USCIB Celebrates ILO at Annual Leadership Award Gala

L-R: Peter Robinson (USCIB), Laura Rubbo (The Walt Disney Company), Guy Ryder (ILO), Terry McGraw (USCIB and formerly The McGraw-Hill Companies)

In celebration of The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) centennial this year, USCIB honored the ILO and its Director-General Guy Ryder with its annual International Leadership Award yesterday evening, December 16. The gala event was held at the Lotte New York Palace, under the theme “Resilient Institutions That Matter.” Representatives from business, the United Nations, government and special guests attended the dinner, which also recognized the centennials of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) this past year, and the upcoming centennial of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) in 2020. Esteemed guests included USCIB Chairman Terry McGraw, IOE Secretary-General Roberto Suarez Santos, ICC Permanent Representative to the UN Andrew Wilson, Acting U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council Jason Mack, Chief of Staff of the UN Global Compact Melissa Powell, Permanent Observer of the OECD to the UN Robin Ogilvy, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships Rob Skinner, Chief of the Intergovernmental Policy and Review Branch for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Irena Zubcevic and many others.

“Imagine what we could accomplish if all stakeholders are at the table working to improve education, reduce poverty, ensure social protection, provide job opportunities and tackle such challenges as climate change and environmental protection,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson in his opening remarks. One thing we do know at USCIB, and that is if we are to find solutions to those challenges…business is an essential partner.”

UN Under Secretary General and Special Advisor on Preparations for the UN’s 75th anniversary Fabrizio Hochschild agreed, recognizing the essential role of business and global cooperation in his remarks at the gala as the UN looks towards the next twenty-five years: “We hope to have strong voices from the business community. We want to hear from you about how we perform for the next twenty-five years.”

Throughout the course of the evening USCIB presented videos honoring the influential roles of the ICC, IOE and ILO over the past century.

Established in 1919 in the waning days of World War I, the ILO’s founders believed that universal peace could only come about if it was based on social justice.

USCIB Chairman Terry McGraw presents the USCIB International Leadership Award to ILO Director General Guy Ryder

“On behalf of the ILO, I am extremely honored by this award. The recognition and support of your influential organization is especially valuable in these uncertain times, when technology, climate change, globalization and demographics are all reshaping the worlds of enterprise and work,” said Ryder. “By continuing our cooperation, I am confident that we can meet this existential challenge and create a new model of business and employment that is human-centered, equitable and sustainable.” Ryder also joined The Walt Disney Company’s Laura Rubbo in a fireside chat, during which he highlighted ILO’s achievements and shared the organization’s priorities for the future.

Ryder was elected as ILO Director-General by the ILO’s Governing Body in May 2012 and took office on October 1, 2012. Since then, Ryder has launched a reform process geared towards assuring the ILO’s authority on matters falling within its mandate. Ryder was re-elected by the ILO’s tripartite Governing Body on November 7, 2016, and his second term started on October 1, 2017. The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues. The unique tripartite structure of the ILO is intended to give an equal voice to workers, employers and governments so that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labor standards and in shaping policies and programs.

Established in 1980, USCIB’s International Leadership Award is presented annually to a leading CEO, international figure or institution, recognizing outstanding contributions to global trade, finance and investment, and to improving the global competitive framework in which American business operates. Recent recipients have included Paul Polman of Unilever (Chairman of ICC), Ajay Banga of Mastercard and Randall Stephenson of AT&T. The annual USCIB award dinner attracts hundreds of top business executives, policy makers and members of the diplomatic community.

UN Climate Talks: Prominent Business Group Holds Dialogue, Welcomes New Members

USCIB’s Norine Kennedy

As in previous years, USCIB joined its global business partners to hold a Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) Business Dialogue during a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference. This year’s UNFCCC 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) is taking place in Madrid, Spain under the Chilean presidency.

This year’s Business Dialogue was hosted by the Spanish Confederation of Employers (CEOE) on December 8. Reaching an important milestone, this year’s Dialogue commemorated twenty-five years of business cooperation and involvement in the UN climate process. The latest Dialogue served as an important forum of discussion for emerging issues and institutional changes that are necessary to mobilize business knowhow and resources at every stage of climate policy and action.

BizMEF Business Dialogue at COP25

Senior government representatives of Chile, the European Commission, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom joined World Trade Organization (WTO), International Organization of Employers (IOE) and UNFCCC speakers at the Dialogue to share perspectives on integrated policy options inside and outside the UN climate process.

“We are here to mark this as what it must be – a turning point and inspiration to do even more and better, as well as involve more companies of all sectors sizes and nationalities on board,” said USCIB Vice President of Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy.

BizMEF members include major national and regional multi-sectoral business groups in developed and developing countries.  At the COP25 Business Dialogue, BizMEF welcomed two new partner organizations: CEOE and the Santiago Chamber of Commerce. USCIB serves as the Secretariat for BizMEF.

Please refer to USCIB’s COP25 Statement for more information on USCIB’s climate policy position.

USCIB Represents US Business Views at UN Climate Talks

The 25th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) is in the home stretch, as Ministers meet in Madrid to seek political compromise on carbon markets and offsets, as well as to set the stage for pledges of deeper cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy, who is reporting from the field, a fundamental goal of COP25 is to complete unfinished business from the previous year, specifically as it relates to the Paris Agreement and its provisions for carbon markets and offsets, often referred to as “Article 6”.

“Avoiding double-counting crediting for carbon sinks and determining whether a percentage of the value of carbon trade transactions will be allocated to developing countries are two unresolved issues for the business community here at COP25,” said Kennedy. She also noted that the validity of the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon “currency” to the new Paris Agreement carbon regime is also under development.

An additional imperative is the need for deeper and faster cuts in GHG emissions that are required to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, and to get on track to a proposed 2050 net-carbon neutrality objective.

Additional issues yet to be resolved, but are closely being monitored by USCIB, are common timeframes to be covered by voluntary national GHG reduction pledges, known as NDCs, financial support to developing countries for GHG reductions and technology cooperation, as well as how to treat compensation for loss and damage from climate change-related impacts.

Over 30,000 are attending this COP, including Michael Bloomberg, Al Gore, John Kerry, Harrison Ford and other prominent figures have joined high-level government representatives, UN agencies and NGOs.

USCIB’s delegation, led by Kennedy and USCIB Policy Associate Claudia Herbert Colfer, included member representatives from Arkema, Bayer, Chevron, Mars and Novozymes. USCIB has been tracking the complex discussions, meeting with U.S. and other government delegations and partnering with key business groups.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) serves as focal point for business, convening daily business briefings to share intelligence and organizing the UNFCCC Business Day, which took place on December 6.

The two-week COP began on December 2, and will run through December 13, under the Presidency of Chile. COP25 was moved to Madrid, Spain following civil unrest in Chile.

USCIB Celebrates International Human Rights Day

December 10th is known internationally as Human Rights Day, and marks the 71st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly. USCIB joins the UN in celebrating Human Rights Day and all of the work being done by its members to promote respect for human rights in global business.

“USCIB and our members are committed to demonstrating respect for human rights in our operations and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights (UNGPs). In 2019 we led or participated in a number of activities promoting the importance of human rights, as well as took bold and innovative action individually and in collaboration with stakeholders to support the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog.

“This year we proudly became a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Global Business Network on Forced Labor, co-hosted a workshop on sports and human rights and the 11th Engaging Business Forum on business & human rights, were honored to host UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for a dialogue with our members, and helped to successfully negotiate a first ever ILO labor standard (C 190) on violence and harassment in the workplace. At the ILO, we stood up to fight for the rights of LGBTQI individuals to also be recognized in ILO labor standards, and at the UN joined with civil society organizations and government at the 8th UN Annual Forum on Business & Human Rights for a progress check on implementing the UNGPs. USCIB and our network of member companies look forward to another year of partnership, advocacy and action on human rights and business,” added Herzog.

USCIB Urges Resolution to Impasse Over Appellate Body at WTO

Washington, D.C., December 10, 2019 – The U.S. Council for International Business believes the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in bringing together countries to reach much-needed agreements on global trade and enforcing them constitutes the cornerstone of our rules-based trading system. We are concerned that a key part of the WTO, the Appellate Body, will not be able to function after the impasse reached in the WTO today, and we urge all member governments to resolve outstanding issues needed to restore the Appellate Body to full operation. While the WTO will continue its active negotiations work, as well as the work of the first instance of dispute settlement, it is important to the business community that the WTO is equipped with all of the tools it needs to effectively address the trade challenges of the 21st century.

USCIB supports modernizing the WTO, including improvements to the Appellate Body, and negotiating agreements that will address the new trade policy issues confronting our members. We strongly support the current negotiations of a plurilateral agreement on digital trade by the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce, and the effort to make permanent the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions. USCIB urges the members of the WTO to find approaches to deal with the issues surrounding the WTO Appellate Body as soon as possible, so that the important work of the dispute settlement body can resume.

