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.

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.

L-R: Norine Kennedy (USCIB), Will Davis (OECD Washington), Ambassador Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen (OECD), Peter Robinson (USCIB), Eva Hampl (USCIB), Rob Mulligan (USCIB)

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 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).

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.

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.

Private Sector Led Active Role at FAO Meetings on Food Security

46th Session of the CFS, Rome. Copyright ©FAO.

USCIB and its members participated in the bilateral meetings at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 46th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) the week of October 14 in Rome to discuss the private sector’s commitment to ending hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity for all.

“It was a very successful week in Rome,” said USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener, who leads USCIB’s work on food and healthcare policy. “This year’s meeting of the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) was the largest and most diverse delegation to date, with 211 farmers, agri-businesses and youth representatives from forty-five countries. USCIB looks forward to furthering its work on nutrition policy and working more closely with these stakeholders.”

The USCIB delegation, led by Michener, participated in several bilateral meetings with U.S. Ambassador Kip Tom, Dutch Ambassador Hans Hoegeveen, the Mission of Italy to the UN, the German delegation from Berlin, and the Secretariat of the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In addition to these meetings, PSM members organized five side-events on the topics of nutrition, agroecology and innovation, multi-stakeholder partnerships and youth. These side-events were attended by over 900 CFS delegates. This year PSM also participated in the World Food Day activities at FAO.

The PSM is a network that coordinates input from business into the UN Committee on World Food Security. This year’s delegation included representatives from USCIB members including Bayer USA, CropLife International, International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA), Mars and PepsiCo.

USCIB Members Win Prestigious State Department ACE Award

The U.S. Department of State has announced the four winning U.S. companies for the 2019 Secretary of State Award for Corporate Excellence (“ACE Award”) and, again this year, USCIB member companies are well represented. The two awards open to large multinational companies are both going to USCIB members – Procter & Gamble Asia Pacific wins the ACE for women’s economic empowerment for its gender equality leadership across the Asia Pacific region while PepsiCo in India is recognized for sustainable operations from their community water programs, which focus on water replenishment and water conservation in agricultural practices. P&G is a repeat winner, having won in 2011 for its work in Nigeria and Pakistan.

Nearly every year, one or more USCIB members are among the very select group of winners recognized by the Department of State for exemplary corporate responsibility around the world. Nominations are invited every year from U.S. ambassadors on the ground in each foreign country. These senior U.S. government officials have a keen understanding of the local impact these companies have and the exemplary work they are doing in specific international markets.

The awards will be presented by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to senior executives from each company in a ceremony at the State Department on October 31. Details on the winning company efforts are included in this State Department news release.

USCIB salutes its member company winners this year. “It seems every year one or more USCIB member companies end up winning the prestigious State Department ACE awards,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “I’m not surprised since our members are widely recognized among the most progressive, most socially responsible companies in the world. P&G and Pepsi are among our star members, exemplifying all that’s good in the broad areas of corporate responsibility, including sustainability, women’s empowerment, community development, and investing in their employees around the world. When leading U.S. companies trade, invest, and get involved overseas, they bring not only their commercial, economic and technical expertise and their market power; they also bring their values, including corporate responsibility and ethical behavior. I salute Pepsi and P&G as winners this year as I have other member companies in previous years. These award winning companies do us at USCIB and our country proud.”

Pledge to America’s Workers: Spotlight on Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

Following the announcement of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 5th annual National Apprenticeship Week running November 11-17, USCIB is showcasing the positive impact apprenticeship programs have in addressing the U.S. skills gap and preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Each week, USCIB is featuring case studies of members that are making an impact in re-skilling and re-training the workforce as part of the White House Pledge to America’s Workers.

USCIB member Amazon has created a 2025 pledge to upskill 100,000 of its employees across the United States. To accomplish this, Amazon has dedicated over $700 million to provide people across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores and transportation network with access to training programs that will help employees move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.

Amazon has both created and expanded a broad range of training programs based on the insights provided to them by their workforce, including:

The Amazon Technical Academy which offers tuition-free programs and job placement for employees who want to move into the software engineering field. The Amazon Technical Academy combines instructor-led, project-based learning with real-world application, and graduates of the program master the most widely used software engineering practices and tools required to thrive as a software engineer at Amazon. For more information on this program click more here.

