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.

Joint Business Statement on Trusted Government Access to Personal Data

In light of the OECD’s work to develop policy guidance for trusted government access to personal data held by the private sector, USCIB joined with Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to release a joint business statement that addresses the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy’s (CDEP).

“Notably, the joint statement garnered the support of twenty-three business organizations from around the world,” said USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner.

The group of companies commended CDEP on its effort to bolster trust and minimize disruptions to global data flows with a set of high-level principles on government access to personal data held by the private sector.

The letter noted: “the benefits of trade depend on the trusted flow of data between countries. Global data flows have enabled more efficient production, manufacturing and distribution of much needed medical equipment, along with the digital services that are foundational to the continuity of our lives, our communities, societies and governments. Nevertheless, we are seeing trust in international data flows being eroded over concerns that government demands to access data may conflict with universal human rights and freedoms, including privacy rights, or cause concerns and conflicts with domestic laws when such access transcends borders. These increased concerns and reduced trust have led to uncertainty that may discourage individuals’, businesses’, and even governments’ participation in a global economy, and can negatively impact economic growth.”

The business coalition emphasized the urgency of articulating common practices shared by OECD members on trusted government access to personal data held by the private sector and believe that the OECD is in a unique position to spearhead this global effort. The CDEP can reinforce the strong traditions of OECD members in respecting the rule of law, alleviate uncertainty on these issues, and ultimately help to expand trust in trade and digital technologies. An OECD instrument setting out high-level principles and guidance, outlining necessary shared safeguards to ensure a high standard of privacy, would be a critical contribution to set a firm foundation for building trust, similar to the OECD Privacy Guidelines and its Council Recommendations on Artificial Intelligence.

The statement was presented to members of the special governments-only OECD drafting group in time for their May 6 meeting, as well as to the broader membership of the OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy.

This topic will also be the focus of a panel discussion featured in the May 25 USCIB/BIAC/OECD Digital Economy Conference, “A Decade of OECD Internet Principles: Policy-Making in a Data-Driven World.” To register, please click here.

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.

USCIB Hosts Dialogue on Business Role in Sustainable Recovery and Paris Climate Pledges

Jesse Young (USG) and Norine Kennedy (USCIB)

Ahead of the White House Leaders’ Climate Summit, the Major Economies Forum and the Biden Administration’s unveiling of its Paris Agreement pledge and implementation plan, also known as the U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) hosted a virtual Business Dialogue on April 21 on “Synergies with Sustainable Recovery: The Role of Business in Strengthening NDCs,” moderated by USCIB Senior Vice President Norine Kennedy.

Opening the meeting was USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who reflected on the crucial nature of inclusive multilateralism and the thought-leadership contributions USCIB has made in international climate change policy over the past two decades.

Peter Robinson makes remarks at BizMEF event

“An inclusive U.S. NDC will also be an ambitious and resilient one,” said Robinson. “During U.S. Climate Week, we can inspire and learn from one another. COP after COP since 1993, USCIB has worked supportively with U.S. administrations to make real progress for private sector innovation, investment and action in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). We’ll also be working with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Business at OECD (BIAC) to encourage governments around the world to strengthen their NDCs.”

During the meeting, government, and industry speakers from Japan, Denmark, Kenya and India discussed linking recovery and climate action through inclusive, ambitious NDCs, engaging business at national and global levels.

Jesse Young, senior advisor to the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, concluded the meeting with what can be expected during the White House Leaders’ Climate Summit; in addition to a new U.S. NDC, the Administration will release the first-ever international climate finance plan which will include a blueprint for how all U.S. government agencies will be enhancing action on climate change, as well as clear targets on climate finance, keeping in mind the role of business. He also commended BizMEF for continuing to advance constructive recommendations on international climate policy, when Major Economies Forum meetings were discontinued.

About: This virtual Business Dialogue built on BizMEF Dialogues at COPs in Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Bonn, Katowice and Madrid in 2019, followed by a first Virtual Business Dialogue in December last year. The Major Economies Business Forum on Energy Security and Climate Change (BizMEF) is a partnership of major multi-sectoral business organizations from major economies in developed and developing countries, and includes BusinessEurope, CII, CEOE, Business Unity South Africa, CGEM, MEDEF, BDI, Keidanren, and CNI. Since its launch in 2009,  BizMEF has provided responsible business views and practical input to the international climate change discussions at UNFCCC and OECD. USCIB is a founding partner of BizMEF, and helps support the alliance’s activities.

Robinson Delivers Business Perspective on Investment at UNCTAD High-Level Conference

As the leading business speaker at the opening plenary session of the virtual Global Investment Promotion Conference organized by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) December 7-8, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson laid out a clear message on the importance of investment in driving global economic recovery, trade and jobs. 

Robinson shared the virtual dais with UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi, President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, as well as leading business representatives, including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Permanent Observer to the United Nations Andrew Wilson.

Robinson’s remarks on trade focused on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and the critical role of governments’ efforts in promoting FDI; he emphasized the importance of a strong investment climate and rule of law as foreign investors evaluate possible foreign investments. Robinson also endorsed UNCTAD’s efforts to build capacity of developing country governments in investment promotion.  According to Robinson, one key element in any investment agreement is access to effective, independent dispute settlement procedures by a potential investor.

“I was honored to be included in the opening panel for UNCTAD’s important virtual conference on investment promotion,” Robinson said. “We appreciate UNCTAD’s work in the critical area of investment policy. UNCTAD has clearly established itself as the global ‘go-to’ source for investment statistics and catalogue of provisions of regional and bilateral investment agreements.  We also greatly support UNCTAD’s efforts to include business perspectives in their conferences, including in panels and debates.  We at USCIB are convinced that FDI flows in all directions are key to getting the global economy back on track. The economy benefits from both inward and outward FDI flows, fostering trade, creating good jobs at home and abroad, as well as bolstering American competitiveness in today’s and tomorrow’s competitive global economy.”

USCIB member and Microsoft’s Vice President for UN Affairs in NY John Frank was a featured speaker on a December 8 panel “Executive Dialogue of Investment Facilitation and Advocacy.”  The Conference program and full list of speakers is available at Global Investment Promotion Conference – World Investment Forum – UNCTAD

USCIB Banking Committee Welcomes New Chair: Bank of America’s Geoff Brady

Geoff Brady
Photo credit: Bank of America

USCIB is pleased to announce the appointment of USCIB member Geoff Brady of Bank of America as new chair of the USCIB Banking Committee. Brady, who is head of global trade and supply chain finance at Bank of America, succeeds Michael Quinn of JPMorgan Chase.

According to USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl, USCIB’s Banking Committee works to increase efficiency and decrease the cost of international trade transactions by promoting the standardization of international banking procedures—primarily by providing input into the global work of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

“We look forward to Bank of America’s active participation in this important area,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “We are confident in Geoff’s leadership in the ongoing work of the Committee, including ensuring strong U.S. representation in the ICC Banking Commission and ICC’s work to develop global rules and facilitate access to trade finance.”

USCIB Competition Committee Hosts DOJ Antitrust Division Deputy

USCIB’s Competition Committee held its fall meeting on October 28 in a virtual format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following welcome and introductory remarks by Dina Kallay (Ericsson) and Jennifer Patterson (Arnold & Porter), Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee, respectively, the group received an update on the upcoming meetings of the OECD Competition Committee from John Taladay (Baker Botts), Chair of the Business at OECD (“BIAC”) Competition Committee, and on the current work of the ICC Competition Commission from USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment, and Financial Services Eva Hampl.

The meeting featured Alexander Okuliar, deputy assistant attorney general, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as the main speaker. Okuliar recently returned to the DOJ following two decades at both federal antitrust agencies and the private sector, and is responsible for civil merger and conduct investigations and litigation. He delivered remarks to USCIB members that included the DOJ’s recent work regarding competition in digital markets; the recent DOJ Business Review Letter to IEEE; and China, including due process challenges in China’s antimonopoly agencies and the new China Standards 2035 policy. Following his remarks, DAAG Okuliar engaged in an open Q&A session with committee members.

The Committee, under the direction of Kallay also discussed various issues of concern, including on advocacy for international convergence re compliance. Finally, Lisa Kimmel (Crowell & Moring) provided the group an update of the recent report of the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative law, on the Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets.