USCIB Hosts Dialogue on Business Role in Sustainable Recovery and Paris Climate Pledges

Jesse Young (USG) and Norine Kennedy (USCIB)

Ahead of the White House Leaders’ Climate Summit, the Major Economies Forum and the Biden Administration’s unveiling of its Paris Agreement pledge and implementation plan, also known as the U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) hosted a virtual Business Dialogue on April 21 on “Synergies with Sustainable Recovery: The Role of Business in Strengthening NDCs,” moderated by USCIB Senior Vice President Norine Kennedy.

Opening the meeting was USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, who reflected on the crucial nature of inclusive multilateralism and the thought-leadership contributions USCIB has made in international climate change policy over the past two decades.

Peter Robinson makes remarks at BizMEF event

“An inclusive U.S. NDC will also be an ambitious and resilient one,” said Robinson. “During U.S. Climate Week, we can inspire and learn from one another. COP after COP since 1993, USCIB has worked supportively with U.S. administrations to make real progress for private sector innovation, investment and action in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). We’ll also be working with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Business at OECD (BIAC) to encourage governments around the world to strengthen their NDCs.”

During the meeting, government, and industry speakers from Japan, Denmark, Kenya and India discussed linking recovery and climate action through inclusive, ambitious NDCs, engaging business at national and global levels.

Jesse Young, senior advisor to the Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry, concluded the meeting with what can be expected during the White House Leaders’ Climate Summit; in addition to a new U.S. NDC, the Administration will release the first-ever international climate finance plan which will include a blueprint for how all U.S. government agencies will be enhancing action on climate change, as well as clear targets on climate finance, keeping in mind the role of business. He also commended BizMEF for continuing to advance constructive recommendations on international climate policy, when Major Economies Forum meetings were discontinued.

About: This virtual Business Dialogue built on BizMEF Dialogues at COPs in Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Bonn, Katowice and Madrid in 2019, followed by a first Virtual Business Dialogue in December last year. The Major Economies Business Forum on Energy Security and Climate Change (BizMEF) is a partnership of major multi-sectoral business organizations from major economies in developed and developing countries, and includes BusinessEurope, CII, CEOE, Business Unity South Africa, CGEM, MEDEF, BDI, Keidanren, and CNI. Since its launch in 2009,  BizMEF has provided responsible business views and practical input to the international climate change discussions at UNFCCC and OECD. USCIB is a founding partner of BizMEF, and helps support the alliance’s activities.

USCIB Informs EU With Comments on Sustainable Corporate Governance

As part of the European Green Deal and the European Commission’s (EU) Communication on the (COVID-19) Recovery Plan, the EU has invited stakeholder comments during a public consultation to inform consideration of a possible EU Sustainable Corporate Governance Initiative. USCIB has submitted its comments on February 9, drawing on the expertise of its Committees on Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs and Environment.

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Global Strategy, Norine Kennedy, the consultation took the form of an online questionnaire, seeking feedback on numerous elements of ESG, and exploring what form an EU-wide framework to promote due diligence, board of directors’ duty of care and stakeholder engagement should take. 

USCIB comments highlighted the fundamental importance of the UN Guiding Principles.  USCIB set out U.S. business concerns about any promulgation of rigid approaches, such as the application of tariffs, sanctions or import restrictions that rightly seek to address human rights or labor rights concerns but – due to their rigidity – inadvertently create a disincentive for long-term supply chain engagement, the use in accordance with the UNGPs of leverage in company supply and value chains, and sustainable remediation.  

“We would welcome an EU approach to these issues that would include sustainability risks, impacts and opportunities into corporate strategy and decisions, as many companies already have,” added Kennedy. “However general principles would be preferable over rigid legal requirements. Flexibility afforded to each company to decide how to include such considerations would be crucial for such general principles to be effective.”

USCIB also encouraged the EU to pursue a fuller holistic dialogue with business and other stakeholders on how to advance sustainable corporate governance in environmental and social areas.

