Lowry Discusses Role of WTO in Digital Revolution of Agriculture at WTO Public Forum Event

USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry gave remarks at a World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum side-event on “Digital Services and Green Transition: A Promising Alliance that Needs an Incentive Multilateral Regulatory Framework.” The September 29th event, held in Geneva, was organized in partnership by USCIB, ICC France and Afed (the Association of French Large companies).

Lowry was joined by other prestigious speakers including the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the WTO and Chairperson for the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the WTO and Co-Chair of the Joint Initiative Statement (JIS) on e-commerce negotiating committee Ambassador Tan Hung Seng, the Deputy Director General of the WTO Jean-Marie Paugam and ICC’s Representative Director in Geneva Crispin Conroy.

Lowry discussed how digital tools can help mitigate risk and make farming more rewarding for all farmers—whether smallholders in developing countries or large-scale farms in the United States or Brazil.

“Digital farming can turn field, weather and agronomic data into insights that help address climate change and sustainable productivity,” said Lowry.

“However, this digital revolution does nothing if farmers do not have access to it. Whether it is the smallholder farmer in Africa or a large landowner in Argentina, the WTO can help by supporting market access for the technology and addressing data protection, the cross-boundary data interchange for both access and analysis, and the need for standards and disciplines for a carbon mechanism that promotes consistency and integrity,” added Lowry.

ICC Offers New Tool for SME’s to Measure Impacts of Business Operations on the Environment

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has done a soft launch of a new business tool on September 22, specifically tailored to Small-and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) called SME360X.

SME360X is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform co-created by ICC and GIST that measures the impacts of business operations on the environment. There are many external risks that threaten the survival of businesses everywhere. A company’s factory location that was relatively risk-free when it was set up decades ago could now be facing extreme risks from stressed water resources and severe shifts in weather patterns. A ban on single use plastics could threaten the survival of a company. Community protests could lead to the shutdown of an industrial operation. SME360X will help its users identify the environmental risks that are most material to their business.

SME360X enables users to:

  • Measure, economically value and manage business impacts on nature and the environment.
  • Compare environmental performance with regional and sectoral peers and competitors.
  • Receive a single, understandable environmental impact score (PIE Score).
  • Decide which improvement and abatement initiatives are most impactful.
  • Easily and affordably report on sustainability performance.
  • Obtain a Global Sustainability Certification from ICC.
  • Data belongs to you: highest level of security ensured using blockchain storage.

For more information on the tool and to obtain the tool, visit the ICC’s website.

USCIB Meets With Ngozi to Enhance Synergies Between WTO and US Industry

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO and USCIB Trustee Suzanne Clark hosted a meeting of top U.S. trade association leaders on September 22 with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in advance of the WTO ministerial meeting (MC12) in December. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson attended for USCIB, accompanied by Alice Slayton Clark, director of Investment, Trade and China. The intimate gathering provided an opportunity to enhance synergies and understanding between the WTO and U.S. industry, a goal for the new director general.

Dr. Ngozi repeated her continued concerns about the viability of the WTO, and the need to produce concrete results at the MC12 on fishery subsidies, food security, trade and health/access to vaccines, as well as the joint statement initiatives on e-commerce and services domestic regulations. Robinson noted the multifaceted challenges facing vaccine access, and urged reduction of trade and regulatory barriers to distribution and administration as the most important approach. He emphasized a letter USCIB sent to Dr. Ngozi this summer on this issue, co-signed by the Chamber and BusinessEurope, among others.

In addition, Robinson stressed USCIB interest in revitalizing and expanding negotiations on an environmental goods agreement that were sidelined in 2016 largely over concerns about the definition of products to be included. Other USCIB priorities were also raised during the meeting, including: concerns about industrial subsidies, dispute settlement procedures, and special and differential treatment; and support for the science of agricultural biotechnology and extension of the e-commerce moratorium. There was a good deal of consensus on many of these key issues among the participants.

Robinson also expressed support for the initiatives to work with the WTO in improving the global trading system that are underway in the three global business organizations with which USCIB is affiliated, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC).

USCIB’s member companies rely on the WTO as the multilateral forum for resolving trade disputes and expanding market access for selling goods and services overseas. It urges the Biden Administration to take a leadership role at the MC12 in reforming and updating the WTO so it can remain a viable source for trade adjudication and liberalization in the decades to come.

USCIB President Peter Robinson Issues Statement Upon Death of Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka
Image Source: Alex Brandon/AP Photo

New York, N.Y., August 05, 2021—USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson has issued the following statement upon the death of Richard Trumka:

“On behalf of USCIB and its member companies, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and colleagues of Richard Trumka. His dedication to the labor movement and the interests of American workers and their families has long earned him the respect and admiration of the business community.

“That dedication also extended to working people around the world. As the American member of Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), USCIB has been proud to work with Rich and the AFL-CIO in both the OECD and ILO, where we shared the common objective of ensuring that labor rights are respected internationally. Rich was a true global leader with whom we were privileged to work in partnership.”

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. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

USCIB Member Appointed to Leadership Role in ICC Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation

John Bescec, Microsoft

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation has announced that Microsoft’s John Bescec has been appointed as new chair of the commission. Bescec is currently a vice chair of the USCIB Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee (CTFC) and a director of Customs and Trade Affairs at Microsoft.

“We are delighted to advise that ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton has appointed new officers of the ICC Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation,” said ICC Global Policy Director Andrew Wilson. “Together with the ICC HQ team, the officers will form a new Steering Group for the Commission to guide our work to tackle customs frictions globally — including our engagement with the World Customs Organization.”

Bescec, who is based in Canada and represents Microsoft at both USCIB and ICC – Canada, was jointly nominated for the position by USCIB and ICC-Canada. He will be stepping down as vice chair of the USCIB Committee to focus his efforts on the ICC Commission.

USCIB thanks Bescec for his leadership commitments and looks forward to actively working with him and the newly appointed ICC Commission Vice Chairs, who include Irina Kitiashvili, chief operating officer, IDS Borjomi Beverages (Georgia), Mahmut Kobal, group head of customs and international trade, Beiersdorf (Germany), Karen Poujade, group customs director, Alstom (France), Anil Rajput, senior vice president of corporate affairs, ITC Ltd (India), Alejandro Terzián, head of the Center of Excellence for International Trade and Customs Compliance, Bayer LATAM (Argentina).

“Working with the new leadership group, we will take the opportunity to assess specific areas of engagement in the coming weeks — including the status and mandates of existing working groups within the Commission’s remit,” added Wilson.

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.

Accepting USCIB Amicus Position, Appeals Court Rejects FTC Approach to Antitrust Liability for Trademark Settlements

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has vacated the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) decision that 1-800 Contacts engaged in illegal agreements with rival online contact lens sellers on June 11, 2021.

In 2018, the Commission imposed antitrust liability against 1-800 Contacts years after it settled at least fourteen trademark infringing lawsuits against competing online retailers. The Commission alleged the settlements restricted trade by preventing all parties from bidding on each other’s trademarked search terms. USCIB filed an amicus brief in support of 1-800 Contacts during the appeal, arguing, among other things, that the Commission’s decision ignored the critical importance to business of intellectual property rights and that enforcing the FTC’s ruling would unfairly apply the lawful exercise of such rights to a higher pro-competition standard.

According to Bryan D. Gant of USCIB member firm White & Case, the Second Circuit’s opinion rejected both the idea that settling trademark disputes is “inherently suspect,” and that this standard could be applied to future cases. The court also overruled the Commission’s attempt to treat mere anecdotal price differences as direct evidence of anticompetitive conduct and directed that any “less restrictive alternatives” the Commission proposes be realistic. Bryant cautions, however, that in a footnote to the opinion, the Second Circuit leaves open the possibility that negative keyword advertising—paying to have a competitor’s name not appear in the search—might raise antitrust concerns, but the Court refused to consider it in this case as the issue was not squarely addressed by the FTC.

“USCIB is pleased that the Second Circuit decision largely accepted its amicus brief, rejecting the FTC’s approach to antitrust liability for trademark settlements, avoiding the potential negative impacts the decision would have had on businesses, consumers and competition,” asserted USCIB General Counsel Nancy Thevenin. The case is now remanded back to the Commission with instructions to dismiss.

USCIB is grateful to Eileen M. Cole, Bryan D. Gant and Seiji Niwa of member firm White & Case and USCIB Competition Committee leadership for their excellent work on the amicus brief.

