USCIB Welcomes Korean Business Colleagues for Discussion on ILO, Labor and Trade issues

Chairman of CJ Group Kyung Shik Sohn (left) and Peter Robinson (right) at USCIB’s NYC office.

Kyung Shik Sohn, chairman of CJ Group and of the Korea Enterprises Federation-FEK (and also Honorary Chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry-KCCI), visited USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson on April 12.  Sohn was accompanied by CJ America CEO Hyunsoo (Hans) Shin. USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg and Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog, joined Robinson for USCIB.

FEK is USCIB’s Korean sister member organization in the International Organization of Employers (IOE). Discussion thus included an exchange of information and perspectives on ILO work in such areas as human rights, supply chains, forced labor and discrimination. KCCI, for which Sohn had served as longtime Chairman, is USCIB’s Korean sister national committee in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and also counterpart as National Guaranteeing and Issuing Association for the ATA Carnet export service.

According to Robinson, discussion also included respective perspectives on Korean and U.S. political environments and the recent Korean elections, U.S.-Korea trade relations and the importance to business of engagement with multilateral institutions. Sohn and Shin also provided an overview of the CJ Group and its American operations, a multinational corporation with operations ranging from Food/Food Services to Bio/Life Sciences, to Media/Entertainment, to Retail/Logistics.

USCIB looks forward to ongoing collaboration with KEF, KCCI and CJ Group.

USCIB Congratulates the Newly Elected ILO Director General Gilbert Houngbo

Left to right: USCIB Senior Counsel and ILO Governing Body Member Tom Mackall shakes hands with ILO Director General Elect Gilbert Houngbo of Togo.

The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) warmly congratulates Gilbert Houngbo of Togo for his election as Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Elected by the ILO’s Governing Body, made up of government, worker and employer members, Director General Elect Houngbo will be the eleventh Director General of the ILO and the first from the African continent.

USCIB Senior Counsel and ILO Governing Body Member Tom Mackall was present in Geneva to cast a vote on behalf of U.S. Employers during this important election.

This election comes at a critical time, and many of the workforce challenges that existed before the pandemic have come into sharper focus in the past two years.

Of this election, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson said, “Building forward together will require our best thinking on how to shape labor market regulations to drive growth and innovation, prepare current and future workers for coming industrial revolutions, and ensure inclusive opportunities for all in the future of work. Director General Elect Houngbo’s years of experience in leadership roles in international organizations, including the ILO, make him an exceptionally qualified candidate. USCIB and our Members look forward to the opportunity to work with Mr. Houngbo on these critical challenges.”

USCIB Provides Business Recommendations During ‘Our Common Agenda’ Consultation at UN Headquarters

Peter Robinson at the United Nations HQ in NY

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson was invited as a speaker for the fifth and final Informal Thematic Consultation on the United Nations report Our Common Agenda (OCA) on March 11 under the theme Enhancing International Cooperation. Representing USCIB, Robinson attended the consultation in person at the UN Headquarters in New York. 

In his remarks, Robinson referenced a quote by UN Secretary General António Guterres on how the international community currently is facing a momentous choice: will we “break through or break down?”  

“This question is even more urgent in light of recent disruptive events,” said Robinson. “Can the multilateral system survive these challenges? For business, the answer must be yes. Moreover, the private sector is part of the support structure needed to restore and strengthen the multilateral system and realize Our Common Agenda’s vision of more inclusive international cooperation.”

Robinson then went on to express gratitude to USCIB’s partners in the global business community, “When it comes to international cooperation, our focus here today, USCIB is privileged to be part of global leading business groups dedicated to working with the multilateral system – ICC, IOE and BIAC.” 

Highlighting business recommendations to the UN in taking forward the proposals set out in the OCA, Robinson advocated for the need to regard business and employers’ organizations as essential attributes of democratic and inclusive governance in both national and international settings and the critical need to crowd in and mainstream public-private sector partnerships.  

“Let me close with what might at first sound like a provocative statement: there can no longer be any conflict of interest between the private sector and the UN,” added Robinson. “Time and again, whether in response to the pandemic, or in unprecedented support for the Paris Agreement, or in humanitarian responses to help refugees, the private sector has leaned into international cooperation for our shared interests. Let us pursue the OCA’s opportunities through inclusive practical multilateralism, involving business, for the UN we want and need.” 

The President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Abdulla Shahid has convened five informal thematic consultations on the landmark UN report, Our Common Agenda (OCA), released by Guterres in September 2021. Through a five-part series of consultations, commencing with the first one in February 2022, Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector, have been given the opportunity to discuss the proposals outlined in the OCA and their potential implementation in the Decade of Action.  

To find more information on Our Common Agenda, please visit this website.  

Robinson Offers Ideas for WTO Reform at IOE-BIAC Meeting on Postponed WTO Ministerial

The International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC) co-hosted an event on March 2 to follow up on the postponed World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial. The event, titled “Trade policy to recover and to achieve employment goals and greater resilience: How can an open trading system adapt to the new sustainability expectations?” included representatives of IOE and BIAC member organizations, such as USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who gave remarks on the topic: “What is needed for WTO reform?”

In his remarks, Robinson pointed out that all three of WTO’s core functions are in crises—negotiation among WTO’s 164 members whose interests greatly diverge, monitoring trade rules and transparency among members, and dispute settlement—the WTO’s Appellate Body, paralyzed since the end of 2019 thus making WTO trading rights virtually unenforceable.

“These three fundamental functions must be redesigned, reconfigured, or reimagined to be fit for purpose,” said Robinson. He then cited a proposed bill, introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), the “Trading Systems Preservation Act,” which could help reinvigorate the WTO by pushing for agreements that aren’t required to be observed on a most-favored nation basis. “On the issue of negotiation, we also support advancing a comprehensive WTO reform agenda that tackles special and differential treatment, distortive non-market industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises.”

“USCIB would like to lend its voice in emphasizing the importance of the voice of business, among other legitimate stakeholders, at the WTO,” added Robinson. “While initiatives, such as the WTO Public Forum, are welcome opportunities to engage, all stakeholders in the multilateral, rules-based trading system would benefit from greater ongoing opportunities for dialogue – governments, civil society and the private sector alike.”

Other speakers joining Robinson during the meeting included WTO Deputy Director General Angela Ellard, who spoke about updates on the WTO agenda, Business at OECD Trade Committee Chair Pat Ivory, who discussed business priorities for WTO’s response to the pandemic, and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Permanent Observer before the UN in Geneva Crispin Conroy, who shared perspectives on trade and environmental sustainability. Speakers from Keidanren, BusinessEurope and BEF discussed the importance of multilateral collaboration, digitization and strengthening inclusivity and sustainability in global trade.

This dialogue was a follow-up to last year’s launch of the “Business Coalition for Trade, Employment and Sustainable Enterprise,” led by IOE and including business organizations that share the belief that the multilateral, rules-based trading system has been a crucial driver not just for economic growth, but also for employment creation and sustainable development, which have played a key role in reducing poverty and raising living standard in many economies.

USCIB Meets With Australian Consul General to Discuss Mutual Interests, Future Collaboration

Left to right: Nick Greiner, Peter Robinson

USCIB had the honor of hosting Australian Consul General Nick Greiner and his colleague Mike Ryan on February 16 in the USCIB New York office.

The meeting between the Australian delegation and USCIB, which included USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson and Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy Norine Kennedy, allowed for a candid discussion of mutual interests and potential future collaboration—namely in trade and investment, climate change and digital economy, among others.

It was acknowledged that USCIB and its Australian counterpart, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), are both privileged to serve as the respective national affiliates of the three main global business organizations: International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Business at OECD (BIAC).

ACCI also serves as a Steering Team Partner on The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE initiative, which is a global network of employers of all sizes that seeks to build vaccine confidence and support uptake among employees.