“We support the role business can and should play in respecting human rights” said USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog.  “We strongly encourage the EU to gather business and other stakeholder views through actual dialogue and consultation, with due attention to context, such as ongoing impacts and burdens on companies because of the pandemic’s economic disruption and ongoing constraints, as well as existing business initiatives and systems.”

USCIB will continue to follow and stay in close contact with U.S. government and EU authorities as these deliberations go forward.

USCIB Announces New Policy Leadership

Brian Lowry

New York, N.Y., February 01, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) announced that Brian Lowry, a former executive in the agriculture and crop science industry, and longtime USCIB corporate member leader, has joined USCIB’s staff as senior vice president of innovation, regulation, and trade. Lowry will be replacing Mike Michener, vice president for product policy and innovation, who is departing USCIB to join the Biden Administration to coordinate international food security policy.

Norine Kennedy

In addition, USCIB announced the promotion of Norine Kennedy to the position of senior vice president, policy and global strategy. With over 25 years’ experience as USCIB’s lead on environment, energy and climate change, Kennedy has been a forceful and respected voice for U.S. business at the UN Rio, Johannesburg, and Rio+20 sustainability conferences, at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meetings, all Conferences of the Parties of the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Kennedy also spearheaded USCIB’s strategic international engagement initiative to advance meaningful business engagement, partnership and regulatory diplomacy across the UN system.

Working from St. Louis and USCIB’s Washington, DC office, Lowry will lead the organization’s policy work on trade, health, food, agriculture, chemicals, and intellectual property. He will also coordinate USCIB’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

“Brian brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to USCIB, especially his background in working within a multinational corporate entity and with international organizations, that will contribute greatly to our efforts on behalf of members,” said Peter Robinson, USCIB CEO and president. “We are excited to have him join our team at a time when the policy and regulatory issues facing American companies are complex and growing—but also when the innovative capacity of the private sector can contribute so much to solving the global challenges we face today.”

Lowry most recently served in St. Louis as deputy general counsel at Bayer U.S. – Crop Science Division (formerly Monsanto) and headed the Office of Law & Policy. He was responsible for key legal functions and public policy efforts including international trade policy, negotiations, and compliance; multi-lateral undertakings and conventions and UN-related matters; human rights, human resources, and immigration; business conduct, ethics, and anti-corruption; intellectual property policy; and stakeholder and socially responsible investor engagement. Lowry also co-chaired the USCIB working group on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda and was the first board chair of the UN Global Compact Network USA.

In 2017, Lowry was recognized by the Financial Times as one of the six best leading in-house counsel specialists as “The Thought Leader.” In 2011, he was a finalist in the International Law Office Global Counsel Awards, and in 2014, he was recognized as the American Corporate Counsel International Lawyer of the Year. He is regularly engaged in university discussions on food security and business and human rights, and participates in a number of philanthropic, arts and community boards and activities. Lowry has taken advanced studies at Stanford University and Harvard University, and holds degrees from the University of Dayton, BS Education, and Washington University, Juris Doctorate.

Mike Michener

Michener is a former administrator of the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service who has also served as a U.S. diplomat in Rome and association executive in Brussels; he also worked with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and he served with the United States Army for seven years in Europe.

Robinson said, “We are sorry to see Mike Michener leave us, but happy as always to see USCIB alumni going on to key corporate and governmental positions. And we are fortunate to be able to count on the collaborative leadership of Norine Kennedy and Brian Lowry in advancing opportunities for private sector solutions to critical global issues at a time when multilateralism matters to business.”

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 Statement on Selection of Samantha Power to Lead USAID

Photo source: www.samanthapower.com

New York, N.Y., January 14, 2021 — President and CEO of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) Peter Robinson released a statement today in reaction to President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Ambassador Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID):

“We welcome President-elect Biden’s selection of Ambassador Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID’s mission of humanitarian assistance and sustainable development matters to business, and USCIB looks forward to continuing to work with the dedicated people of USAID to advance American interests in global institutions and in the world marketplace. 

“Vigorous U.S. engagement in multilateral institutions will be indispensable to advance and scale worldwide progress in the four priorities of the incoming Biden/Harris Administration: defeating COVID-19, jump-starting economic recovery, addressing climate change, and promoting racial justice.

“USCIB also welcomes the Biden Administration’s commitment to the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. We encourage attention to opportunities to improve the impact and effectiveness of the 2030 Agenda process and to enhance i opportunities for meaningful and substantive involvement of business and other important societal partners. We call on the U.S. to diversify and increase its SDG2-oriented engagement in international institutions where USAID plays a key role, including the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Committee on World Food Security.

“American business has already joined forces with our government, the international community and other stakeholders to respond to the pandemic crisis with cascading global implications for economic development. We encourage Ambassador Power to champion active business participation in policy dialogue, partnership, and implementation on development and humanitarian areas in UN bodies such as UNDP, UNCTAD and UNICEF, among others. Building a trusted and recognized working relationship with business will be key as the international community faces new challenges that require mobilizing the private sector and society as a whole.

“We recognize USAID has consistently pursued partnership with businesses — including local business communities — to advance its mission and has highlighted the importance of economic growth as a pathway out of poverty. USCIB looks forward to a new chapter of American-led multilateral development cooperation in which USAID plays an indispensable role. USCIB members are ready to dialogue with Ambassador Power to inform priorities and pursue strategic multilateral involvement in international development that brings benefits at home and abroad.”

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Organization of Employers (IOE), and Business at OECD (BIAC), and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, 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 Encourages Biden Environmental Nominees to Engage on Multilateral Issues

New York, N.Y., December 18, 2020: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) issued a statement today by its President and CEO, Peter Robinson, commending the nominations of Michael Regan, for Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and Brenda Mallory to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

“USCIB members are strongly committed to advancing environmental protection through innovation and investment in the global marketplace. We believe that EPA and CEQ play crucial roles in shaping U.S. international environmental policy, not just in connection with climate change but in other priority areas, such as pursuing nature-based solutions, circular economies and responsible chemicals risk management. 2021 will be a year of important decision-points in the multilateral system, looking ahead to the fifth UN Environment Assembly and eventual thirty-year anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit; vigorous U.S. engagement in those deliberations will be vital for economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad.

“USCIB sees opportunities to pursue synergies across international and domestic actions for enhanced environmental benefits, and advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), delivering a recovery that improves environmental quality, creates jobs and stimulates public-private partnerships. Since 1992, USCIB has represented U.S. business in support of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement. In addition, USCIB has been the voice of American business at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and other multilateral environmental deliberations and forums. USCIB is fully committed to international cooperation and to partnership with our government to advance American private sector-driven economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad. In our view, it is critical to continue to focus on and champion substantive engagement of U.S. business across the UN system on key environmental topics.

“USCIB and its members are ready to assist the incoming Administration to develop and implement market-oriented environmental solutions and measures, working with the international community and in consultation with the American private sector. As the U.S. affiliate of Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and with its own standing at the UNFCCC, UNEP and at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), USCIB is uniquely placed to scale and amplify these opportunities across the UN system, and in the OECD and the WTO.”

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of leading international business organizations and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

Policy Contact: VP for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy (nkennedy@uscib.org)

Donnelly Advocates for Investment, Investor-State Dispute Settlement

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly was a panelist in a two half-day virtual Forum on Investor-State Mediation December 8-9 organized by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL). The conference brought together international arbitrators, mediators, academics and investment experts. Donnelly’s panel, wrapping up the conference, was focused on “Future of ISDS Mediation: Climate Change, COVID-19 and the Potential Surge of Investor State Disputes.” ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) is the arbitration enforcement provisions commonly found in international investment agreements. 

Donnelly, the lone business voice on a panel with ISDS skeptics from NGOs and academia, emphasized the importance of private sector investment, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), to drive global economic recovery, growth, trade and jobs. 

“Investment agreements with strong investor-state dispute  settlement provisions can be key to incentivizing investment flows,” said Donnelly.  Donnelly also challenged critics to show any recent surge of ISDS cases, noting investors are generally acting responsibly and assisting host governments in dealing with the daunting health and economic crises. He endorsed serious mediation efforts as an additional tool, but not as a substitute for, to support strong investment agreements in resolving disputes. 

“If early, time-limited, voluntary mediation can solve problems, resolve disputes, cut costs, and speed decisions, great!” he added.  “I enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a very interesting, very international conference focused on mediation as potential tool to help resolve investment disputes,” Donnelly said. “It was important for business voices to be there with lawyers, arbitrators and mediators, as well as NGO activist and academics. We had a good exchange. I think effective mediation could be a useful tool in some cases but it has to be voluntary for the parties and should not be seen as an excuse for radical revisions to international investment agreements and established dispute settlement mechanisms.”        

USCIB Members Address Network Security During Crises, Environmental Sustainability at IGF

The fifteenth Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in two phases November 2 -November 17, featured expert commentary from USCIB members that addressed two of the key thematic pillars of this year’s event – trust and improving the environment. Chris Boyer (AT&T) moderated a USCIB-organized workshop, in which Kathryn Condello (Lumen) highlighted how business and government closely collaborated from the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure secure, stable and reliable connectivity and, in so doing, create a framework for trust in the online environment.

In another USCIB-organized workshop, Matt Peterson (Amazon) and Caroline Louveaux (Mastercard) described their respective companies’ efforts to leverage technologies and their networks to address the planet’s environmental challenges through such initiatives as Amazon’s “Climate Pledge Fund” and Mastercard’s “Priceless Planet Coalition.”

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, both USCIB workshops attracted thirty-five to fifty virtual attendees from stakeholder groups throughout the world and garnered praise for the relevance and insightfulness of speakers’ comments in view of the still-rampant pandemic and challenges to the global environment.

Under the overarching theme ‘’Internet for human resilience and solidarity,” the annual IGF was hosted virtually by the United Nations given COVID-related travel restrictions. Given its virtual nature, the IGF Secretariat estimated that the event brought together more than five thousand leaders and ‎stakeholders of all sectors and all parts of the world, to discuss the impact of the Internet on ‎our lives within four key thematic tracks: (1) Data; (2) Environment; (3) Inclusion and (4) Trust.‎ As mentioned, USCIB members chose to showcase their corporate expertise under the trust and environment themes in two of the more than 200 IGF workshops.

USCIB Welcomes US Intention to Rejoin the Paris Agreement

Co-creating a U.S. climate plan to restore economies and to deploy American innovation globally

Washington, D.C., November 10, 2020 — The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the intention of the incoming Administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Multilateralism matters to business, and nowhere is this conviction more important than in addressing climate change, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

For over twenty-five years, USCIB members have supported the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and have been fully committed both to international cooperation and partnership with our government to tackle the impacts of climate change while advancing American private-sector driven economic prosperity and environmental stewardship at home and abroad. In our view, it is critical to continue to focus on and champion substantive engagement of U.S. business in all dimensions of the UNFCCC.

Enabling conditions inside and outside the framework of climate policy will be vital to progress towards the objectives of the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement. USCIB is ready to recommend synergistic approaches that mobilize trade and investment to support and deploy innovative technologies and forms of energy.

As the U.S. affiliate of Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), and with its own standing at the UNFCCC and at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), USCIB is uniquely placed to scale and amplify these opportunities across the UN system, and in the OECD and the WTO.

As it re-engages, we encourage the Biden Administration to work closely with the full diversity of U.S. business across every sector of the economy. This will be essential to deliver a U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) that advances U.S. economic growth, energy security, job creation and climate action, for the widest benefit of all in our society.

While this might take time, we believe it is worth the effort to consult and reflect the views and expertise of USCIB members and other business stakeholders on economic, social, energy and environmental dimensions of U.S. actions at home and abroad in this critical area.