Amazon’s Associate2Tech program, is a fully-paid 90-day program that provides fulfillment center associates with the opportunity to move into technical roles, regardless of their previous IT experience. Associate2Tech is designed to place associates in on-the-job training for IT support technician roles and pays for their widely recognized A+ Certification test. No existing degree is needed, and participants receive paid study time during their work week. To learn more about this initiative click here.

The Machine Learning University (MLU) is an initiative helping Amazon employees with backgrounds in technology and coding gain skills in Machine Learning. Machine learning plays an increasingly important role in customer innovation. MLU helps employees learn core skills to propel their career growth – skills that are often taught only in higher education. MLU is divided into six-week modules and the program requires only half to one full day of participation a week. MLU is taught by more than 400 passionate Amazon Machine Learning scientists. Originally launched as a small cohort, the program is on course to train thousands of employees.

In another example, Amazon’s Growing Career Choice program is a pre-paid tuition program for fulfillment center associates looking to move into high-demand occupations. Specifically, Amazon has agreed to pay up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study. Since launching Career Choice in 2012, over 25,000 Amazon employees have received training for high-demand occupations that include aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies and nursing. The company is investing in expanding the program by building additional classrooms in its fulfillment centers globally and expects to have over sixty on-site classrooms by the end of 2020.

Another exciting program is Amazon Apprenticeship, which is a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon. This opportunity is a combination of immersive learning and on-the-job training. The program has already created paths to technical jobs for hundreds of candidates who are working to break into careers that include cloud support associates, data technicians and software development engineering.

Finally, AWS Training and Certification works on closing the cloud skills gap in the tech industry. Amazon employees have access to free classroom and digital training to build their cloud computing knowledge, as well as discounted AWS Certification exams to validate their learned cloud expertise. Cultivating these in-demand skills opens opportunities both within Amazon and in other organizations around the world as demand for cloud talent continues to grow.

See here for other spotlights:

IBM

Salesforce

Walmart

Pledge to America’s Workers: Spotlight on IBM

Photo source: IBM.com

Following the recent announcement of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 5th annual National Apprenticeship Week running November 11-17, USCIB is showcasing the positive impact apprenticeship programs have in addressing the U.S. skills gap and preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Each week, USCIB is featuring case studies of members that are making an impact in re-skilling and re-training the workforce as part of the White House Pledge to America’s Workers.

USCIB member IBM has created and expanded multiple training channels, from apprenticeships to innovative reboots of high-school career and technical education programs, all with a focus on preparing students and working professionals for the many well-paying jobs in today’s technology industry that do not always require a traditional bachelor’s degree. These aren’t “blue collar” or “white collar” jobs, but in fact, “new collar” jobs that prioritize capabilities over credentials. For IBM, what matters most in these roles is having the right mix of in-demand skills and a commitment to lifelong learning. IBM believes that companies bringing advanced technologies to market have a responsibility to prepare students and workers for the way those technologies will shape jobs and the very nature of work. And through that commitment, the company is expanding job opportunities in parts of the country where technology jobs have been scarce at best, from Missouri to Louisiana to West Virginia.

New collar roles can be found in some of technology’s fastest growing fields, including cloud computing, cybersecurity and digital design, to name just a few. IBM’s goal is to shift mindsets in the tech industry, opening the hiring aperture for candidates with non-traditional backgrounds and making the tech workforce more diverse and inclusive. Whether you’ve built skills through coding camps, community colleges, apprenticeships or modern career education programs, there’s a job for you at today’s IBM.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the programs IBM has created:

In 2011, IBM helped pioneer the groundbreaking P-TECH public education model so students preparing to enter the workforce can start learning skills for new collar roles during high school. P-TECH addresses education and workforce development challenges. Students can earn their high school diploma and no-cost associate degree aligned to real career opportunities in six years or less. The program combines classroom education with mentoring and workplace experiences, all grounded in relevant skills that are in-demand among American employers. Business partners are essential to P-TECH success, as they provide mentors for students, host site visits and paid internships, and commitment to putting P-TECH graduates at the front of the line for job interviews. IBM is working with governors across the United States to expand this model and prepare more American students for new collar careers. By the end of 2019, 200 P-TECH schools will be serving 125,000 students across 10 U.S. states and 14 countries.

