USCIB Attends UN Biodiversity Deliberations as Accredited Organization

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) has just concluded a scientific and technical round of deliberations, held from November 25 – 29. USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy attended the meetings in Montreal, representing USCIB as an accredited business organization, and as the only U.S. private sector group on hand for the session.

The UN CBD is currently developing a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to be finalized in October 2020 at its 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), which will be hosted by China. According to Kennedy, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be a comprehensive agreement that will include new targets relating to the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Montreal CBD meeting reviewed a wide range of topics including scientific assessments of biodiversity and ecosystems, Digital Sequencing Information (DSI), links between climate change and biodiversity, as well as emerging issues.

USCIB is re-engaging in the UN CBD process following discussions in USCIB’s newly launched Biodiversity Working Group, working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Working Group and the Global Industry Coalition (GIC).

Following the meeting in Montreal, Kennedy stated that, “Since the U.S. has never signed the UN CBD or its Protocols on Bio-safety and on Access and Benefit Sharing, USCIB is currently assessing potential impacts and opportunities for its members while tracking the process leading up to COP15.”

Focus on Sustainability, New Technologies at 2019 World Trade Symposium

USCIB once again sponsored the World Trade Symposium this year November 6-7 in New York. The Symposium, hosted by Finastra and programmed by The Economist Events, brought together researchers, government officials and private sector leaders to discuss “Trade in an Uncertain World.” According to USCIB Assistant Policy and Program Manager Daniella Goncalves, several themes emerged throughout the Symposium, including the impact of new technologies on trade and investment, the need for greater interoperability of new technologies, the importance of sustainability to trade and investment and the continued importance of free trade.

Political uncertainty took center stage during the event’s discussions. The rise of populism and protectionist policies, as well as perceived lack of efficiency and productivity in multilateral fora, were identified as threats to be addressed. Many participants expressed the need to reform multilateral institutions and reaffirmed their support for trade liberalization. The need for U.S. leadership in such reform and trade liberalization activities was highlighted as a priority. Participants were in agreement that the restoration of predictability, reciprocity and fairness is required to bolster global trade and investment.

Digitization has the ability to drive down costs and speed of getting goods to market, but standardization of data protection and date flow regulation are priorities. The importance of regulating data flows and the need for standardized data protection laws, new technologies and the issue of illicit trade were highlighted by several panelists, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) Deputy Director-General Ambassador Alan Wm. Wolff, Research Professor of International Affairs & Director of Digital Trade & Data Governance hub Susan Ariel Aaronson and President of the Mediterranean Shipping Company Fabio Santucci.

The use of blockchain was characterized as a means to more efficiently engage in trade and investment, as well as increase sustainability through decreased paper usage. However, interoperability of blockchains and standardization of regulatory frameworks remain hurdles to wide-spread deployment of this technology.

It was noted that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is working with an Asia-based partner to develop a blockchain technology to enable traceability and tracking of goods. The goal ultimately is to promote interoperability among various blockchain networks and technology platforms.

Recognizing the rise of consumer interest in sustainability, the issue of sustainable trade and investment was discussed. According to the panelists, millennial consumers are driving interest in and profitability of sustainable goods and services. Trade has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty; to continue to see the benefits of trade, growth needs to be inclusive. USCIB is actively advocating on these important issues in various multilateral fora, including at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

OECD Works to Build Trust in Business

The OECD held its inaugural Trust in Business Forum in Paris October 1-2. The overarching initiative seeks to promote coordinated action to strengthen trust in the business ecosystem through capacity building solutions, research and knowledge creation, setting standards and guidelines and inspiring policy reform, and promoting partnerships.

Panelists and attendees, including USCIB’s Assistant Policy and Program Manager for CR and Labor Daniella Goncalves, discussed many facets of the trust gap, including why such a gap exists, what can be done to restore trust, the role of measuring and reporting on indicators that drive trust, governing professional services, and the importance of leadership in generating trust. Three concurrent break-out sessions covered the projects that are being piloted.

“The projects focus on moving beyond compliance by embedding a culture of trust within an organization, shaping compliance, best practices for State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and creating a due diligence guide for the energy sector,” reported Goncalves. “Organizers of this new initiative will be releasing a work-plan for the upcoming year soon.”

