote and advance the benefits of a free-market economy and to demonstrate and document the role of the corporate private sector in economic growth and social development.

USCIB-IOE United Nations Side-Event Focuses on Global Recovery, Private Sector Innovation

As in previous years, USCIB, as part of the recognized Business and Industry Major Group at the United Nations in New York, hosted a side-event during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). Co-organized with the International Organization of Employers (IOE), this year’s event focused on private sector partnerships and contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and to powering a global recovery from the pandemic’s economic and social devastation.  A key element of this official HLPF business side-event was on encouraging and deploying business innovation.

The event brought together leaders from companies, employer organizations, the multilateral system, and more, to explore the innovative ways that business can be a valuable partner in defeating the pandemic, while restoring lost progress towards SDG’s. The event featured two panels; one focused on COVID-19 recovery and the second on private sector innovation, including on addressing climate change and the digital divide. USCIB speakers from Microsoft and Novozymes flagged the criticality of business engagement through partnerships with government, UN bodies and other stakeholders.

“Building forward better sustainably in the Decade of Action and Delivery will require a stronger than ever commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement and partnership,” said USCIB Senior Vice President Norine Kennedy. “Business is committed to the SDG’s, not only because implementing the 2030 Agenda is the right thing to do, but also because of the strong business case for doing so. The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers business opportunities for new markets, job creation and sustainability solutions.”

Dr. Scott Ratzan provided an update on The USCIB Foundation’s initiative, “Business Partners to CONVINCE,” and its Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge, which is tackling vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, especially in the work place.

According to Dr. Ratzan, “the private sector has been at the forefront of tackling the pandemic – from the historic race to develop vaccines, to opening premises to production of PPE and vaccination campaigns, to training and educating employees on public health and safety. Business has shown that it can and should be a meaningful partner in building back better, contributing not just funding, but innovation, expertise, technology, fresh ideas and diverse perspectives of business and employers, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises, who are so crucial to economic growth at the local level.”

Annual Labor Conference Deliberates COVID-19 and Social Protection

As in years past, USCIB participated in the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) International Labor Conference (ILC) June 3-June 19.  As the U.S. employer representative to the International Employers’ Organization (IOE), USCIB is the only U.S. business organization to participate in the annual conference.

Due to COVID-19, the ILC was cancelled in 2020 for the first time in its 100-year history and is taking place virtually this year.  A second session of the ILC will be taking place from November 25 to December 11 and will cover the critical topics of skills and inequalities.

In addition to standing agenda items, the June session included discussions on the ILO’s response to COVID-19 and Social Protection, as well as General Body elections for the 2021 to 2024 term, to which USCIB Senior Advisor Tom Mackall secured a position as a representative for the Americas. Declarations on the ILO’s Response to COVID-19 and Social Protection were adopted by the Plenary on the Final day of the ILC. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Herzog and Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves participated in the Social Protection negotiations.

Notably USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson delivered remarks on the Director General’s Report, Work in the Time of COVID. After acknowledging and thanking DG Guy Ryder for his years of service, Robinson laid out USCIB priorities for a sustainable and equitable recovery from the pandemic. Highlighting Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) and USCIB’s unique policy expertise and access to multilateral fora, Robinson noted: “USCIB continues to advocate to address decent work deficits through investments in securing rule of law. We remain particularly concerned by the persistent issue of forced labor, which requires international attention. The ILO has a critical role to play and should apply its expertise, leadership and resources to support the elimination of forced labor. “

“We are confident that through increased collaboration and policy coherence, investments in capacity building efforts, and continued social dialogue, with the ILO serving as the custodian of SDG-8, we will emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more resilient and inclusive society,” added Robinson.

WTO and Industry Leaders Discuss Future Work for WTO

USCIB and member companies Deloitte, Google, Mastercard, Merck, Pfizer and Walmart participated in a June 23 exclusive Virtual Trade Dialogue with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and several WTO ambassadors. The Trade Dialogue, facilitated by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), provided a robust exchange between global industry leaders and the WTO leadership in three areas: WTO response to COVID-19, deliverables for the twelth WTO ministerial meeting (MC12) and future work for the WTO.