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, generating $5 trillion in annual revenues and employing over 11 million people worldwide. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD (known as BIAC), USCIB helps to provide business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More information is available at www.uscib.org.

Contact:
Kira Yevtukhova, USCIB
+1 202.617.3160, kyevtukhova@uscib.org

USCIB Attends UN Biodiversity Deliberations as Accredited Organization

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) has just concluded a scientific and technical round of deliberations, held from November 25 – 29. USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy attended the meetings in Montreal, representing USCIB as an accredited business organization, and as the only U.S. private sector group on hand for the session.

The UN CBD is currently developing a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, to be finalized in October 2020 at its 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), which will be hosted by China. According to Kennedy, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will be a comprehensive agreement that will include new targets relating to the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity.

The Montreal CBD meeting reviewed a wide range of topics including scientific assessments of biodiversity and ecosystems, Digital Sequencing Information (DSI), links between climate change and biodiversity, as well as emerging issues.

USCIB is re-engaging in the UN CBD process following discussions in USCIB’s newly launched Biodiversity Working Group, working closely with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Working Group and the Global Industry Coalition (GIC).

Following the meeting in Montreal, Kennedy stated that, “Since the U.S. has never signed the UN CBD or its Protocols on Bio-safety and on Access and Benefit Sharing, USCIB is currently assessing potential impacts and opportunities for its members while tracking the process leading up to COP15.”

Trade Conference Focuses on Inclusive Global Economy

Amid backlash to increased international trade and rising populism and protectionism across the globe, the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB) held a conference on December 3 in London entitled Next Generation Trade: Building a Principled, People-Centred Global Economy. USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog and Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl represented USCIB.

The conference focused on the issue of building a principled, people-centered global economy, and highlighted issues including climate, the future of work, the multilateral trading system, inclusive trade, and data and technology.

USCIB is very active in the space of trade and investment, as well as corporate responsibility and business and human rights.

“With an increasing public focus on international trade, it is imperative for the business voice to be heard in a variety of fora, emphasizing the message that trade and investment are vital contributors to economic growth and development,” said Hampl.

USCIB continues to believe that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a pillar of the multilateral trading system and that the value of this trade institution cannot be overstated, and its continued existence is critical.

Stakeholders at IGF Seek to Avoid Fragmentation of the Internet

L-R: Barbara Wanner, USCIB (moderator); Ben Wallis, Microsoft; Jane Coffin, Internet Society; Alex Cooke, Government of Australia; and David Gierten, OECD

The fourteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF) wrapped up on November 29 with an invigorated call from stakeholders for an Internet governance mechanism that preserves the IGF’s multistakeholder model and expands its institutional capabilities, amid warnings from UN and German officials about the potential fragmenting of the Internet. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner attended the four-day IGF in Berlin and reported from the field.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who formally opened the IGF on November 26, warned of the crippling effect of growing nationalism that will increasingly fracture the Internet. “The [digital] infrastructure has become the very core of our global economy… [but] there are some who remain in their little bubble and do not actually exchange views with people who are of a different opinion and that is one of the challenges that we face in this overall development of the Internet,” she said.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres offered a similarly dire outlook, telling the IGF audience that the today’s “accessible, free, secure and open Internet is at risk of fracturing along three intersecting lines … a profound digital divide, a social divide and a political divide.”

According to Wanner, Merkel and Guterres concurred that a comprehensive dialogue involving all stakeholders – citing the IGF as a model – can help to prevent such fragmentation, as this approach best ensures a healthy and thriving digital economy that can realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), connect the unconnected and bridge the digital skills gap. “The Internet must not and cannot be shaped only by governments alone because the basic issues revolving around the Internet have an impact on each and everyone’s life, and this is why we need a multistakeholder approach,” Merkel said.

“Against this backdrop, USCIB members who spoke in various workshops highlighted the importance of digital transformation by sharing business best practices and case studies that demonstrate how business’ digital innovations have improved people’s lives and livelihoods, created new commercial and employment opportunities and provided cultural connections,” said Wanner. “Their messages as workshops speakers and in bilateral meetings with UN officials and various government delegations also emphasized the importance of the multistakeholder model in considering the complexity of digital economy issues. In this regard, USCIB members reaffirmed their support for an adequately funded “IGF-Plus” architecture for Internet governance, proposed by the UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation (HLPDC).”

Joining Wanner were members from Amazon, AT&T, CCIA, Disney, Facebook, Google, ITI, Microsoft, Verisign and Verizon.

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).