Following the Forum, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) held its first ever joint meetings of the Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption and the Commission on Energy and Environment October 3-4. Representatives from National Committees and enterprises assembled to learn about the ICC’s restructuring before having separate Commission meetings.

ICC has recently released a new work-plan that involves five-knowledge hubs, each with its own set of projects for which members of national committees can volunteer. ICC, in its discussion regarding the Revised Draft Treaty on Business and Human Rights, stated its intention to continue to align and work with both USCIB and the International Organization of Employers (IOE).

USCIB Participates in WTO Public Forum in Geneva

With the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum taking place this week in Switzerland, USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan and Senior Director for Trade, Investment, and Financial Services Eva Hampl, along with several USCIB members, are on the ground in Geneva to engage in various side meetings with WTO officials and staff.

According to Mulligan, the main issues of concern are WTO reform, including the Appellate Body, as well as the E-Commerce negotiations, with a particular focus on the Moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmission which is about to run out the end of the year.

On October 9, USCIB co–hosted a breakfast with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), several ICC National Committees, including from the UK, Germany, and Switzerland, and the Digital Trade Network. The governments of Benin, Canada and Switzerland also supported the event. Several ambassadors exchanged views with business in the room about various aspects of current WTO activities. The event concluded with remarks by WTO Secretary General Roberto Azevedo, speaking about the importance of international trade and finding solutions.

US Business Priorities for UNGA High-Level Opening Week

Photo credit: United Nations

USCIB issued the following statement on September 18 for the 75th United Nations General Assembly High-Level opening week. The statement reflects U.S. business priorities.

On the occasion of the High Level Opening Week of the UN General Assembly on the urgent and intertwined topics of climate change and sustainable development, USCIB joins with many others in highlighting the critical importance of inclusive multilateralism as a means to increase pace and impact to meet climate, financing for development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitments and objectives, involving all societal partners, including the private sector. In each of these three areas, economic policies that drive growth and job creation will be critical to generate the necessary resources and enable business to make its strongest contributions to implementation.

UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

USCIB members have placed the SDGs and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda at the center of their sustainable development policies and actions.  As needed progress towards delivering the SDGs is lagging, we encourage governments to do likewise. We urge the United Nations to call for greater global action to achieve Agenda 2030, using the occasion of its 75th anniversary in 2020 to galvanize the international community and actively include business and other non-state actors.

Business for 2030 homepage logoScientific assessment, policy dialogue and assessment all need to integrate business expertise and views on a more systematic basis at international, national and local levels. The private sector brings important experience and knowledge to deliver the 2030 Agenda; it is in the DNA of business to turn challenges into opportunities and to innovate and develop practical and realistic solutions for the problems we face together.  Recent examples of this business commitment and action will be highlighted at the September 25 SDG Business Forum, organized by ICC with the UN GC, the International Organization of Employers and the UN, and can be found on USCIB’s Businessfor2030 web platform.

In addition, a renewed emphasis on public-private sector partnerships is required to crowd-in private sector solutions.   In our view, business is needed more than ever as a source of solutions, real world experience, innovative technology, financial resources and partnerships in the multilateral system.  The UNGA SDG Summit is an opportunity to move toward mainstreaming collaborative approaches among the UN, governments, civil society, and business throughout the implementation of the Agenda 2030.

Climate Change

On the occasion of the UN Climate Action Summit, USCIB recognizes that we must take urgent action to tackle climate change on all fronts.  According to the IPCC, reducing future climate-related risks will depend on the upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching climate mitigation and both incremental and transformation adaptation.  In this regard, business investment, innovation and action, working in partnership with governments, society and other stakeholders, will be vital.

We continue in our active support of the 2015 Paris Accord and the world business position presented at COP21.  We continue to call for the commitment of all governments to this global effort, so that business and government can work together to enact economically sound policies that:

  • Promote development, deployment and use of cleaner and more efficient technologies and energy sources
  • Enhance sustainable energy access and security in all countries
  • Utilize markets and market-based approaches to animate least-cost GHG reductions, working through multilateral trade
  • Drive investment in innovation for mitigation and adaption

We share the concern that there is a shortfall in hoped-for progress toward the Paris goals, and encourage renewed efforts to get back on track.  We welcome ambitious aspirations on the part of organizations and companies and look forward to bringing the best of business forward in addressing this critical global challenge, working closely with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change en route to the 25th Conference of the Parties in Santiago, Chile.

