USCIB, Business Groups Urge Administration to Prioritize US-China Deal

USCIB, along with dozens of U.S. business and industry groups, sent a letter to USTR Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Vice Premier of China’s State Council Liu He strongly supporting the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement noting its “significant achievement in ongoing efforts to advance a more balanced and mutually beneficial U.S.-China economic and commercial relationship.”

The letter also stated that successful implementation of Phase One will be critical to subsequent negotiation of a Phase Two Agreement.

The organizations noted that continuing fulfillment of the terms of the Agreement particularly with regards to Intellectual Property, removal of market access barriers and tariffs are critical. With regards to market access barriers, the letter focused on U.S. fruits, grains, and nearly all U.S. beef products, the expansion of its list of U.S. facilities eligible to export beef, pork, poultry, seafood, dairy and infant formula to China, as well as the adoption of new domestic standards for dairy powder that will allow imports from the United States.

“Meeting the global public health challenges from COVID-19 and restoring growth to the global economy will depend in part on both countries working together to fully implement the mutually beneficial outcomes of the Phase One Agreement,” the letter stated. “Thorough and timely implementation of Phase One commitments is also the most direct and achievable path to removal of tariffs—and to avoid application of new ones—on both sides, which the U.S. business community strongly supports.”

USCIB Announces Leadership Change in Customs, Trade Facilitation Work

Jerry Cook (left) alongside Former Acting United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and USCIB President & CEO Peter Robinson

USCIB has announced that Vice President for Government Relations at Hanesbrands Jerry Cook is stepping down from the chairmanship of USCIB’s Customs and Trade Facilitation Committee as of July 1.

For over ten years, Cook has led the multi-sectoral Committee in strengthening USCIB’s content practice in customs and trade facilitation field and helped position the organization with the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (including Customs and Border Protection), Treasury, and Commerce, as well as the United States Trade Representative, the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Customs Organization, among others.

After over ten years of chairmanship, Cook noted that it is time for a change.

“While serving as Chair, I have witnessed much growth in this practice and am truly proud of the progress and accomplishments the membership has jointly achieved,” said Cook. “I appreciate the opportunity to have worked with all for achieving many consensus positions and efforts and being a part of such a strong and dedicated team. I will continue to look forward to seeing the continued success of USCIB, and the work I have been proud to lead.”

USCIB expresses its gratitude to Cook for his service and will announce successor leadership in the near future.

Global Industry Urges G20 to Promote Innovation, Digital Tech, Trade

USCIB joined a global group of like-minded industry and trade associations to urge the G20 to work with industry to encourage the open markets and accelerated technology adoption that will drive groundbreaking innovations and creative solutions, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter states: “This will require reaffirmed commitments to reject protectionism, support rules-based multilateral organizations, best practices, processes, and obligations, embrace transparency in legislative and regulatory actions, and invest in the workforce. Such commitments should be taken with a view to prioritizing the enhancement and generation of business opportunities for micro, small, and medium size enterprises (MSMEs) and continued advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means of ensuring inclusive recovery across economies.

In general, the global industry group welcomes the renewed discussion at the G20 this year on the role of digital technologies in promoting economic growth through cross-border innovation and trade. As such, the group recommended several actions including facilitating a global response to the COVID-19 outbreak, advancing global date free flows with trust (DFFT), promoting cross-border innovation and adoption of new technologies, as well as ensuring the benefits of technology are realized by all.

According to the industry group, G20 2019 was a groundbreaking year for the advancement of global digital policy discussions. Under Japan’s leadership, the G20 launched the Osaka Track to accelerate and support the ongoing digital trade discussions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and created the concept of Data Free Flows with Trust (DFFT) in recognition of the fact that open cross-border data flows are the lifeblood of all industries, and that strong protections for privacy and cybersecurity go hand-in-hand with the transparent, non-discriminatory transfer of data across borders. G20 2020 offers governments the opportunity to advance this work towards an open, inclusive vision of the modern global economy.