The Second Circuit opinion is available here.

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.

Educate to Vaccinate Event Promotes COVID-19 Global Workplace Challenge

Anuradha Gupta of Gavi

Update: a recording of the event is now available! (Passcode: %@vyo7?f)

Following the launch of The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) initiative and the initiative’s COVID-19 Global Workplace Challenge, the group held its first major event “Educate to Vaccinate: The Role of Employers” on April 29. The event brought together global public health and business experts, small and medium companies from around the globe, international employer organizations, and other stakeholders, to discuss actionable workplace strategies for vaccine adoption and the vital role employers can play in educating their employees on the facts about COVID-19 vaccines and motivating – not mandating – the workforce to get vaccinated.

“What better example of the transformative power of science, policy, business and society working together than the response to the pandemic,” said USCIB Executive Vice President Abby Shapiro, who leads BP2C. “Working with three of the world’s largest business networks including the ICC, IOE and Business at OECD to mobilize their business networks, BP2C will reach millions of workers with information and tools to combat misinformation and inspire confidence in vaccination. Keeping employees safe is not only the right thing to do, but also the way forward to a healthy, vaccine-literate workforce.”

Notable speakers at the “Educate to Vaccinate” event included GAVI Deputy Chief Executive Anuradha Gupta, Meredith Flynn-Ripley (Salesforce), Dr. Vicki Weldon (ExxonMobil), Julia Spencer (MSD), as well as public health experts: Larry Gostin (Georgetown University), Heidi Larson (The Vaccine Confidence Project and the CONVINCE initiative), Dr. Scott Ratzan (CUNY School of Public Health and BP2C), and Nancy Lee (Global Health and CONVINCE). Senior international business network representatives included Ali Karami-Ruiz from Business at OECD, Roberto Suárez Santos of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Andrew Wilson from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

Participants also heard from companies and organizations across the globe that have already signed up to take the Workplace Challenge including Randstad North America, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the American Staffing Association, and dozens of other companies and organizations around the globe.

“We encourage everyone to take the Workplace Challenge and, by doing so, showcase their commitment to educating their employees,” added Shapiro.

What are you waiting for? Sign up now for The Workplace Challenge!

Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) is the private sector arm of the global, multisector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement) initiative that advances vaccine literacy and promotes vaccine acceptance.

USCIB Welcomes President Biden’s Ambitious US Climate Action Pledges

The U.S. business group calls for society-wide dialogue to shape next steps

New York, N.Y., April 22, 2021—Transboundary challenges such as climate change are most effectively solved with the fullest possible international cooperation, so we applaud the Administration’s initiative to convene the Leaders Climate Summit and Major Economies Forum this week in Washington.

USCIB looks forward to working with the Administration to design policy and market approaches that mobilize private sector investment, innovation and implementation to advance climate action. USCIB represents leading U.S. and international businesses that have supported proactive engagement in the UN climate treaty and Paris Agreement since 1993.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement are not simply environmental treaties; they are influential frameworks for economic growth, energy access and security, job creation, food security, and innovation. In that context, we encourage the Administration to actively and substantively engage with the U.S. business community to set priorities and pursue climate policies that advance economic, energy and environmental benefits both at home and abroad.

Clearly, an all of government approach to tackle climate change will be indispensable, and building a trusted and recognized working relationship with business will be key.

We therefore encourage the Administration to undertake a society-wide dialogue with U.S. stakeholders, including the business community as represented by USCIB, which is unique in being based in our nation’s political and financial centers and in serving as the American affiliate of leading global business organizations:  The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). Such an inclusive and consultative approach will empower and strengthen the development of the U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and will be essential to deliver real progress on climate change and towards a sustainable recovery.

USCIB and its members stand ready to assist the Administration in realizing its ambitious vision for climate action and economic benefit throughout the international community. We will continue to leverage our role as entry-point for American business to global business organizations and networks and to the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) to encourage governments to meet their NDC commitments. We will also continue to advance the alignment of trade, investment and innovation with climate change benefits vis a vis adaptation and mitigation.

USCIB looks forward to partnering with the Administration and the international community to realize our shared vision of inclusive recovery, prosperity and sustainability.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. USCIB has represented U.S. business at the UNFCCC since 1993. Furthermore, as the U.S. affiliate of leading international business organizations and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.