Ngozi expressed cautious optimism about the future of international cooperation, as evident from the successful outcomes of the recent G7, the G20 global health and the U.S.-EU bilateral summits. She reiterated the need to deliver concrete results at MC12 in the areas of trade and health, fishery subsidies and food security as a way to restore credibility in the WTO as an effective institution. Ngozi and WTO ambassadors pressed business leaders to engage their host governments to deliver outcomes, as well as to communicate the importance to global industry of an effective WTO, now and in the future.

Her messages were underscored by ICC Chair and Mastercard Executive Chairman Ajay Banga, who outlined the significance of trade to global economic recovery, and the imperative that nations reinvigorate the WTO as a functional negotiating and adjudicatory body. B20 Chair Emma Marcegaglia concurred, promoting a WTO reform roadmap and other trade objectives business would like adopted this fall by G20 leaders as a catalyst for MC12.

Industry participants expressed hope for progress in areas, such as the role of the WTO in future health emergencies, joint initiatives on e-commerce and services regulations, and trade facilitation for a circular economy, gender inclusivity and micro, small and medium enterprises.

For more, including a summary of the issues raised, click here to link to a WTO report on the Trade Dialogue.

USCIB Welcomes Commitment by G7 to Inclusive Global Recovery

New York, N.Y., June 16, 2021—Following the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, UK, the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the G7’s resolute commitment in this time of crisis to a cooperative and inclusive global recovery built on democratic values, private sector partnership, open trade, investment and sustainability.

We are proud to embrace the G7’s enduring ideals of free open societies and democracies, and its support for inclusive multilateralism in action.

We agree that tackling root causes of human rights abuses and combatting failures of integrity and transparency are essential to any effort to build back better and importantly, to also provide the fullest possible access to healthcare and vaccines worldwide.

We are committed to eliminating forced labor and other human rights abuses from global supply chains, and to advance the uptake of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We applaud renewed attention on eradicating corruption as it erodes public trust in government, wastes resources and presents an obstacle to needed economic and social development and our shared vision of achieving the Paris Agreement and UN 2030 Goals.

We are inspired by USCIB members mobilizing to help meet the ongoing pandemic challenge. Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 is essential to economic recovery; this urgent task will require production, as well as widespread distribution and administration of vaccines. The private sector serves as an important partner in this endeavor and can assist with vaccine-deployment strategies based on efficiency and equity. A sustainable, durable solution will address a host of issues, including: re-distribution of excess vaccine supplies to countries that face shortages; removing regulatory and trade barriers to vaccine production and distribution; efficient supply chain operations; procurement challenges; the potential risks associated with counterfeit and illicit trade in medical goods; and addressing hesitancy and misinformation about vaccines. While more needs to be done, the U.S. and G7 support for COVAX and Act-A are big steps in the right direction. Through Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C), USCIB is advancing actionable workplace strategies for vaccine adoption while highlighting the vital role employers play in educating their employees on the facts about COVID-19 vaccines.

We believe that private sector innovation and its wide deployment, whether in healthcare solutions, digital access or climate change, will be fundamental to attain the ambitious targets and actions set out in the communique. The G7 has emphasized the need for urgent reform and revitalization at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and incentivizing innovation as key priorities in all of these areas. We couldn’t agree more.

We appreciate the G7’s ongoing dialogue and cooperation with business, and thank the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for coordinating this year’s B7 process.

USCIB Raises Concerns About a Vaccines Waiver at WTO

USCIB joined a multi-industry letter to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala regarding the ongoing discussions of a waiver of certain intellectual property (IP) rights for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.

Serving as representative for Business Partners to CONVINCE, an initiative of The USCIB Foundation, Brian Lowry, USCIB senior vice president, wanted to ensure that USCIB was doing its part to help improve vaccine availability.

“Fundamentally, the letter raises concerns about the practical impact of the waiver of IP rights on the real issues of distribution and administration of the vaccines,” Lowry said. “The challenges here are multifaceted and need a holistic approach, rather than one narrowly focused on intellectual property. There are trade-related obstacles that are preventing timely – and equitable – access to these critical products.”

The letter highlights genuine trade barriers such as export restrictions and technical regulations, quarantine obligations on essential transport and logistics services providers, as well as the removal or reduction of tariffs on goods that are considered essential to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter also stated that industry agrees with world leaders that “nobody is safe, until everyone is safe” and is proud of how many companies have mobilized and shifted resources to help meet this challenge.

