USCIB Submits Comments to USTR on Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

USCIB submitted comments this week on the trade aspects of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a new Biden Administration initiative to engage regional partners on economic and trade priorities. U.S. officials do not envision the IPEF to produce a traditional trade agreement, but to instead achieve better harmonization and liberalization in the areas of trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure, decarbonization, tax and anticorruption.

USCIB members welcome the initiative and seek ambitious results. With a population of 1.5 billion people, 62 percent of world-GDP and 46 percent of the world’s merchandise trade, the Indo-Pacific region offers significant market potential for American companies and the millions of workers they employ.

“We urge the Administration to pursue a substantive agreement with concrete outcomes, common standards, and strong rules that are enforceable and binding,” said USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark.  “An affirmative economic strategy in the Indo-Pacific is critical to advancing U.S. economic and strategic interests.”

USCIB’s comments emphasized the importance of free market principles, particularly in the wake of COVID-19: “As the world rebounds from COVID-19, the United States can contribute to an inclusive, even and robust recovery with stronger trade engagement in the region, a goal made more urgent today as democracy, rule of law and free market principles come under challenge. The IPEF must strengthen U.S. relationships in the region, create more resilient supply chains and ultimately make U.S. allies less vulnerable to China’s economic coercion.”

USCIB Commences 2022 With Robust Engagement With Biden Trade Officials

USCIB is off to a vigorous start in 2022 in the area of business advocacy. In January, USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark held three major committee meetings to bring USCIB members together with Biden Administration officials to discuss China, India and Indo-Pacific trade policy.

Launching this effort, the USCIB China Committee met January 11 for an off-the-record virtual discussion with Deputy Assistant USTR for China Affairs Tim Wineland regarding the key issues confronting the U.S.-China trade relationship. The meeting provided an opportunity for USCIB members to discuss the latest policy developments impacting relations with one of our largest trading partners; topics addressed included the Biden-Xi virtual leaders’ summit, the Administration’s new China trade policy and negotiating agenda for 2022, an assessment of the China Phase 1 trade agreement, and the U.S. plan to address industrial subsidies with China, among other concerns.

The following week, USCIB members met January 19 with Assistant USTR for South and Central Asia Chris Wilson and Deputy Assistant USTR Brendan Lynch for an update on the US-India Trade Policy Forum (TPF) process and the chance to share trade concerns to help inform U.S. priorities as TPF working groups in the areas of agriculture (regulatory alignment), non-agriculture, intellectual property, and services (including digital) are formed for 2022.  A dialogue established by India and the United States in 2005, the TPF was on pause for several years until the Biden Administration relaunched it with an inaugural meeting November 23, 2021.

According to Clark, “the TPF is important to the elimination of trade barriers between the United States and India, and we are grateful to the Biden Administration for resetting the bilateral relationship by reviving this process.  It was important for USCIB members to talk with the negotiators and share their company concerns so the discussions can yield the best results for U.S. industry and its workers.”

Finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia at the Department of Commerce Pamela Phan joined the USCIB Trade and Investment Committee quarterly meeting January 27 to discuss the Biden Administration’s recently announced Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The IPEF is a Biden Administration initiative intended to reassert U.S. leadership and influence, particularly vis-à-vis China’s economic linkages in the region.  While IPEF is in its early stages, USCIB felt it important to engage with Administration officials now to help shape workstreams and expectations for the discussions ahead.

USCIB Launches Competition Webinar Series; First One Focuses on China

The USCIB Competition Committee launched a new webinar series for 2022 titled “Updates in International Competition Law and Enforcement,” spotlighting antitrust developments in key jurisdictions around the globe.

The first event was held last week, focusing on China antitrust regulation and enforcement and featuring experts from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) China National Commission: Dr. Hao Zhan, managing partner at Anjie Law Firm Beijing and ICC Competition Commission regional ambassador to China, Susan Ning, senior partner and head of compliance department of King & Wood Mallesons in Beijing, and Song Ying, antitrust partner at Anjie Law Firm Beijing.

“We hope these webinars will benefit USCIB members, giving them the opportunity to learn from competition experts from around the globe on issues critical to their business,” said USCIB Director Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark.

Zhan discussed recent fundamental changes in China’s antitrust system, with consolidation in 2018 of three authorities into the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), a centralized, vice ministry level authority with more power to promulgate and enforce competition rules and laws. According to Zhan, this has ushered in a new era of antitrust enforcement in China with the establishment of the State Anti-Monopoly Bureau and more cases and higher penalties targeting mostly the media, finance, technology internet platform and pharmaceutical sectors.