The Australian Consulate is located in the same building as the Australian Mission to the United Nations, and Consul General Greiner generously offered to introduce USCIB to the latter.

USCIB Offers Business Recommendations to UN Partnership Forum  

The 2022 United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Partnership Forum was held on February 2, under the theme Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.This Forum is the first in a series of SDG-related meetings leading up to the UN General Assembly, and the only focused on SDG17, Partnerships. 

USCIB was invited to speak during the Opening Plenary as the U.S. Business representative through its standing in the UN Major Group for Business and Industry, where USCIB Senior Vice President Norine Kennedy is a Co-Chair. Kennedy invited USCIB members, Bayer, to speak on behalf of U.S. Business. Representing Bayer, Dr. Alejandra Castro, Global Head of Partnerships and International Organizations, emphasized the criticality of multilateral partnerships being inclusive, and how the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continues to serve as the sustainability framework for business planning and action to advance sustainability in partnership with the international community and with all stakeholders.

Castro continued speaking on how, for Bayer, when focusing on sustainability within food and agriculture, they “have welcomed openness across the UN system to partnering with business on pandemic response –and recovery – and many members of business and industry have stepped forward. Farmers have been supporting our food system at a time where markets are facing shutdowns, slowdowns, climate change and economic crisis.” In closing out her remarks, Castro underlined the readiness of USCIB and all colleagues in business to work with the international community to get back on track, and to build back better with dedication to inclusive multilateralism that engages every societal partner working side by side with governments, and with one another.  

The Secretary General’s report, Our Common Agenda (OCA), was frequently referenced during the Forum – both by speakers and attendees. The OCA contains ninety recommendations setting out to supercharge action towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and will play a critical role in multilateral partnerships moving forward. 

USCIB, with the International Organization of Empoyers (IOE), co-chairs the Business and Industry Major Group at the UN in New York. IOE organized two events in the Forum:  

USCIB Participates in First-Ever Virtual ILO Labor Conference

The 109th International Labor Organization’s (ILO) International Labor Conference (ILC) concluded in December 2021, and USCIB once again actively participated in negotiations as the U.S. Employer Representative. Of special note, USCIB Senior Counsel Ronnie Goldberg was elected and served as Vice President (Employers) of the conference. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Herzog, and Senior Counsel and ILO Governing Body Member Tom Mackall also participated on behalf of business.

According to Herzog, the ILC is the leading global forum for discussion of key social and labor questions. Each year, Employer, Worker and Government delegates gather at the ILC to negotiate and to adopt international labor standards. Held virtually for the first time in the ILO’s 100+ year history, the 2021 ILC was conducted over two online sessions – one in May/June, and one in November/December. Due to the pandemic, the ILC was not held in 2021.

Among the outcomes across the two 2021 sessions, the ILO’s tripartite constituents adopted a Global Call for Action for a Human-Centered Recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, an emergency resolution on the situation in Myanmar, a resolution concerning the second recurrent discussion on social protection (social security), and two sets of conclusions and reports on Skills and lifelong learning  and Inequalities and the world of work. This is in addition to regular proceedings, such as the Committee on Application of Standards and adopting the ILO’s program and budget.

“USCIB was gratified that the ILO was able to pivot and continue the important tradition of hosting the ILC, albeit virtually,” said Herzog, “and we look forward to the end of the pandemic and the safe return to in-person tripartite social dialogue at the ILC for the ILO and its 187 Member States.”

USCIB Joins IOE in Mourning the Passing of IOE Honorary President François Perigot

François Perigot

USCIB is joining the International Organization of Employers (IOE) in mourning the passing of François Perigot, who served as IOE President from 2001-2006, after which he was given the role of Honorary President.

Perigot was widely known throughout the employer community as an individual with strong and deep human values, and a forceful believer and advocate for employer organizations. He made significant contributions, during his tenure at IOE, to promoting and protecting employer interests worldwide. He particularly stood out for his unwavering commitment to champion the international business community.

“He was a man of great stature, and IOE and its members were fortunate to have him as their President,” commented Ronnie Goldberg, USCIB senior counsel and former IOE vice president.

As a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, he participated in the elaboration of the report “A fair globalisation: Creating opportunities for All,” presented to the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2004.

Perigot was also widely respected businessman and served as president of CNPF (the French employer organization, now known as MEDEF) from 1986 – 1994, and President of MEDEF International from 1997 – 2005.

USCIB Statement on the Summit for Democracy

Washington D.C., December 13, 2021—The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the recent Summit for Democracy and reaffirms our long-standing support for the critical importance of democracy and rule of law as foundational pillars of well-functioning and inclusive societies.

We agree, as the Biden Administration rightly stated, “that both history and overwhelming data show that societies that respect and defend democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and gender equality are more stable, prosperous, secure and better equipped to confront global challenges.”

“Businesses are key actors in democratic societies, contributing to civic and economic empowerment of people and public institutions, while advancing growth and equality,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Importantly, business and employer membership organizations are themselves democratic institutions and a core part of the fabric of democratic societies.”

USCIB advocates for good governance, rule of law, anti-corruption and anti-bribery frameworks and other measures of responsible governance, as being among the required elements of the enabling environments for trade and investment that bring growth and opportunity. Indeed, UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” makes clear the key role that governance and the rule of law play in promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies and in ensuring sustainable development.

As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of CommerceBusiness at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers, USCIB joins with global business and employer peers in advocating these policies in international policy fora, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the United Nations. As an example, we note in particular USCIB’s engagement through BIAC to support the recent successful launch of the OECD Public Integrity Indicators Portal and the 2021 Recommendation for Further Combatting Bribery of Foreign Officials.

Finally, USCIB and its members reiterate their firm belief that alongside national rule of law and good governance, based on democratic principles, multilateral cooperation is the single most powerful vehicle to achieve an inclusive and sustainable path to dealing with the enormity of the challenges facing society today. Business is a necessary voice in that effort, and USCIB will continue our work to engage meaningfully and constructively as a leading actor at home and within the multilateral organizational system to advance democratic principles and rule of law.

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.

Herzog Joins Sweden Foreign Minister Linde in Discussing Women’s Economic Empowerment

Gabriella Rigg Herzog

USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog joined a panel discussion organized jointly by the government of Sweden and the International Labor Organization (ILO) titled, “Women’s Empowerment and Worker Rights in a Post-Pandemic World” on November 12.

Moderated by The American Prospect Editor-at-Large Harold Meyerson, the event included other speakers such as Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Karin Olofsdotter, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, AFL-CIO International Department Director Catherine Feingold and U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Undersecretary for the Bureau for International Labor Affairs Thea Lee.

In her remarks, Herzog joined with other panelists in raising concerns over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women, and the risk of backsliding on the gains made to date for women’s economic empowerment in the workplace. The conversation also turned to the issue of global supply chains and their possible role in advancing good practices regarding women’s rights and worker rights. In responding, Herzog noted many positive company efforts, and underscored the irreplaceable need at national levels for good governance, rule of law and effective enforcement of laws that meet international standards.

On the latter point, Herzog shared examples of discriminatory legislation in far too many jurisdictions holding women back. “Removing legal restrictions that hinder women from participating in the formal labor market and having formal self-employment opportunities such as proper access to finance for female entrepreneurs is key to addressing inequalities,” Herzog emphasized, noting the importance of joint efforts by governments, employers and workers to tackle shared challenges and priorities.

In terms of concrete policy recommendations, Herzog noted those put forward on October 7, 2021 in the “B20 – Special Initiative on Women Empowerment” policy paper, such as eliminating legal and cultural barriers to paid work and actively upskilling female workers.

Additionally, Herzog highlighted the key role employer organizations play as democratic institutions supporting small and medium sized businesses – especially at national levels –with training, tools and peer-exchanges on how to promote and advocate for gender equality and diversity at the workplace.