In addition to USCIB, the letter was signed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, BusinessEurope, the Federation of Korean Industries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Global Innovation Policy Center.

Global Business Welcomes New WTO Director-General Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Photo credit: Martial Trezzini/EPA, via Shutterstock

USCIB members had two occasions in early June to hear from the new World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her priorities for global trade and on opportunities for business to engage with her on this agenda in the months ahead.

During the annual International Organization of Employers (IOE) General Council meeting, newly-elected IOE President Michele Parmelee (and USCIB Vice Chair) introduced Okonjo-Iweala, who gave a keynote address and then participated in a panel moderated by Parmelee. The panel, which also featured International Labor Organization (ILO) Director General Guy Ryder and Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzales Laya, discussed the linkages between trade and employment, as well as what is needed to fully unleash the potential of trade in order to rebuild a global economy still reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

“Trade integration, underpinned by the multilateral rules framework, has brought about higher productivity, greater competition, lower prices and improved living standards,” said Okonjo-Iweala. She made the point that “trade is about people,” and asked IOE to help explain to the public that the WTO is not only about rules but about touching the lives of people in the street. She encouraged IOE to engage with WTO in demonstrating the impact of trade on job creation.

Later in the week, in another major exchange with international business through the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Okonjo-Iweala stressed the importance of engaging more with companies to help the WTO better develop policies for moving goods across borders.

“USCIB, the sole U.S. affiliate of the ICC, will continue to engage through ICC in the development of a process for more frequent, smaller group discussions on industry concerns,” said USCIB Director for Investment, Trade, and China Alice Slayton Clark. “As part of her engagement with industry, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is keen to learn how to better advance micro, small and medium enterprises that struggle to participate in global value chains and are currently handicapped by insufficient trade financing during the pandemic downturn.”

According to Clark, Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged that the WTO is facing a credibility crisis, no longer viewed as an institution “for people.” ​She indicated that to dispel this image, the WTO must return to the goals laid out in its preamble: trade negotiation should increase living standards, create jobs, and support sustainable development, yielding tangible benefits for all.  According to Okonjo-Iweala, this will also help industry overcome the misperception that it neglects civil society concerns.

Finally, Okonjo-Iweala expressed hope that, to reestablish the WTO as a functional body, the twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in December 2021 will yield results in four key areas:

  • Conclude twenty-year-old negotiations to curb fishery subsidies, delivering on goals from the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Agree on a Trade and Health Initiative, to enhance international rules on addressing public health emergencies and supply chain resiliency.
  • Agree to strengthen food security, including a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding programs especially in the face of global pandemics.
  • Agree on how to reform the dispute settlement mechanism so the WTO can resume adjudicatory functions.

She also hopes the ministerial will mark significant advancement in the Joint Initiative on E-commerce, the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, and women empowerment initiatives. ​Further, Okonjo-Iweala looks for nations to relaunch negotiations on an environmental goods agreement and push for measures that enhance sustainability and the circular economy. Okonjo-Iweala would like ​business to ​support and assist ​​in the advancement of these outcomes.

USCIB Board Member Rick Johnston (Citi) Elected Chair of Business at OECD

Charles R. Johnston in 2015

USCIB Board of Directors member and Chair of USCIB’s Trade and Investment Committee Charles (Rick) Johnston has been elected as the new Chair of Business at OECD (BIAC). BIAC’s General Assembly elected Johnston on May 19 and will succeed Phil O’Reilly.

According to a BIAC media release, Johnston will lead high-level engagement opportunities, including BIAC’s participation in the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting and the annual meeting with the OECD Secretary General and Ambassadors. He will also guide BIAC’s overall strategy ensuring that BIAC represents the broad interests of its members.

“It is a time of transformation and rejuvenation,” Johnston said at the General Assembly meeting. “The OECD is about to hand the reins over to Mathias Cormann, its new secretary general. In that position, Mr. Cormann will lead the Organization as it takes on an enhanced role for guiding its Members and others in a sustainable recovery from a devastating global pandemic, and in an era that sees fundamental challenges to the potency of democratic governance and market-based economies. Our service as a trusted and credible adviser to the OECD has never been more important.”

Click here to view BIAC’s media release.