Ning outlined the Anti-Monopoly Law, draft amendments released in October 2021 and the anti-monopoly guidelines on the platform economy enacted in February 2021. She discussed how the trend in China is to focus antitrust efforts on the platform economy, focusing on the role of algorithms and platform technologies being misused to exclude or coordinate with others in the marketplace.  Vertical, horizontal and hub and spoke relationships are all targeted. She also discussed the behavior patterns for big data killing, when platforms discriminate in pricing practices using algorithms to differentiate consumers and customary spending costs and described a few high-profile penalty decisions imposed on platform operators who hindered the flow of consumers between platforms – “picking one from the two” problem.

Finally Song described the recent history of anti-monopoly law development in China, highlighting a few of the key changes sought through AML amendments, most of which fall under merger control, addressing no safe harbor, aiding and abetting (liability of third parties), stop the clock, and higher penalties for gun jumping, for example.

Clark plans to host the next webinar in the spring, spotlighting European or Latin American antitrust enforcement practices.

USCIB Presses USTR for Section 301 Tariff Relief

USCIB sent a letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai urging for full reinstatement of the Section 301 product exclusion process and calling for a negotiated solution to put an end to the tariffs.

According to USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark, the letter was dispatched December 1 as USCIB’s response to the recent USTR request for comment on the possible reinstatement of certain product exclusions subject to the Section 301 investigation of China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation (86 FR 56345).

“While reinstatement of the product exclusion process is an important first step, we urge USTR to grant exclusions to all 549 products currently under review, to broaden the Section 301 product exclusion process, and to intensify high level engagement with the Chinese government and U.S. allies on a negotiated solution that ends these harmful tariffs,” said Clark. The letter advocates for retroactive recuperation of duties, long term extensions and a full and transparent Section 301 product exclusion process. It also urges caution when considering any future unilateral actions or remedies, as Ambassador Tai has indicated an interest in launching a new Section 301 investigation into Chinese industrial subsidy policies.

The letter further emphasizes that, while USCIB remains wholly committed to U.S. efforts to confront unfair trade practices, “we are concerned that the Section 301 tariffs imposed against Chinese imports have done more harm than good. Today, the tariffs cover over $370 billion in goods, levying tariffs of up to twenty-five percent on almost every Chinese import into the United States, including USCIB member products across the entire scope of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). The tariffs have raised the cost of doing business in the United States and increased prices for U.S. families without addressing or improving the practices identified by the Section 301.” This outcome runs counter to the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better agenda and goals for U.S. economic recovery.

USCIB Comments on China’s Compliance With Its WTO Commitments

USCIB submitted comments September 15 in response to the U.S. Trade Representatives request for input into China’s compliance with its World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. The comments covered a wide variety of topics with a focus on intellectual property enforcement, regulation, transparency and standards.

According to USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark, USCIB members have significant concerns regarding China’s fulfillment of its WTO obligations in a variety of sectors but also regarding unilateral restrictions and bilateral commitments, like the Phase One trade agreement, that remain unfulfilled.

USCIB members also remain concerned about U.S. tariffs and retaliatory measures imposed as a result of the U.S. Section 301 investigation into China’s forced technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation policies. The submission stated: While the Phase One deal partially addresses some of these tariffs, much more must be done to restore the ability of U.S. business to compete effectively in the global marketplace. It is essential that the United States develop a robust strategy that does not only rely on the use of punitive tariffs to achieve its objectives with China. Tariffs alone have not changed China’s economic policies to date and, ultimately, tariffs also increase costs for U.S. consumers and businesses.

USCIB urges both countries to utilize, in addition to the WTO, the full range of formal multilateral fora, including Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to work toward improved commercial relations. Plurilateral dialogues that include U.S.-friendly jurisdictions such as the European Union, Canada or Australia should also be considered.

“China’s importance in the global economy creates a strong incentive to find ways to promote U.S. interests in a rules-based international trading order; to work with allies to address common challenges with respect to China; and to work together with China to address our common challenges and responsibilities,” said Clark.

Donnelly, Hampl Help Lead Business Input on OECD China Work

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly and member company Dell staffer Eva Hampl led a significant “kick-off” session for Business at OECD (BIAC) and its China Experts Group to elevate and deepen a dialogue with the OECD’s Ambassadorial-level Informal Reflection Group on China on May 3.

The BIAC China team presented concerns and recommendations on four China-related items: state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government support; inward and outward foreign direct investment (FDI) policies; innovation and digitalization policies; and a “climate neutrality” agenda. Other key topics will be addressed in future OECD and BIAC China discussions. Over 100 participants were on session, including OECD country Ambassadors and senior delegates, OECD staff, and BIAC participants, including USCIB members.

Representing BIAC, Donnelly led on FDI issues, focusing on both sides of the China investment coin – foreign investment into China and Chinese investment in our home countries and in third country markets.  With regards to investing in China, Donnelly highlighted business concerns over lack of a level-playing field, formal and informal discrimination against foreign investors, and a lack of effective rule of law in China. On the side of Chinese FDI in our countries, he highlighted two priority concerns, including establishing strong, targeted, and enforceable national security rules on foreign investors while avoiding investment protectionism. Donnelly also noted potential problems in competing against Chinese companies , often state-owned enterprises, which have invested in our markets can be heavily subsidized back home. Donnelly’s comments sparked a good discussion on the substantive issues and on priorities for OECD Investment Committee work going forward.

Hampl, a former USCIB policy director now with Dell’s Washington office, is Vice Chair of the BIAC China Experts group. Hampl was one of three BIAC presenters on innovation and digitalization issues, highlighting that supply chain resiliency, especially in the semiconductor sector, is at the top of global concerns with China and praising the OECD for its ability to decouple economics from politics on such vital issues. Hampl also noted the importance of engaging China constructively on a range of issues related to standards, privacy, intellectual property protections, as well as the broader issues of leveling the playing field and competition against Chinese SOEs.

According to Donnelly, other BIAC colleagues made assertive presentations on the unique challenges of competing with Chinese SOEs, especially in China, but also in the U.S. and around the world.  Several participants urged that disciplines on SOEs be added to the World Trade Organization (WTO) agenda and included in bilateral trade and investment agreements.  Finally, the climate neutrality agenda item provoked broad agreement that the OECD must play a leading role in the broader effort to enlist China constructively in the global climate effort; while much remains to be done, participants agreed that engaging China on climate should be somewhat easier now that the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord.

BIAC Executive Secretary Hanni Rosenbaum, who led BIAC in this novel, in-depth BIAC/OECD session on China, was delighted with participation and the quality of debate. Rosenbaum sees potential for deepening and expanding the BIAC/OECD dialogue on China with new leadership coming to the OECD and a growing consensus among OECD member countries that China poses unique challenges.

“I thought it was an excellent session,” said Donnelly. “The discussion was substantive, candid and forward-looking. The four agenda items are crucial, but there are plenty of other important China-related issues where BIAC can make useful contributions to OECD’s work. These high-level, cross-cutting China discussions, hopefully to be held regularly, can complement in-depth work in specific OECD committees. There is a lot of challenging work with China and the OECD can play a valuable role in this effort.”

Alice Slayton Clark, USCIB’s new director for investment, trade and China will be leading USCIB’s work on China, both specific to the OECD and more generally, going forward. If you have issues, questions, or suggestions related to China, please get in touch with Clark.

USCIB Leads in Preparations for Upcoming China Meetings at OECD

USCIB members and staff played leading roles in the April 23 China Expert Group’s preliminary meeting to preview and discuss Business at OECD (BIAC) presentations that will be made at the kick-off session of the OECD’s Informal Reflection Group on China in May. During the preliminary meeting, BIAC experts, including USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly and Dell’s Eva Hampl (formerly USCIB and now a Vice Chair of BIAC’s China group), advanced key points that BIAC will emphasize including on state-owned enterprises (SOEs), investment, innovation and digitalization, and climate neutrality.

With regards to SOEs, Donnelly and others emphasized the importance of including provisions on SOEs in future investment and trade agreements, updating World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on subsidies, drawing China into multilateral consensus on export and development finance, as well as engaging China to reduce excess capacity in steel and rejoin the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity. The investment dialogue between China and the OECD should also be intensified and made more substantive, rather than political, according to Donnelly. Updating the investment policy review of China is also critical since the last review was done in 2008.

On innovation and digitalization, Donnelly noted the need to review efforts to onshore production in the name of supply chain resiliency, to study global value chains to ensure that policies are driven by OECD-generated facts and not politics and protectionism, to foster cooperation on IT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) information-sharing and standards’ development, engaging China on implementation and dissemination of AI principles and policies, as well as monitoring and acting on China’s development of virtual currency along with its impact on major currencies.

“Engaging China on harmonizing carbon pricing and emission trading schemes, pushing China more toward sustainable investment policies at home and abroad (such as their Belt and Road projects use of fossil fuels) and continuing to press for mitigation and strong environmental commitments from China is key,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly also led a discussion urging BIAC, as a business forum, to press the OECD and its member governments for substantive reform and results in its engagement with China and to worry less about protocol and diplomatic formalities.

“It was great to have USCIB and American business actively involved in BIAC’s preparations for this important China strategy session at the OECD,” added Donnelly.  “With a new Secretary General coming to OECD in June, a new U.S. Administration looking to play a leadership role at the OECD, and steadily growing concerns around the world about some of China’s policies and practices, it’s vital that Business at OECD and its American members focus on these issues of how the OECD can play a useful role with China.”