USCIB Strengthens Trade Policy Advocacy Through New Coalition: Alliance for Trade Enforcement

USCIB joined a new coalition, the Alliance for Trade Enforcement, which includes nearly a dozen other industry groups and trade associations. The coalition’s goal is to support U.S. policymakers in their efforts to enforce U.S. trade agreements and ensure that America’s trading partners end unfair trade practices. The coalition is an expansion of the Alliance for Fair Trade with India.

According to the coalition’s media release, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) recent Special 301 Report, which “identifies trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property rights or otherwise deny market access to U.S. innovators and creators,” can serve as an initial blueprint for the group. This year, USTR identified thirty-three countries for these types of violations. Many of these countries are repeat offenders.

“We look forward to further advancing USCIB’s trade policy priorities through this new coalition,” said USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services.

To view the media release, please click here.

USCIB Urges Administration to Remove China Tariffs on Products Needed to Fight COVID-19

USCIB submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on China tariffs on May 18. The comments focused on Additional Modifications to the 301 Action to Address COVID-19 in relation to China’s acts, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.

As noted in previous comments that USCIB has submitted on 301 actions, USCIB continues to hold the position that tariffs stifle the U.S. economy and will not achieve the Administration’s goal of changing China’s behavior.

“Rather than creating more opportunities for U.S. business, sweeping tariffs restrict U.S. agriculture, goods, and services exports and raise costs for businesses and consumers,” said USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the negative impacts of the tariffs on companies’ supply chains and the U.S. economy.”

USCIB highlighted several products that should be removed from the tariff list, including medical equipment central to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 response and of related ailments, as well as medical equipment parts, components and 3D printers.

The comments also highlight chemicals and plastics, which have been recognized for their critical role in the production of cleaning and disinfecting products, as well as medical equipment such as masks, diagnostic equipment and disposable gowns.

For a complete list of products and USCIB’s comments to USTR, please click here, please click here.

Robinson Shares US Perspective During Virtual Briefing on Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 With ILO Director General

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson joined International Organization of Employers (IOE) members from around the world in a virtual dialogue meeting with ILO Director General Guy Ryder. The April 30th briefing allowed for employers to gain better understanding of how the ILO is responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

According to the IOE, this briefing attracted 112 participants from across the world.

Robinson’s remarks included the state of the U.S. economic situation, which included somber statistics regarding U.S. GDP, which has contracted 4.8% in the first quarter of this year and U.S. unemployment claims as of April 30, which reached a total of over thirty million.

“The impacts in the U.S. are sadly not unique,” said Robinson. “Every IOE member on this call and every ILO member state has been similarly laid low – especially vulnerable economies already beset by existing challenges.”

“At USCIB we’re particularly concerned with the inadequacies of social protection systems worldwide, but especially in vulnerable economies, as well as lack of access for SMEs in those countries to capital to maintain their financial viability during this crisis,” added Robinson.

USCIB has raised this issue, and others, with the U.S. government.

“As we look to the future and recovery, let’s be bold,” urged Robinson. “We’re in the first year of the ILO’s second century and we are faced with an enormous challenge. Now, more than ever is the time to take clear and focused action together to harness the unique strength of the ILO and its tripartite constituency. Let’s find unity in purpose to support the ILO’s role in helping the world ‘build back better’ by focusing on core issues of shared priority – looking to the ILO Centenary Declaration as our guide. Count on USCIB, our members and the IOE as your committed partners for our recovery together.”

USCIB Supports Final Duty Deferral in Letter to Trump

USCIB joined the coalition Americans for Free Trade to send a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to take further action to provide relief to struggling American businesses by delaying the collection of all duties and fees. USCIB is one of nearly 500 businesses calling on the Administration to expand its current duty deferral program. The coalition represents retailers, manufacturers, service providers and farmers and ranchers.

The letter made two specific recommendations: first, requesting the Administration to extend the program to cover imports made during May and June and second, urging that the program be expanded to defer the due dates for all duties and fees. Combined, the two actions would immediately free up billions of dollars of working capital for American companies to pay suppliers, employees, service providers and other critical stakeholders.