Financing for Development

A major challenge faced in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is lack of financial resources, from both public and private sources.  Domestic resource mobilization is one of the core pillars identified in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to help close this gap, and the private sector is indispensable in this regard.  However, even with robust plans to incorporate financing for development, governments still need to do more to enhance enabling frameworks for investment and strengthen rule of law and institutions needed for inclusive economic prosperity.

At the UN High Level Meeting on Financing for Development, we encourage governments to redouble their efforts to protect human rights, tackle corruption wherever it is encountered in public or private sectors and pursue democratic and transparent processes whether via international cooperation or at home.

Robinson Speaks at ILO Conference, ICC-UK

USCIB’s Peter Robinson (far left) speaks at the annual meeting of ICC United Kingdom, chaired by ICC-UK Chairman Sir Michael Rake (center).

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson took part in high-level panel discussions at the recent International Labor Conference, the ILO’s annual high-level gathering, as well as the annual general meeting of ICC-UK, the International Chamber of Commerce‘s chapter in the United Kingdom. At both events, he discussed new challenges of multilateralism in an era when some observers have called the multilateral model’s viability into question.

At the ILO, Robinson took part in a discussion of multilateral institutions and the future of work, alongside ILO Director General Guy Ryder, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo, OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos and Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, among others. He said that, from the perspective of employers, it is clear that businesses do well in stable and prosperous societies where inequality is not as rampant.

“The real question is whether governments, who are the ones to tackle inequality, are able to create the right kind of legal and regulatory frameworks to do so,” Robinson observed. “Global institutions need to continue to help governments by providing appropriate research and statistics and policy prescriptions – the OECD and ILO play important roles in those areas.”

The USCIB president called for an “inclusive multilateralism,” where all stakeholders are present and a climate of trust prevails. “Business wants to be part of the solution,” he said. “But we need to feel like we are listened to, and that we have a seat at the table. Just as we need more inclusive forms of economic growth, so we also need a more inclusive model of multilateralism, one that draws on the best ideas from broadly representative groups in civil society, including business and employers’ organizations.”

At the ICC-UK meeting, Robinson joined a panel on the future of the WTO and the multilateral trading system. He recalled recent USCIB papers on WTO modernization as well as the ongoing e-commerce negotiationsUSCIB’s vision for the WTO, he said, “focuses not only on strengthening existing agreements, but also on addressing subsidies and other market-distorting support provided to state-owned enterprises, the establishment of new rules for current issues such as digital trade and customs processes on electronic transmissions, and ensuring a properly functioning appellate body, among other issues. The U.S. has been a major beneficiary of the WTO’s dispute settlement system, bringing and winning more cases than any other WTO member.”

Robinson was also a guest at ICC-UK’s board meeting (as was Crispin Conroy, ICC’s new Geneva representative), where he provided an overview of USCIB/ICC-USA priorities.

Modest Progress at G20 Osaka Summit Welcomed

USCIB responded with cautious optimism to the modest progress made at this year’s Group of 20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, and at the meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the two leaders agreed to continue working toward a resolution of their bilateral trade disputes.

“We are relieved that the U.S. and China have stepped back from a broader escalation of their tit-for-tat tariffs,” said USCIB Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan. “We encourage both parties to move swiftly toward resolution of their disputes. The existing tariffs have already had a negative impact on American exports, and could threaten U.S. jobs as well as our broader competitiveness.”

Mulligan also welcomed the G20 leaders’ endorsement of recent OECD blueprints for cooperation on global tax measures as well as on a “human-centric” approach to the deployment of artificial intelligence – both areas where USCIB members have provided active input to international policy deliberations.

In their communiqué, the G20 leaders warned of growing risks to the global economy but stopped short of denouncing protectionism, mainly due to push-back from the United States. “We strive to realize a free, fair, nondiscriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” they stated.

While leaders made only passing mention of efforts to modernize the World Trade Organization, several voiced renewed support for the recently launched plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce taking place under the WTO’s aegis.