Donnelly added: “Eva Hampl from Dell did a great job leading Friday’s discussion on the innovation and digitalization issues.  She and I look forward to our roles as BIAC lead speakers in the session with the OECD China group.  It was also great to see several USCIB members logging on for the BIAC discussion, confirming that China issues, broadly defined, remain important priorities for USCIB and its broad, cross-sectoral membership.”

If members have issues, questions or suggestions related to this BIAC and OECD effort on China, please contact Allice Slayton Clark (asclark@uscib.org).

USCIB Welcomes New Director for Investment, Trade and China

Alice Slayton Clark

USCIB welcomed Alice Slayton Clark this week as Director for Investment, Trade and China policy. Clark brings with her considerable experience in trade policy, having worked in a number of international law firms and consulting practices, as well as on Capitol Hill.

Most recently, Clark has been a Senior Government Relations Advisor for Jacobs Global Trade & Compliance LLC. Prior to this she spent time as an independent International Trade Consultant, and as an International Trade Specialist at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, Powell Goldstein Frazer & Murphy, Graham & James, and Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander and Ferdon. She began her trade career in the offices of Representative Robert Torricelli and Senator Bob Graham.

Alice received a BA in Government and Spanish from Oberlin College, and an MA in International Relations From Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In the past she has served as the President of the Women in International Trade (WIIT) group, and as a leader in local and school organizations.

Alice can be reached at asclark@uscib.org.

USCIB Welcomes Senate’s Unanimous Confirmation Vote on USTR Tai

Photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Washington, D.C., March 18, 2021—The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) salutes the Senate for its unanimous vote on March 17 to confirm Katherine Tai as the next U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), believing she is a solid choice for this important cabinet-level position, bringing outstanding experience as an attorney-advisor and litigator at USTR, as Chief Trade Counsel for the House of Representatives Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, and as an attorney in the private sector.

America’s economic growth, jobs and competitiveness, our future, depends to a considerable degree on how well we are able to engage and compete in today’s, and tomorrow’s, global economy. USTR Tai will lead America’s efforts on some very important trade and investment issues including our leadership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), updated and improved rules on digital trade, reducing foreign trade and investment barriers hurting American companies and workers, and effectively enforcing our existing network of trade agreements. Tai’s experience with Congress, as well as her expertise in trade law, the WTO and in Asia and China will serve her, and our country, very well in ​this crucial position.

“USCIB knows and respects Ms.Tai and has worked well with her in her important role at the Ways and Means Committee,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “As an organization committed to open trade and investment flows, as well as high standards of corporate responsibility, all of us at USCIB and our member companies look forward to working with Ms.Tai to advance America’s economic interests and our shared values.”

Citi’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Global Government Affairs Rick Johnston, who also c​hairs the USCIB Trade and Investment Committee added, “Ms. Tai is the timely choice for this critical role as USTR at a very important an​d challenging time. Winning unanimous support from the Senate is a rare tribute to her abilities, her experience, and the respect she has earned from all quarters. The right leader at the right time for a very important job.”

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, the International Organization of Employers 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 Contributes to Discussion With OECD on China

USCIB participated in a Seminar with the OECD Informal Reflection Group on China as part of the Business at OECD (BIAC) delegation of the China Expert Group on November 27. The BIAC China Expert Group was created for the purpose of contributing expert guidance to China–OECD cooperation in areas that improve the investment climate and overall business environment in China. According to USCIB’s China lead Eva Hampl, who participated in this meeting, the group promotes adherence to OECD instruments and the sharing of knowledge on policy practices, contributing to a more level playing field for all businesses operating both inside and outside of China. It consults annually with the OECD Informal Reflection Group on China, which includes OECD Ambassadors from a wide range of countries. It also works with the OECD’s senior representative in Beijing to help scale–up the OECD presence in China. China is not a member of the OECD but participates in many of its meetings as an observer.

The focus of the discussion was “The OECD and China in the post-COVID scenario. Avoiding decoupling –strengthening resilience.” The business presentation provided an economic assessment, noted the global challenges, and included several so-called reflection topics on technological decoupling, artificial intelligence, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and supply chain resilience.

Hampl, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services, spoke on the issue of supply chain resilience, highlighting current business challenges globally in the context of the pandemic, as well as specifically related to China.

Hampl encouraged the OECD not to shy away from addressing the difficult issues, highlighting successful OECD workstreams on SOEs and subsidies.

“The relationship with China is complex, multifaceted and can be challenging for business,” stressed Hampl.

The OECD’s December 2020 Economic Outlook released yesterday highlights that China, where the recovery from the pandemic started earlier, is expected to grow strongly at 8% in 2021, accounting for over a third of global growth. Given China’s importance in the global economy, its practices and policies have a significant impact on its trading partners, providing strong incentives to work together to address common challenges and responsibilities.