USCIB Participates in ICC Sweden’s Sustainability Committee Meeting in Stockholm

On the margins of the UN meeting, Stockholm+50, on June 3, ICC Sweden opened up their Sustainability Committee Meeting to the public and invited a group of speakers to discuss current environmental policy trends from a global perspective.

Representing USCIB, Agnes Vinblad, policy associate for sustainability, presented on key environmental policy developments of special importance to U.S. Business, including the recently agreed upon UNEA resolution on plastic pollution, and the preparations leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27). In delivering her remarks, Vinblad emphasized the importance of USCIB’s guiding principles of open markets, competitiveness and innovation, and sustainable development and corporate responsibility for and by U.S. companies. Vinblad further mentioned the newly formed UN High Level Experts Group (HLEG) on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments on Non-State Entities, and what this development could mean for businesses and their voluntary net-zero carbon emissions pledges.  

For the section on Global Outlook on Sustainability Developments & New Regulations, Vinblad was joined by Mats Pellback Scharp, head of sustainability at Ericsson and Gabriel Lundstrom, head of ESG Investments at SEB. 

Justin Perrettson, chair of the Global ICC Commission on Environment & Energy, and co-chair of the USCIB Environment Committee, opened the meeting with an overarching presentation on global developments pertaining to sustainability and environmental policy and the role and work of ICC in these areas. 

Head of Delegation to UNFCCC at the Swedish Ministry of Environment Mattias Frumerie also participated in the meeting, speaking on goals and expectations ahead of COP27.  

“After two years of pandemic disruption, in-person meetings like this one are critical and offers valuable opportunities for discussion and collaboration,” said Vinblad, reflecting on a successful meeting. “As the U.S. affiliate of ICC, USCIB especially appreciated this meeting with ICC Sweden’s Sustainability Committee and the great value of coming together to compare challenges and opportunities across the EU and the U.S. as they pertain to environmental policy and regulation.”

Vinblad Speaks on Panel Co-Organized by ILO, UNEP and UNICEF at UN Stockholm+50

Center: USCIB’s Agnes Vinblad

USCIB participated in the high-level international meeting, UN Stockholm+50 from June 2-3 in Stockholm, Sweden, joining over 4,000 other participants. The meeting was planned as a key milestone en route to the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Egypt later this year. Furthermore, Stockholm+50 served as a means to reinvigorate and renew international environmental multilateralism after the worst impacts of the pandemic. The meeting commemorated the first UN Conference on the Human Environment held fifty years ago, also in Stockholm, in 1972. Topics such as the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution took center stage with plenty of references to the UNEA 5.2 resolution on plastics pollution, and, to principle 1 of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration – the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. 

Representing USCIB, and as one of the few U.S. business representatives on hand, was Policy Associate for Sustainability Agnes Vinblad. Vinblad was joined by Co-Chair of the USCIB Environment Committee Justin Perrettson (Novozymes), as well as Melissa Kopolow and Melissa Estok – USCIB members from Albright Stonebridge Group.  

The U.S. Government delegation was led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) John Kerry and Assistant Secretary Monica Medina. USCIB was in regular contact with the U.S. Delegation in the lead-up to Stockholm+50 and Vinblad met with members of the delegation during the conference emphasizing the need to consider U.S. business views in these critical conversations.   

Nominated by IOE, Vinblad joined a panel co-organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP), and UNICEF on the role of private sector engagement in green jobs creation for youth. This panel was part of an official side event at Stockholm+50 titled Green Jobs for Youth and some of the key messages emphasized during the panel included: 

  • the green and circular economy may create 100 million jobs by 2030 – the private sector will stand at the core of this transition; 
  • the transition will have to be just to ensure that there will be a transition at all; 
  • green jobs in renewables and environmental protection are rapidly growing – a development clearly driven by the private sector.   

Vinblad was joined on the panel by Naoko Ishii, former chief executive of the Global Environment Facility and chairperson of the Global Advisory Board of the University of Tokyo; Vladislav Kaim, Children and Youth constituency to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) Green Jobs focal point and UN Secretary General Youth Advisor on Climate Change; and Nate Williams, senior director, Economic Graph partnerships, LinkedIn. 

“Overall, Stockholm+50 furthered the trend toward convergence of current legally binding environmental deliberations, for example the development of a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework via the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the recently adopted UNEA resolution on plastic pollution,” said Vinblad in summarizing the outcomes of the high-level UN meeting. “By allowing space to discuss all these critical topics and agreements in one joint forum, it yet again emphasized the need to act on the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution in a cohesive manner, guided by the true interconnectedness of these issues.” 

To find more details on the outcomes of Stockholm+50 and the ten Key Recommendations presented by the co-chairs Sweden and Kenya, please review this document 

USCIB Comments on Proposed SEC Climate Risk Disclosure Rule, Emphasizing Considerations for Global Companies

USCIB filed comments on June 17 on a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule on climate risk disclosure applicable to public companies. USCIB Committees on Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs, Corporate Governance and Environment all contributed to the development of USCIB’s SEC submission.

USCIB members support enhancing and standardizing climate-related disclosures, with due attention to ensure disclosures are material. In addition, USCIB members have made important commitments and are mobilizing action and investment to reduce GHGs and plan for near- and long-term risks, including those due to climate change.

The far-reaching proposed SEC rule has implications far beyond disclosure, according to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy Norine Kennedy. “The proposed rule will significantly impact private sector climate change planning and management practices in a variety of ways, including how companies oversee, manage, assess and mitigate climate risk and impacts of climate change, the data companies collect as well as how companies assess and validate that data,” stressed Kennedy.

Kennedy also stated: “these wider considerations raise several key questions for companies doing business internationally, and therefore warrant careful consideration, and an inclusive discussion with the business community as this proposed SEC rule is further developed.”

USCIB comments concentrated on five priority areas in the proposed rule as especially relevant to American companies across a wide range of sectors doing business in the global marketplace:

  • Inter-operability of the proposed SEC Rule with current and emerging regulations, standards, and initiatives abroad
  • Tracking and reflecting greenhouse gas emissions involved in complicated supply chains, including outside the U.S.
  • Tracking and reflecting Scope 3 Emissions, including outside the U.S.
  • Unintended consequences for future voluntary climate initiatives and goals
  • Assessing Climate and Transition Risks in multiple jurisdictions abroad

“The five areas indicated are significant considerations for the effectiveness of the proposed Rule, and if not addressed, would entail substantial costs and other burdens for U.S. business, while confusing investors with copious, non-material information,” added Kennedy. “Clarification and revision in these areas would benefit the viability of the proposed rule, while reducing unnecessary burdens on U.S. companies.”

Temperatures Soared in Geneva and So Did the WTO!

Washington D.C., June 17, 2022—Despite a shaky start, the WTO negotiators delivered a historic trade deal this morning. After hours of negotiations, the 164-country organization adopted the “Geneva Package” with commitments on some very difficult issues, including pandemic response, intellectual property, fisheries, food security, electronic commerce and institutional reform.

For many, this Ministerial was about the continued viability of the WTO. Recent struggles caused by increased protectionism and previous Ministerial Conferences that created few – if any – outcomes, raised serious questions about the rules-based trading system that grew out of the GATT in 1995. Concerns have ranged from relevance to functionality to value.

The WTO adoption of a ministerial decision to waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines raises serious questions and presents a number of risks. This waiver under the WTO TRIPs Agreement will not solve vaccine access issues but, rather, it brings dangerous implications on incentives for innovation for future health challenges and future pandemic preparedness and response.  As disappointing and counter-productive as this decision is, business continues to work to advance vaccine literacy and fight COVID-19.

The Ministerial Statement on WTO Reform has charted a path forward for the trade body that is expected to address longstanding concerns and set a process for discussions on how the WTO can be reformed to be fit for purpose.

The “Geneva Package” covers a range of topics. A group of Ministerial Declarations was adopted on WTO response to emergencies covering food insecurity; export prohibitions on World Food Programme food purchases; and WTO pandemic response and preparedness.

A partial deal to curb fishing subsidies was reached; however, it fell short of a fuller agreement that has been under negotiation for more than 20 years. The agreement addresses rules to prohibit subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, while action on subsidies for fuel, ship construction and other areas was left unresolved.

Negotiators wrestled to address divergent views on the continuation of a moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions that has been in place since 1998 but was set to expire at the end of the ministerial. A handful of countries challenged the benefits of the digital economy for the developing world, seeking to end the moratorium, gain policy space to address the digital divide and collect needed customs revenues. Ultimately, delegates agreed to an extension of the moratorium with a commitment to study development impacts and revisit the issue at the next Ministerial Conference.

“USCIB congratulates WTO Director General Ngozi and all participants in MC12 for proving that multilateralism is alive and still functional in Geneva,” said Brian Lowry, USCIB Senior Vice President, who is reporting from Geneva at the ministerial meeting as an NGO delegate.

Several concerns about agriculture went without resolution. “The lack of a declaration on these concerns was a disappointment to some but the overall success of MC12 is noteworthy,” said Lowry.

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. USCIB is the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD. More at www.uscib.org.

USCIB Promotes Foreign Direct Investment Qualities Initiative at OECD Ministerial

The OECD Ministerial Conference Meeting (MCM) took place in Paris June 9-10, focused on “The Future We Want: Better Policies for the Next Generation and a Sustainable Transition,” with a ministerial conference statement promoting sustainable economic recovery in the post-pandemic world, transition to sustainable and inclusive development, adoption of resilient health systems, among other important initiatives. Importantly, ministers at MCM adopted roadmaps for accession to the OECD for Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Peru and Romania, opening up a key opportunity for USCIB to work through Business at OECD to advance member priorities in these countries.

At a side event, “Strengthening Sustainable Investment Policies,” Chair of the USCIB Trade and Investment Committee and Chair of Business at OECD Rick Johnston promoted the OECD FDI Qualities Initiative and the newly unveiled FDI Policy Toolkit for supporting sustainability goals. According to Johnston, the FDI Qualities Initiative is not only important to OECD members states but also to the developing markets they serve. “Sustainability indicators must be part of FDI regimes or the host country will not only suffer bad investments but also collateral problems.” He underscored that the private sector takes seriously sustainable FDI and urged countries to work closely in partnership with business in adopting policies that “make sense.”

On 10 June, the OECD Council Recommendation on FDI Qualities for Sustainable Development was adopted by OECD ministers. USCIB through Business at OECD (BIAC) strongly contributed to the FDI Qualities effort. Launched in 2018, the OECD FDI Qualities Initiative aims to better link FDI with sustainable development, focused on four Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): productivity and innovation, job quality and skills, gender equality, and decarbonization. The Initiative includes:

  • The FDI Qualities Indicators provides data measuring the impacts of investments on SDGs in host countries; the FDI Qualities Indicators report for 2022, includes new sections on the green economy and resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The FDI Qualities Policy Toolkit is a new product to help governments identify priorities to align investment policy and institutional reforms to sustainable development goals.
  • The FDI Qualities Policy Network is a platform for stakeholder consultation and exchange on sustainable investment policies.

USCIB Calls for Elimination of Child Labor, Calls on Governments to Invest in Rule of Law

June 12, 2022, New York, NY  — On this World Day Against Child Labor, the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) joins the chorus of global voices calling for elimination of child labor. This issue is one of profound concern for the business community and we applaud the robust efforts of our corporate members to help tackle the scourge of child labor.

Many of our affiliates and partnerships work on combating child labor through their work in monitoring and developing best practices. The U.S. Department of State also monitors and reports on child labor in their annual Human Rights Report and Trafficking in Persons Report and contributes to the Department of Labor’s annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Similarly, the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains identifies the worst forms of child labor as a serious human rights abuse associated with the extraction, transport or trade of minerals that companies should not tolerate, profit from, contribute to, assist with or facilitate in the course of doing business.

This year the International Labor Organization (ILO) hosted its 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor where delegates agreed that the Durban Call to Action include strong commitments on action against child labor while raising concerns that existing progress has slowed and is now threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, as well as food, environmental and humanitarian crises.

Despite universal ratification of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, there remains an unacceptable 152 million children in child labor, 72 million of which are in hazardous work. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor, a quarter of the victims of modern slavery are children. One child is too many. Therefore, the private sector calls on governments to invest in rule of law and stands ready to partner with governments, academia, civil society and the public to reinvigorate efforts to achieve SDG Target 8.7 in order to end all forms of child labor by 2025.

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 Joins Global Trade and Industry in Statement to Urge WTO to Renew Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions

May 17, 2022, New York, NY — The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) joined today nearly 100 other global trade and industry associations to urge WTO members to renew the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in June.

According to the statement, allowing the Moratorium to expire would be a historic setback for the WTO, representing an unprecedented termination of a multilateral agreement in place nearly since the WTO’s inception – an agreement that has allowed the digital economy to take root and grow. All WTO members have a stake in the organization’s continued institutional credibility and resilience, as well as its relevance at a time of unprecedented digital transformation.

Continuation of the Moratorium is critical to the COVID-19 recovery. As detailed by the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD, and many other organizations, the cross-border exchange of knowledge, technical know-how, and scientific and commercial information across transnational IT networks, as well as access to digital tools and global market opportunities have helped sustain economies, expand education, and raise global living standards.

Continuation of the Moratorium is also important to supply chain resilience for manufacturing and services industries in the COVID-19 era. Manufacturers – both large and small, and across a range of industrial sectors – rely on the constant flow of research, design, and process data and software to enable their production flows and supply chains for critical products.

The Moratorium is particularly beneficial to Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs), whose ability to access and leverage digital tools has allowed them to stay in business amidst physical restrictions and lockdowns.

Failure to renew the Moratorium will jeopardize these benefits, as customs restrictions that interrupt cross-border access to knowledge and digital tools will harm MSMEs, the global supply chain, and COVID-19 recovery – increasing digital fragmentation. As UNCTAD has explained, such fragmentation “reduces market opportunities for domestic MSMEs to reach worldwide markets, [and] … reduces opportunities for digital innovation, including various missed opportunities for inclusive development that can be facilitated by engaging in data-sharing through strong international cooperation…. [M]ost small, developing economies will lose opportunities for raising their digital competitiveness.”

The rest of the statement can be found here.

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’s Statement of Priorities for the Proposed Global Digital Compact

On occasion of the United Nations Secretary General’s inclusion of the proposed Global Digital Compact (GDC) as part of Our Common Agenda, USCIB released a statement of priorities, which highlights how digital technologies and the online environment act as drivers that help grow the global economy, bridge inequalities, foster creativity and innovation, build trust, and expand societal engagement and exchange.

USCIB’s statement outlines several specific issues as key to realizing improved digital cooperation, such as infrastruture, connectivity and spectrum; multistakeholder governance approaches; free flow of data; the avoidance of internet fragmentation; the importance of trust; open markets and predictable regulatory environments; protection of freedom of expression online; importance of Artifical Intelligence (AI); and finally accountability criteria for discriminatory and misleading content.

“Key to realizing the developmental benefits of digital transformation are policies that support an enabling environment for technology innovation,” said USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner. According to USCIB, such policies may address economic, social/cultural, technical, and governance issues, all of which are interlinked and cross-cutting. This holistic approach best ensures the development of an open, safe, highly secure, stable, interoperable, seamless and sustainable digital ecosystem with the potential to close development gaps and address other inequities.

 

OECD Event Attempts to Help Governments Develop Agile Governance

Rick Johnston at the Agile Governance Symposium

The OECD, Business at OECD (BIAC) and the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center co-hosted an event on April 26 on the need for agile and adaptable regulatory practices. The event, titled “Agile Governance for our Future: Reimagining Regulation to Support Innovation” was held in person in Washington, DC, at the REACH at the Kennedy Center and received programming support from both USCIB and USCIB member Google.

The program included a keynote by Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School, a fireside chat with Google President of Global Affairs Kent Walker as well as remarks by BIAC Chair and USCIB Trade and Investment Committee Chair, Rick Johnston of Citi.

Additional panels featured the perspectives of policymakers, regulators and civil society, including Director General of the Danish Business Authority Katrine Winding, Assistant Secretary, Regulatory Affairs Sector of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat Tina Green and Susana Cordeiro Guerra, manager for institutions for development at the Inter-American Development Bank.

According to USCIB Policy Manager for Regulation and Trade Chris Olsen, who attended the Symposium, this event builds on the Fall 2021 release of the OECD’s Agile Governance Recommendation, which aims to help governments develop and implement agile and resilient regulatory approaches, and facilitate institutional co-operation both in response to, and to further stimulate, international innovation. This Recommendation received input and support from the Business at OECD (BIAC) Governance and Regulatory Policy Committee.

A full recording of the symposium will soon be available on both the OECD website and through George Washington University’s program page.

USCIB Promotes World IP Day; Encourages Members to Vote in Youth Video Competition

Photo credit: WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is hosting their annual World Intellectual Property Day on April 26 with a focus on youth. The official theme, “IP and Youth Innovating for a Better Future,” recognizes the incredible and untapped potential of young people’s ingenuity and creativity which can drive the change the world needs to move to a more sustainable footing.

According to WIPO, IP Day 2022 is an opportunity for young people to find out how IP rights can support their goals, help transform their ideas into reality, generate income, create jobs and make a positive impact on the world around them. WIPO has been working with its member states and partners to create a legal and policy environment for young inventors, creators and entrepreneurs to thrive.

WIPO has also invited the public to vote on a youth video competition. The videos will demonstrate how young people perceive innovation and IP for a better future. Youth from sixty-three countries have submitted videos. Online public voting closes on April 22.

“Young people are the future and we must support them,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry. “We look forward to IP Day where we can better explore and understand how young people have been driving change.”