What Comes After COVID: Better, Stronger and More Resilient Cooperation and Commerce
By Peter Robinson, President and CEO
April 14, 2020
As I write this today, we are watching with dismay the impacts COVID-19 is having around the world on people’s lives, on the economy, on jobs. We have taken in the hits on economies, trade, travel, supply chains and employment, and are aware of challenges ahead. We have seen tie after tie cut as countries have closed borders and restricted travel and other interactions in an understandable exercise of caution.
Like many of you, I find myself navigating an unparalleled crisis management situation. In the first instance we are seized with the imperative of protecting the health and welfare of our families, our staff colleagues, and our respective institutions themselves. We are responding to the immediate needs of ensuring business continuity through virtual means, while rising to the occasion as business leaders to support member and international efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and find relief and solutions for those in need. And at the same time, we need to be thinking hard about the future and how we can best adapt to what will certainly be a new normal.
Despite the dire situation, this is a time when USCIB’s core beliefs in the power of the private sector, the necessity of trade, investment and supply chains for goods and services, and the imperative of sustainable development are stronger than ever. And despite significant uncertainty about the full force and duration of this unprecedented event, USCIB members across every sector of the American economy are rallying to contribute to solutions by addressing the pandemic through private sector innovation, investment, and partnership. Inspired by our members, USCIB as an organization is doing likewise.
USCIB is an American business group founded on the necessity of global citizenship and commerce—just like the organizations in our global business network for which we serve as the American affiliate: the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC). Together, we are looking at ways we can help bring society together in support of the multilateral institutions we need to be able to count on to work with governments to help those millions of people around the world whose lives and livelihoods are being upended today through real or impending job loss. Examples of the efforts we are supporting include the ICC action call to G20 and its Save the SMEs campaign, the ICC and IOE work with WHO and the IOE’s work with ITUC and ILO, and the BIAC’s support of OECD. We encourage collaboration among the major business organizations in order to leverage the combined voice and efforts of business at a critical time.
We see reason for optimism in the multilateral system to respond, strengthen and restore the global economy. The UN has just launched a Global Humanitarian Assistance campaign, and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo is urging all countries to remove trade barriers to essential goods and services to respond to this health crisis. It is clear to us that only through an all-out international collective and cooperative effort can we stop the pandemic and restore confidence in the future.
We understand that the experience and disruptive impact of the pandemic will—and indeed should—bring with it transformational change, and we should embrace and work together to shape that change to create a more equitable and just society. After we flatten the curve, we need to accelerate the recovery across humanitarian and economic fronts. We are already looking ahead to the need not only to restore, but to take this opportunity to improve and strengthen the policies and political and economic institutions that provide critical infrastructure for business in the global marketplace to deliver jobs, solutions and opportunities for shared prosperity.
In that regard, I would note that when it was announced last year, the UN Decade of Delivery and Action was about scaling up implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This global effort should now prioritize responding to the health, economic and social crises of COVID-19 and mobilizing government, business and all stakeholders on response, remediation and rebuilding a better, stronger and more resilient international community.
I am certain that the U.S. private sector will be a big and active part of this new picture. We stand ready to help design and build a healthier and more prosperous future that safeguards lives and livelihoods—working closely with our members, our government and our partners in the international community.
Peter Robinson is President and CEO of the United States Council for International Business. This is the first in a series of articles from USCIB over the coming months on the key challenges facing the world in every phase of the COVID-19 crisis and the role of business in promoting global cooperation – saving lives and jobs by slowing the spread of the pandemic and working on the gradual re-opening of the world economy.
Open Letter to Members from Peter Robinson, CEO and President USCIB: Response to COVID-19
Things have been rapidly developing since my last message to members of March 9. Going forward, our emphasis will be on doing what we can to ensure business continuity during COVID-19.
During this period of uncertainty, USCIB will be using our weekly e-newsletter to stay in touch on what we, along with the international business organizations for which we serve as American affiliate, are doing to ensure the continued, proactive representation of your interests internationally. Our newsletter will focus on communicating what is happening in the UN and multilateral system with regards to response efforts, which we hope will mitigate the impact on your business.
I assure you that USCIB is fully operational during the pandemic and we will continue to provide the services you depend on. While there are challenges to this new reality as we adjust to social distancing, travel restrictions, work from home and rescheduled or cancelled meetings across the multilateral system, we have implemented a comprehensive teleworking strategy for conducting our daily routine that allows us to protect our employees and respect the role we all play in preventing the spread of the virus to our families, friends and communities.
On the policy front: to maintain the flow of information and advocacy critical to support your interests, policy managers continue to monitor and report back to their committees (through virtual meetings and conference calls) new measures that our global affiliates and network of multilateral organizations we typically interact with have implemented.
Going forward, we will communicate this aspect of our work under “Business Continuity During COVID-19”, a dedicated page on our website (www.uscib.org) that will keep you informed on how we represent your interests at the multilateral “virtual” meetings we will continue to attend.
On the trade services side: to provide the services required in our role as the National Guaranteeing Association for ATA Carnet in the U.S., our Carnet managers continue to process claims and handle inquiries from Carnet holders in support of the free flow of goods and services across borders during this difficult time, and our Service Providers are adapting their processes and procedures to the new circumstances. Relevant developments will be reported that may impact your operations globally.
Our dedicated page on www.uscib.org mentioned above will also spotlight USCIB-member initiatives, such as new public-private partnerships, financial assistance programs, innovations, and accelerated projects that help identify, develop and scale potential treatments and vaccines, all of which strive to minimize the devastating global impacts of the virus. This page is now live and will be updated daily.
During this uncertain time staying in touch is critical. We want to hear from you. Please let us know where USCIB can add value in coping with the crisis by answering a few questions:
- Where can USCIB assist your company or association during these challenging circumstances?
- What role should global business networks like ICC, IOE and Business at OECD (BIAC) take to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?
- Which are good private sector practices and partnerships to be shared through the multilateral system?
If members find it helpful, we will organize weekly exchanges tracking efforts to advance private sector solutions and initiatives as the pandemic affects countries across the globe.
In closing, the COVID-19 pandemic has significant implications for every policy area in which USCIB engages. Rest assured that we remain focused on how we can best engage with our partners in business, government and the multilateral system to bring business solutions to the discussion.