To help expand new collar opportunities for students and mid-career professionals, IBM launched a 21st century paid apprenticeship program in October 2017, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. This initiative focuses on building skills in cybersecurity, mainframe administration, software development and more. The 12-18 month program pairs apprentices with an IBM mentor to work on real IBM projects, along with traditional classroom learning. The apprenticeship program has proven to be very successful, growing twice as fast as expected in just the first year. By the end of 2019, IBM will have hired 500 apprentices and the company plans to hire 450 more each year for the next five years. Because of the widespread success of this program, IBM teamed with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in January 2019 to create the CTA Apprenticeship Coalition, where IBM’s apprenticeship model provides the foundation for a group of top tier companies to build or expand thousands of apprenticeships in communities coast to coast.

IBM has been a major American employer for more than a century. Two generations ago, the company helped launch the country’s first courses in computer science so workers nationwide could work with machines that were poised to reshape our lives. Today, the company is carrying that legacy forward with AI and cloud computing poised to change everything once more.

See here for other spotlights:

Salesforce

Walmart

SAICM Advances Zero Draft for Post-2020 Chemicals Policy Framework

The third meeting of the Intersessional Process for Considering the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP3) was convened in Bangkok, Thailand, September 30 – October 4. Approximately 350 representatives of governments, industry, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations attended the proceedings. USCIB was a member of the private sector delegation representing the views of downstream users of chemicals, and included Mike Michener, USCIB vice president for product policy and innovation.

SAICM was adopted in 2006 as a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. SAICM contains an ambitious goal to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that by the year 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. As 2020 rapidly approaches governments, industry and other stakeholders have been examining progress towards that goal and discussing SAICM’s future beyond 2020, when its current mandate expires. USCIB members have been longstanding participants in SAICM discussions through the USCIB International Product Policy Working Group.

Participants continued their discussions on possible elements for a post-2020 platform for international cooperation on the sound management of chemicals and waste for consideration by the fifth meeting of SAICM’s governing body, the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM 5) when it convenes in Bonn, Germany, in October 2020. According to Michener, the goal for IP3 was to develop, as far as possible, input for a “zero draft” for deliberation at the fourth and last IP meeting scheduled in Bucharest, Romania in March 2020.

Participants were organized into four “thematic groups” designed to develop recommendations for ICCM5 in the following areas:  targets, milestones and indicators; enhanced institutional arrangements; mechanisms to support implementation (including the science-policy interface and issues of concern); and financial considerations. At closing plenary, delegates heard reports from the thematic groups and from the various organizations that hosted the week’s sectoral meetings on health, agriculture, labor and environment.

“I am pleased to report that we are finally making some progress towards a zero draft agreement for SAICM Beyond 2020,” noted Michener. “While IP4 in Bucharest faces a very full agenda, I am optimistic. We may still have a lot of bracketed text to deal with, but there were many valuable conversations at IP3 that began to find common ground.”

ICCM5 President Gertrud Sahler hailed the intensive and fruitful deliberations as setting a firm foundation for work at IP4 and a large step toward a successful ICCM5. IP Co-Chair David Morin of Canada outlined the process for generating a “zero draft” for deliberations at IP4. Germany announced that it would host a special workshop before IP4 to discuss a possible enabling framework for the beyond-2020 platform, and Norway offered to help fund broad stakeholder participation in the workshop.

USCIB Discusses International Environmental Policy With EPA Administrator 

L-R: USCIB VP Norine Kennedy, U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson

As the 74th United Nations General Assembly High Level Session got underway, USCIB members met with the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler to discuss advancing U.S. business innovation and investment towards transboundary environmental challenges.

The meeting was a unique opportunity for USCIB members to engage with the Administrator on U.S. business priorities for international environmental engagement and public private partnerships while advancing economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad.

“We needy enabling conditions for dialogue and partnership with the private sector in the multilateral system,” stressed USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson during his welcoming remarks. “Therefore, we do need to remove barriers to some business sectors in some parts of UN system – USCIB is working on this, and we would welcome EPA’s support in this area too,” he added.

Wheeler’s remarks focused on current environmental priorities for the EPA, such as the global water crisis, which he noted must be tackled through improving access to safe drinking water, strengthening infrastructure and preventing plastic debris from reaching oceans. Wheeler also emphasized global challenges and EPA involvement to tackle food waste.

“USCIB members had an opportunity to share perspectives on the kinds of partnerships that business and EPA can collaborate on to find solutions to global challenges, in addition to discussing the necessary infrastructure investments that are needed,” said USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy.