OECD Report Weighs In On WTO Moratorium Debate

The much-anticipated Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on the World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions was de-classified on November 4.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan, the report, “Electronic transmissions and international trade – Shedding new light on the moratorium debate,” concludes that revenue implications of lifting the Moratorium are likely to be relatively small and would come at the expense of more significant gains in consumer welfare (estimated at 940 million USD) and export competitiveness.

The Moratorium, which has been in place since 1998 and has been continuously extended every couple of years since then, is once again due to expire at the end of 2019. Keeping the Moratorium is crucial for business, and USCIB has been actively engaged in pushing back against the opponents of extending the Moratorium with the ultimate goal of making it permanent.

The OECD report also notes that the highest estimated share of opportunity cost in terms of foregone revenue is in digitizable goods, which is low, at 1.2% of total trade. This will likely remain low even with the advent of technologies such as 3D printing, which are unlikely to have far-reaching implications on trade in the near term.

The report noted that tariffs also come with costs. Tariffs are associated with lower output and lower productivity and their burden falls mainly on domestic consumers, not foreign firms. Tariffs are also an unstable source of revenue. Alternatives exist in the form of non-discriminatory value added taxes or goods and services taxes.

The WTO General Council meeting, set for December 9-11, will provide a final opportunity to extend the Moratorium.

USCIB Welcomes New US Ambassador to UN in Geneva

L-R: Rob Mulligan, Peter Robinson, Andrew Bremberg, Shaun Donnelly

Newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations offices in Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, visited USCIB’s Washington office on November 5 to share U.S. government priorities and to hear business perspectives and concerns before heading to Geneva to assume his post later this week. Throughout the discussion, Ambassador Bremberg emphasized that the U.S. government’s current priority, as well as his top personal priority, is to reform and improve international organizations.  

USCIB members from The Walt Disney Company, Facebook, ExxonMobil, Hanesbrands, PMI and Walmart, along with USCIB policy experts, emphasized the importance of supporting inclusive multilateralism such as that found in the World Trade Organization and International Labor Organization, and changing the persistent and counter-productive discriminatory treatment that the private sector encounters in some UN agencies.

USCIB’s Norine Kennedy, who helped lead the USCIB delegation to Geneva earlier this year, noted USCIB initiatives to help further inclusive multilateralism through USCIB’s All In Campaign. Several participants expressed appreciation for the support Ambassador Bremberg’s team at the U.S. Mission in Geneva has been providing to U.S. business.

“We see ourselves as global regulatory diplomats,” added USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “The challenges facing society today cannot be solved by governments without having business at the table.  We look forward to working with Ambassador Bremberg and his staff as he begins his important work with the WHO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Labor Organization, the International Telecommunications Union and other UN agencies in Geneva.”

 

New OECD Deputy Secretary General Meets With USCIB

L-R: OECD Deputy Secretary General Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen; Head of the OECD’s Washington office Will Davis

USCIB members and staff had the opportunity to meet with the new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Deputy Secretary-General Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen on November 5 at the USCIB Washington DC office. Knudsen’s diverse policy portfolio at the OECD includes science, technology and innovation, trade and agriculture, the OECD Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, as well as regions and cities.

The dialogue between Knudsen and USCIB members focused on areas of mutual interest such as taxation policy, including the pressing issue of digital taxation, as well as cross-border data flows, healthcare, trade and investment, digital trade, and the Going Digital Project. Knudsen also mentioned Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an increasingly important issue for the OECD and the establishment of the OECD AI Policy Observatory, which will help countries nurture and monitor the responsible development of trustworthy AI systems for the benefit of society.

USCIB members from Microsoft, IBM, General Electric, CropLife America, Walmart and others, benefited from the opportunity to hear directly from OECD leadership regarding the OECD’s priorities as well as an update on the OECD accession process. USCIB participants underlined the importance of maximizing access for business and other responsible stakeholders in all OECD committee meetings.

“We are grateful that DSG Knudsen took the time to meet with U.S. business,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations Rob Mulligan. “USCIB staff and members always appreciate an opportunity to provide perspectives to the OECD staff and secretariat to help inform the OECD’s science-based policy recommendations.”

USCIB is the U.S. national committee of Business at OECD (BIAC).

Taxation

Trends and Challenges Facing U.S. Business:

  • Multiple sets of inconsistent rules that drive up costs and result in double taxation
  • The mounting political pressure to move towards changing the taxation of the digitalized economy
  • Efforts to unfairly increase the tax burden on companies

USCIB’s Response:

  • Engage with the OECD on the development of international taxation principles
  • Proactively shape the development of the OECD’s guidance on the taxation of the digitalized economy by demonstrating to policymakers that unilateral action can result in double taxation, decreased trade, and reduced global growth
  • Actively monitor and contribute to the work of the UN Committee of Tax Experts to ensure its alignment with the work of the OECD Tax Committee and inform policymakers of their actions’ impact on investment
  • Support enactment of foreign tax simplification provisions in the IRC that would significantly reduce the burden of complexity for U.S. companies and enhance their international competitiveness
  • Host an annual conference in Washington, DC that provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. business community to interact with key representatives from the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (“CTPA”).

Magnifying Your Voice with USCIB:

  • USCIB is the only U.S. business association formally affiliated with the world’s three largest business organizations where we work with business leaders across the globe to extend our reach to influence policymakers in key international markets to American business
  • Build consensus with like-minded industry peers and participate in off-the-record briefings with policymakers both home and abroad.

More Recent Accomplishments

News Stories

New OECD Deputy Secretary General Meets With USCIB (11/11/2019) - USCIB members and staff had the opportunity to meet with the new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Deputy
USCIB Urges Treasury to Work With OECD on Digital Taxation (10/8/2019) - USCIB Urges Treasury to Work With OECD on Digital Taxes

Read More

Chair

Bill Sample
Tax Policy Advisor
Microsoft Corporation

Vice Chairs

Timothy M. McDonald
Vice President, Finance & Accounting, Global Taxes
The Procter & Gamble Company

Will Morris
Deputy Global Tax Policy Leader
PwC

Louise Weingrod
Vice President, Global Taxation
Johnson & Johnson

Staff

Carol Doran Klein
Vice President and International Tax Counsel
202-682-7376 or cdklein@uscib.org

Erin Breitenbucher
Senior Policy & Program Associate and Office Manager, Washington
202-682-7465 or ebreitenbucher@uscib.org

Subcommittees

BIAC/ICC Subcommittee

Legislative and Administrative Developments Subcommittee

Tax Treaties Subcommittee

Transfer Pricing Subcommittee

Working Groups

Working Group on Consumption Taxes

Working Group on the Digital Economy

Working Group on Environment and Energy Taxes

 

USCIB Member Reports on Recent UN International Trade Law Meetings

Lauren Mandell, an international investment expert from the Washington DC office of USCIB member WilmerHale and a former deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for investment policy, represented USCIB at the October 14-18 meeting of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III in Vienna. Mandell was one of a small handful of business and arbitration community observers at this semiannual meeting.

UNCITRAL’s Working Group III is focused on “reforming” the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration system, which is widely used to resolve investment disputes between host governments and foreign investors. Some governments and civil society activists have long criticized the ISDS system. In recent years the European Union has jumped on board, aggressively pushing its proposal for a government-dominated multilateral investment court and appellate mechanism to replace traditional ISDS. According to Mandell, even long-standing U.S. government policy supporting a high-standard ISDS system has wavered.

Photo source: UNCITRAL.org

“It was very valuable to have an experienced, eloquent investment policy expert like Lauren participating in this important investment policy body,” said USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly. “Although UNCITRAL may be, to some, an obscure UN agency, it’s where the action is these days on international investment policy and, specifically, on ISDS. We at USCIB and many of our member companies see ISDS as a key pillar for global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) decisions. We will continue to work with Lauren, the U.S. government and our members in UNCITRAL and beyond to defend strong investment protections.”

The next meeting of UNCITRAL Working Group III, scheduled January 20-24, 2020, will be critically important for the business community because the meeting will focus on the EU’s proposed multilateral investment court. For more information, contact Shaun Donnelly or Lauren Mandell (lauren.mandell@wilmerhale.com) for further information.

USCIB Joins Global Business Network on Forced Labor

USCIB proudly became a new member recently of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Global Business Network on Forced Labour (GBNFL). A “network of networks,” GBNFL seeks to bring together businesses of all sizes and sectors, and their networks, from around the globe to work towards the eradication of forced labor. USCIB Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog attended GBNFL’s first annual meeting on October 21 in Berlin, where participants engaged in discussions around what coordination and collaboration looks like, as well as how best to engage smaller enterprises to combat forced labor.

In brainstorming about opportunities for shared action provided by this new umbrella network, participants recognized that many of the challenges stem from local governance gaps. Participants discussed ideas and noted the critical role that the ILO can play in assisting national and local governments to mount a robust domestic labor law enforcement response to this issue. Additionally, participants expressed a hope that additional employer organizations from developing countries would be encouraged to join the GBNFL, particularly as the members of those employer networks are the local businesses and SMEs producing for either domestic or foreign markets. Participants agreed that capacity building, both of governments and SMEs, is crucial to any plan to help achieve SDG target 8.7.

USCIB members will benefit from our active involvement in GBNFL through invitations to participate in special events and webinars hosted by GBNFL, as well as have the opportunity to help inform the USCIB feedback to GBNFL as its leaders develop future workplans. For the broader public, we encourage you to learn more about the GBNFL and avail yourself of the data, tools and resources regarding forced labor and human trafficking housed on GBNFL’s new website and public library of selected resources.

Promoting U.S. Business Access: USCIB Submits NTE Comments

USCIB filed comments on October 25 for the annual National Trade Estimate (NTE) report to highlight significant barriers that American companies continue to face with regards to exports of goods, services and U.S. foreign direct investment. The comprehensive comments included barriers faced by U.S. companies in over twenty countries, including in Brazil, China and India.

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, the comments urged the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage Brazil to promote an international, interoperable policy framework for the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions that includes M2M permanent roaming, among other things.

“Many IOT and M2M solutions will only reach their optimal scale if they can operate around the globe,” said Wanner. Monitors on airline cargo or shipping containers must be able to operate wherever their freight travels. Automakers sell vehicles across many different countries and operators drive vehicles across national borders for commercial and personal purposes; automakers and customers alike need a single communications platform to support their connected vehicles.

“The Brazilian government should modify the regulatory framework to support providers of IoT and M2M services and devices and allow them to choose between various available options for numbering and device management (including permanent M2M roaming), rather than imposing a single, one-size alternative for all cases,” added Wanner.

With regards to China, USCIB’s submission focused on China’s WTO compliance record in services, particularly China’s indiscriminate filtering and blocking of online services. China’s expansive definition of value-added services, high capitalization requirements for basic telecommunications services, lack of an independent regulator, and restrictions that specifically apply to the non-Chinese companies for provision of value-added services remain key outstanding issues for U.S. business.

Finally, while India has accelerated broadband deployment, USCIB’s comments stressed that it must also implement policies that foster an innovative environment through predictable, progressive and technology-neutral policies that are compatible with global standards.

“It is important to keep encouraging the Indian government to support further market liberalization and to remove remaining market access barriers,” said Wanner. “India should be urged to continue its efforts to provide legal and regulatory policy certainty both in the development of a body of clear and consistent laws and regulations, and in the transparent and equitable application and enforcement of those laws and regulations. Unfortunately, in recent years the government of India has implemented a number of policies that constitute significant market access barriers to U.S. companies, including in data localization, remote access policy and cloud computing.”

Mulligan Represents Business at OECD Trade Meetings

USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan

Rob Mulligan, USCIB senior vice president for policy and government affairs, was in Paris the week of October 21 attending OECD and Business at OECD (BIAC) trade committee meetings. Over the last few months, USCIB members have contributed to the development of BIAC’s trade priorities paper which was released last week. Mulligan, as a vice-chair of the BIAC trade committee, represented BIAC at the OECD Trade Committee Meeting and shared the eleven-priorities for consideration as the OECD develops their program of work for 2021-2022.

“During the OECD meeting, I highlighted the need for continued OECD work on market distorting subsidies and other government support for state-owned enterprises, digital trade and new work on trade and the environment that would underpin the need to balance climate change with ensuring open markets for trade,” said Mulligan.

The OECD Trade meeting also discussed ongoing G7, G20 and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) activities, including outcomes of the G7 and G20 Summits, as well as expectations for the APEC Economic Leader’s meeting in November, which will be hosted by Chile.

USCIB Announces Launch of a Biodiversity Working Group

Responding to intergovernmental policy discussions on biodiversity, their implications for American companies, and the opportunity for private sector nature-based solutions, USCIB has announced the launch of a new multi-committee Working Group on Biodiversity. The Working Group is drawn from USCIB’s Environment, Intellectual Property and Innovation and Food and Agriculture committees to reflect the cross-cutting nature and impacts of proposed policies for U.S. companies doing business in global markets. It will begin its work in early November, with a focus on tracking and disseminating business-relevant information about the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) negotiations to interested USCIB members.

According to USCIB Vice President for Energy, Environment and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy, this new group will also provide a platform to work with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Working Group, the Global Industry Coalition and other business initiatives related to biodiversity. The Biodiversity Working Group will also facilitate USCIB representation at UN CBD meetings (by both members and USCIB staff) and support the development of USCIB positions as needed.

“The UN CBD is developing a post-2020 biodiversity framework, which will feed into the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” noted Kennedy. “We hope to use this new platform to work with our international partners, such as ICC, to ensure that governments adopt policies that encourage business innovation and include business in future discussions.”

USCIB is planning to attend a workshop on November 6 in Madrid, organized by ICC and Business for Nature Consultation. Workshop participants will discuss and develop draft policy recommendations to governments that are needed to further scale-up existing actions and commitments taken by business to reverse nature loss and restore natural systems.

 If you are a USCIB member interested in joining this Working Group, please contact USCIB Vice President for Energy, Environment and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy.

USCIB Issues Climate Change Statement on UN Day

In light of the United Nations celebrating the ratification of its 1945 Charter on October 24, USCIB issued the following statement:

“On this UN Day, USCIB would like to join others in recognizing the indispensable importance of the UN system to American business in advancing international cooperation and providing the infrastructure in which we create shared value and serve society.

USCIB reaffirms our support for U.S. involvement in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Accord. We welcome the growth of the American energy economy from fossil fuels to nuclear to renewables to new options for energy efficiency. The Paris Accord allows every country to define its own pathway to tackling climate risks, and the U.S. has already made good progress on that front, reducing emissions and improving efficiency while advancing its own energy security, growing U.S. jobs and opening new markets for innovative American technologies.

Without U.S. leadership at the Paris Accord table, promoting its strategic and economic interests alongside other countries, opportunities for the deployment of these American private sector solutions could be threatened. We encourage the Administration to revisit its decision and submit, as appropriate, its own visionary plan to the UNFCCC and Paris Accord, in which American energy objectives can co-exist with environmental protection, private sector innovation and sustainably meeting both American and global growing energy demands.”