The letter emphasized that this cash is even more important for companies that have had to close their doors because of stay-at-home orders, leaving them with little to no revenue to make ends meet.

The Administration could expand the current Executive Order and defer collection of all duties without waiting on authorization from Congress. As it currently stands, the Administration is only deferring the collection of some duties and only for imports made in the months of March and April.

USCIB Congratulates Colombia on Formally Becoming OECD Member

Pictured from left: Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD (Photo: OECD/Victor Tonelli)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that Colombia has formally become an OECD Member as of April 28, 2020. Colombia is the 37th country to do so in the Organization’s near 60-year history.

According to the OECD, Colombia has now completed its domestic procedures for ratification of the OECD Convention and deposited its instrument of accession. This brings to a successful conclusion an accession process that began in 2013.

“Colombia is an important market for many companies, and we commend Colombia on successfully concluding this lengthy process and committing to the high standards of the OECD,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl. As the official voice representing U.S. business in this process, USCIB was actively involved in providing input into Colombia’s accession process via Business at OECD (BIAC), the official business voice at the OECD.

OECD Member countries formally invited Colombia to join the Organization in May 2018, following a five-year accession process during which it underwent in-depth reviews by twenty-three OECD Committees and introduced major reforms to align its legislation, policies and practices to OECD standards. These spanned the breadth of policy fields including labor issues, reform of the justice system, corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, anti-bribery, trade, and the establishment of a national policy on industrial chemicals and waste management.

USCIB Comments on Negotiating Objectives for a US-Kenya Trade Agreement

Following the Administration’s recent notice to Congress that it is going to enter into negotiations with the Republic of Kenya for a U.S.-Kenya trade agreement, USCIB submitted comments on April 28 to offer its input on negotiating objectives.

USCIB’s comments offered support for a negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with Kenya as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of economic growth and job creation.

“We strongly believe that free trade with Kenya is overwhelmingly in the interests of both countries and their global trading partners, provided that the agreement is a high standard and comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement,” said USCIB Senior Director for Trade, Investment and Financial Services Eva Hampl.

According to USCIB, reaching an agreement with Kenya is important for the United States because this would be the first trade agreement with a Sub-Saharan African country.

“Beyond Kenya, the Administration should continue ambitions to initiate trade negotiations with other African partners,” added Hampl.

USCIB stressed that a successful trade agreement with Kenya should be negotiated as a single, comprehensive agreement which covers comprehensive market access and national treatment for goods, services, investment and government procurement, and also addresses key rules issues as well.

Beyond Kenya, a high standard U.S.-Kenya FTA could serve as a benchmark for the further negotiation and implementation of the broader African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), parts of which entered into force in May 2019, and is viewed as a great step forward for African trade modernization.

IOE Hosts Digital Conference of COVID Impact on Global Trade, Supply Chains, Employment

The International Organization of Employers’ (IOE) hosted a digital conference on the impact of COVID-19 on global trade, supply chains and employment on April 8. The conference addressed the “pause button” placed on the global economy in efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and endeavored to answer questions such as: whether trade activities will return to normal, how many jobs will be lost, whether companies can continue producing and whether global production chains will be revamped after the crisis.

USCIB Senior Director, Investment Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl participated as a speaker.

In her comments, Hampl emphasized the importance of maintaining an open trade and investment climate, pointing to these conditions as being necessary to rebuild the economy post crisis.

“USCIB is working with our various partners and affiliates to develop policy that looks toward addressing the current problems, but also retaining the structures that work, and rebuilding those that were affected by the crisis,” said Hampl. “Right now the global economy is still in triage and international cooperation is key at this moment. High level statements like the G20 leaders’ statement committing to work with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations and others to address the crisis, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) coming together in a joint statement pledging to work together to facilitate trade in essential goods such as medical supplies, food and energy, are necessary and welcome to business at this time. As the global economy deals with this crisis and looks to rebuilding, business will be a key driver and partner of the recovery process.”