President Trump and leaders from China, Japan and the European Union joined the WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo in welcoming the Osaka Declaration on the Digital Economy, which commits the signatories to promote efforts on international rule-making in this area and urges further progress on e-commerce at the WTO.

“A fragmentation of the digital economy would hurt us all,” said Azevêdo. “It would mean higher costs and higher barriers to entry, affecting developing countries and smaller businesses the most. The 20th century showed that a fractured global trade order was not sustainable – that’s why we created the WTO. The same is true today. You may well be working on a constitution for the economy of the 21st century.

World Chambers Congress Tackles Key Development Issues

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) concluded its 11th World Chambers Congress on June 14, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This year’s Congress included three days of engagement among over 1,000 delegates on key issues affecting chambers and their respective business communities.

The Congress focused on four main initiatives, including a sustainable future for all, skills for the future, financial inclusion and the World Chambers Competition. “This year’s event was a huge step forward in engaging the chambers network more actively and cohesively in ICC’s global work – with great buy-in for our five campaigns and a growing interest in how ICC can help chambers redefine their value proposition in a market that is undergoing significant disruption,” reflected ICC Secretary General John Denton.

Denton also highlighted a new initiative as part of ICC’s campaign to “Make Climate Action Everyone’s Business.” The “Chambers Climate Coalition” provides a platform for chambers to visibly demonstrate their commitment to take action aligned with the Paris Agreement and the latest climate science. It also provides an opportunity to showcase the important role Chambers can play in driving the transition to a cleaner and more resilient planet. More than 450 chambers from six continents have already signed-up for the Coalition – with signatories from countries including China, India, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States.

“We are already rallying other chambers to sign on and will be providing toolkits to signatories to ensure effective local climate engagement in the coming months,” said Denton. The Coalition has received strong support from the United Nations Secretary General’s team and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

USCIB Senior Vice President and CFO Declan Daly attended the meetings on behalf of USCIB.

The next Congress will be held in Dubai in 2021.

USCIB Sponsors Seminar on Mitigating Business Risk With Arbitration

USCIB/ICC USA sponsored a seminar in Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 14 on international arbitration and how that state’s businesses can use arbitration to mitigate the risks of doing business overseas. Some thirty New Mexico business executives, lawyers and law students attended the presentation, which was opened by Roberta Cooper Ramo, former president of both the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute.

Marek Krasula, counsel for the ICC International Court of Arbitration in New York and David Wilson, partner at Sherman & Howard in Denver, provided an overview of ICC arbitration and how to best draft contracts to provide for it. Matthew Draper, a partner at Draper & Draper in New York and Santa Fe, moderated a panel discussion addressing issues of particular relevance to local companies, such as using arbitration to protect IP rights, recovery of attorneys’ fees by prevailing parties, and keeping the costs of arbitration to a minimum.

“The ICC’s new Expedited Procedures, which apply when less than two million dollars is at stake, reduce significantly the time and cost of dispute resolution, and may be a good fit for New Mexico companies,” said Draper.

Vice Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law Camille Carey noted in her closing remarks that she hoped the law school would expand opportunities for students to learn about international arbitration.

Business for 2030 Platform Honored by International Chamber of Commerce

The Business for 2030 initiative, launched by USCIB in 2015 as a platform to showcase private-sector efforts aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, was honored by our partners at the International Chamber of Commerce in May.

At a meeting of ICC National Committees in Paris, Business for 2030 took third place in the Americas region in the “NC Initiative of the Year” competition for 2018-2019. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson accepted on behalf of USCIB and its Business for 2030 team.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our team and of the many, many companies and organizations that have contributed to this essential platform over the past four years,” Robinson said.

Business for 2030 showcases past and ongoing contributions by companies and business organizations to sustainable development, through the lens of the SDGs. It currently features projects in over 150 countries, which can be viewed by specific SDGs, by company and by country.

The site aims to stimulate a more productive partnership between the public and private sectors – at the UN and at national levels – and to demonstrate the need for a proportionate role for business in the negotiations, implementation and follow-up mechanisms of the 2030 Development Agenda at both the UN and at national levels.

Rounding out the winners from the Americas region were ICC Brazil, which won 1st place (and the top worldwide prize overall) for its ITTI Cognitive Trade Advisor program, and ICC Guatemala in 2nd place for its GuateIntegra anti-corruption initiative.