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.”

Op-Ed: Business Must Come Together to Respond to COVID-19 Now

Op-Ed by Scott C. Ratzan MD, Executive Director of Business Partners for Sustainable Development

Earlier this month, nearly 500 experts in public health, law and human rights wrote an open letter to U.S Vice President Mike Pence to act swiftly, fairly and effectively, warning that “the COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented in recent American history, and there is no playbook for an epidemiological event of this scope and magnitude.”

Yet, just weeks later, we all are living with unprecedented turmoil from this novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

While the virus was named a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization (WHO), this is the seventh time we have had such a proclamation in the last two decades. H1N1 influenza, polio, ebola in West Africa and in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zika, all abated and did not cause as much havoc. Financial markets are on a roller coaster, planes grounded and many of us sheltering in place or in a self-imposed or government-recommended quarantine.

The future of our public health and economy depend on how government officials, policymakers, leaders and our fellow citizens react.

This includes honest, coherent, transparent, and timely communication while providing adequate funding and support for the response. The health care system needs immediate resources for equitable and effective infection control and the means to effectively manage the disease.

As 24/7 news, interactive websites, social media and alerts fill our day, the virus continues to spread. Unfortunately, without a clear treatment or cure, fear and uncertainty results in a rich environment for misinformation and misguided actions.

COVID-19 is a test of our system’s ability to address a legitimate public health threat with an unknown trajectory. Multiple sectors must leverage knowledge, expertise, networks and resources to produce better public health outcomes. Being prepared with a plan and being proactive is the name of the game in prevention, mitigation and management of risk and the adverse consequences of any threat.

Business must play a critical role in planning, implementing and adapting to this crisis due to its wide reach, resources and impact on employees, partners and markets.

Communication from employers on coronavirus is the most credible source of information, according to a recent Edelman ten-country study (March 6-10). This is consistent with a 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, which showed that “my employer” is the most trusted institution by 18 points over business in general and NGOs, and by 27 points over government and media.

Employers are central in communicating the response. The public needs the assurance that as more is learned, information will be shared accurately and clearly from sources they trust.

This emergent threat challenges our society to cooperate amongst all sectors, including government, media, technology platforms and the private sector.

We know that large scale communication campaigns that employ behavioral economics, health literacy and communication levers (mass and social media) can drive citizens toward healthier decisions. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the business sector’s historical hallmarks of innovation, efficiency and management can help address the challenge we face today.

There are some promising examples:

  • A COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator supported by Mastercard will join with the WHO, government and private sector funders and organizations to speed the response to the COVID-19 epidemic by identifying, assessing, developing and scaling-up treatments.
  • The USCIB is leveraging existing networks to catalyze partnerships to address challenges, such as COVID-19. This includes working with the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to distribute WHO guidance on simple and low-cost measures for creating a healthier and more productive workplace.
  • The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Business at OECD (BIAC) are also working on the design of an action plan to reach millions of businesses with recommendations to help governments deal with the threat to the global economy.
  • The Global NGO Business Fights Poverty is collaborating with Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) to develop an online “challenge” discussion on how business should tackle the coronavirus challenge.
  • NBCUniversal, Viacom/CBS, iHeartMedia, The Atlantic, Disney/ABC Television and the Ad Council will donate advertising inventory for campaigns that will advise consumers about social distancing, steps that can be taken to protect the public and more.

While the WHO was established to advance “informed opinion and active cooperation on the part of the public” we have now learned that health issues are not confined to one organization or sector.

Only by working together, with the public and private sectors, we can advance a society where our livelihoods are not threatened by similar future outbreaks and create a resilient society capable of responding to any future threat we may face.

Scott C. Ratzan MD is Executive Director of Business Partners for Sustainable Development. He is Former Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

USCIB Talks OECD Accession With New US Ambassador to Brazil   

Todd C. Chapman

USCIB trade and investment policy staffers Shaun Donnelly and Eva Hampl had an introductory conference call on March 19 with the recently-confirmed new U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman and State Department Brazil Desk Economist Ben Kalt.  Ambassador Chapman, with whom USCIB worked in the past during Chapman’s earlier appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, had hoped to meet in person with USCIB staff and member companies but settled for an introductory call in light of COVID-19 precautions.

According to Donnelly, the Ambassador assured USCIB that the Brazil’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) accession process will be at the top of his policy agenda throughout his assignment in Brazil.

Donnelly and Hampl outlined USCIB’s role in the OECD accession process, serving as the official voice of U.S. business in all OECD matters, directly and as the U.S. affiliate of the Business at OECD (known as BIAC) business coalition on the ground at the OECD.

“We shared our experiences with the OECD, BIAC, the U.S. Government, the government of Colombia and business leaders on Colombia’s recent OECD accession,” said Donnelly. “We discussed possible modalities for embassy-USCIB cooperation throughout the OECD accession process as well as ways both USCIB and the embassy might work most effectively with CNI, which is Brazil’s largest and most influential business organization.”

USCIB has also worked extensively with CNI–as national committee partners in Business at OECD, as well as in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) for climate change.

Ambassador Chapman enthusiastically signed up for a meeting with USCIB member companies on one of his early return visits to Washington after he gets settled in Brasilia.

The OECD accession process is a comprehensive, rigorous, and lengthy process, often running three to five years or more, with more than a dozen OECD committees and other bodies each carefully reviewing the candidate country’s laws, regulations, and practices to confirm they are in line with OECD standards.  When all relevant OECD committees and subsidiary bodies are satisfied by the applicant’s “like-mindedness” and commitment to OECD standards, the OECD “Council” of thirty-six ambassadors can formally approve the accession and invite the candidate country to file its binding acceptance of membership.

According to Donnelly, given Brazil’s prominent role in the global economy and, frankly, its history of barriers to foreign goods, services and investments, Brazil’s candidacy will likely attract great interest from OECD member governments and the Business at OECD coalition.  USCIB will be at the head of the line in that business effort.  The Brazil accession case has some important unique aspects, probably most important the strong early endorsement from President Trump personally.

If you have questions, concerns, or recommendations concerning Brazil OECD accession process, please contact Eva Hampl (ehampl@uscib.org) or Shaun Donnelly (sdonnelly@uscib.org).

Business Continuity During COVID-19

Visit the following pages for more information:

World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System Committee – 65th Session

The 65th Session of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System Committee (HSC), which will be held:

March 11 – 20, 2020, at WCO Headquarters in Brussels.

USCIB, as part of the ICC delegation, will be participating in this meeting.

Please reach out to Megan Giblin (mgiblin@uscib.org) with any questions, clarifications, and/or to discuss further.

Coronavirus Impact on ATA Carnet

USCIB, as the national guaranteeing and issuing association in the U.S. for ATA Carnets, along with our service providers, Boomerang Carnets and Roanoke, have been watching with concern reports of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its potential impact to ATA Carnet holders and the business community at large.

In our role as an advocate for global trade and a passionate supporter of its importance to growth and prosperity, USCIB believes that every effort should be made to balance legitimate health and safety concerns with the imperative to actively support the free flow of goods and services across borders.  In that spirit, we will work with Foreign National Guaranteeing Associations and National Customs Administrations to attempt to mitigate any ATA Carnet claims for U.S. issued Carnets that are caused by restrictions in the country of re-exportation due to the virus.

USCIB has been in contact with China Customs and have received their support on dealing with any future claims on U.S. issued Carnets. At the same time, USCIB also plans to work with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in efforts to help mitigate any Chinese Carnets impacted by the virus on re-exportation from the U.S.  It is important to note, however, that all holders should keep as much documentation (e.g. airline ticket cancellations/rebookings, hotel reservation extension etc..) as possible to support their case.