We look forward to this new chapter of vigorous American involvement and cooperation towards a successful COP26 climate meeting in 2021, and to U.S. involvement in the UNFCCC process into the future.

About USCIB: USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms with operations in every region of the world. USCIB has represented U.S. business at the UNFCCC since 1993. Furthermore, as the U.S. affiliate of leading international business organizations and as the sole U.S. business group with standing in ECOSOC, 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 Issues Recommendations to EU on a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism

The European Union concluded a public consultation last month on a proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), part of the EU’s ambitious Green Deal, focusing on deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. USCIB submitted its members’ response on October 28, drawing on the expertise of its Committees on Customs, Environment, Taxation as well as Trade and Investment.

“The EU CBAM proposal is complex, seeking to “level the playing field” by imposing extra costs on imports from countries with different climate change policies” said USCIB Vice President for Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy. “In our comments, we addressed climate change, trade and technical aspects of the proposal which we believe to be most relevant to American companies doing business with, and in, the EU.”

One critical recommendation was on timing; USCIB encouraged the EU to undertake thorough consultative and data-based economic and trade impact assessments, especially with regards to developing countries, to avoid unintended and counter-productive consequences on livelihoods. “As countries continue to experience the fall out and economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe governments should proceed cautiously before adding stresses to the global trading system,” warned Eva Hampl, USCIB senior director for trade, investment and financial services.

USCIB also stressed the importance of ensuring compatibility with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, warning that some elements of the EU CBAM proposal are unclear, which may lead to time-consuming disputes and delay the positive potential for deployment of innovative technologies and materials vital to climate change action, as well as hinder economic growth and recovery.

Hampl added: “Any further development of this currently counter-productive proposal must avoid and head off climate disputes at the WTO that may lead to unpredictable or unintended negative outcomes in environment, climate and trade negotiations.”

On technical practicality and administrative burdens, USCIB’s recommendation included reducing those burdens and the associated costs of compliance, which would inevitably subtract from resources available for other areas of environmental improvement.

USCIB believes that synergies between trade and environment protection should be the focus of international cooperation, and unilateral measures should be discouraged.

“Open trade advances economic prosperity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is an essential vehicle to achieve widespread and rapid deployment of climate-related investments and cleaner and more efficient technologies and forms of energy,” emphasized Kennedy. “To meet the commitments and objectives of the SDGs, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, it is clear that more trade will be needed.”

For more information:

Earlier this year, USCIB published a paper Seeking Synergies: Environment, Climate and Trade Policy.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Digital Transformation of the Economy

USCIB released a thought piece with concrete policy recommendations on “What COVID-19 has Taught Us About Digital Transformation of the Economy: Early Lessons Learned,” with a specific focus on the role of digital technologies, including on the issues of infrastructure, connectivity, capacity building and the digital divide, data flows and trust, as well as on the importance of Artificial Intelligence. To download, please click here.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the transformative power of digital technologies. These cutting-edge technologies not only have enabled real-time information exchanges about the virus, but also have facilitated the provision of critical medical services and government financial support for business and individuals as well as provided a means of continuing commercial and economic activity. The ability to connect online has served as a lifeline to literally millions of global citizens anxious for safe, virtual social engagement and a way to continue their children’s education, among other societal needs.

Responding quickly to the global crisis, companies across all sectors stepped up to work closely with governments and other stakeholders to deploy and drive digital technology solutions in response to these urgent medical, economic, and social needs. Whether it be via AI-powered applications, enhanced broadband connectivity, cloud computing services, data and cybersecurity or other digital technologies, companies in all sectors have been proving how important digital technology is for the health and well-being of all.

Even more important, digital technologies have the potential to shape a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, including accelerating the digitization of such government services as licensing, permitting, tax collection and procurement. Key to realizing this, however, is a policy framework that creates an enabling environment for investment in technology innovation and deployment. Such policies may address economic, social/cultural, technical, and governance issues, all of which are interlinked and cross-cutting. This holistic approach will best enable development of a secure digital infrastructural foundation to realize greater resilience and preparedness in the face of whatever natural or man-made challenge we may face going forward.

As of September 2020, the COVID-19 virus still was far from under control – and was anticipated to remain a challenge well into 2021.  U.S. business regards the following issues as key early lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. These lessons will require the urgent attention of policymakers to address healthcare, employment, education, commercial, and economic development needs in the near-term. Equally important, is imperative that we accelerate policy implementation in order to realize the best chance of a soft landing and solid return to commercial and economic activity when the pandemic eventually has been conquered through rigorous scientific means.

Infrastructure, Connectivity, and Spectrum – Public policies should focus on fostering robust connectivity. The benefits of digital transformation in responding to a global crisis can only be realized if there is adequate broadband infrastructure and spectrum.  In addition, the availability of licensed spectrum for exclusive use and shared use as well as unlicensed use has an important and complementary role in promoting the accessibility of the Internet and its developmental potential. There are many important uses of spectrum, including broadcast and mobile broadband as well as for Wi-Fi.

Policy Recommendation – Governments should incentivize investment in broadband technologies and streamline regulatory policies in order to facilitate broadband deployment, focusing on under-served areas. In addition, effective and technologically neutral management of spectrum – and increasingly scarce resource — must be a priority for policymakers while ensuring the integrity of services offered by existing spectrum license holders.

Capacity Building and Bridging the Digital Divide – The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the gap between the digital “haves” and “have nots,” the latter group suffering most acutely from the virus access to healthcare and medical resources. In a 2017 report, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) found that while more than 7 billion people now have access to voice services, more than 70 per cent of those living in the least developed countries (LDCs) still cannot afford a basic Internet connection, and less than half the people in the world regularly use the Internet.

Policy Recommendation – In order to proactively safeguard against the devastating effects of future crises, the global community must join in building digital and connectivity capacity in developing countries as well as enabling the necessary digital skills, especially for marginalized communities, to fully utilize internet connectivity.

Closing the E-Government Utilization Gap – Related to the above, the pandemic also exposed significant gaps in the ability of our governments to pivot online quickly to provide services.  Government services simply have not digitized fast enough or taken full advantage of the availability of broadband to improve their customer service, capacity, resiliency, adaptability, transparency, and security. Not only is the physical infrastructure lacking, but the rules for provisioning virtual services and teleworking for government employees remain unclear as well.  Given the demonstrated capacity and capability of our networks, governments are suffering from a utilization diffusion lag, which particularly harms marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Policy Recommendation – Governments should take aggressive steps to address their technology utilization gaps and leverage the capacity and capability of networks to conduct government business and offer online citizen services. In doing so, governments should ensure data and cybersecurity are prioritized to protect government and citizen information and harness the benefits of cloud computing for operational efficiency. To speed the rebuilding of the economy, governments should prioritize the digitization of the licensing and permitting process, such as in construction, to provide rapid stimulus to a global economy slowed by COVID-19. Governments also should leverage public-private partnerships and invest in the development, deployment, and procurement of digital services for the benefit of their citizens.

Data Flows and Trust – U.S. business embraces the view that the free flow of data and information is critical for economic development and addressing societal needs. The pandemic underscored the imperative for medical professionals around the world to share data in real-time critical to containing and mitigating the virus. That could not happen if a country’s policies hampered data flows. At the same time, however, U.S. business realizes that the medical, economic and other societal benefits enabled by data flows will only be embraced by consumers, businesses, and governments who trust the online environment. Users must feel confident that the privacy of their personal data will be respected and that their online systems are secure.

Policy Recommendation – Business believes that trust in the online environment is best achieved through risk-based and globally interoperable approaches to privacy and security protections. These conditions will ensure that data free flows with trust, an approach endorsed by the G20 countries in 2019.

Data and Cybersecurity – The importance of data and cybersecurity to the accelerated digital transformation brought on by the pandemic should not be understated.  As business and government networks have become more decentralized with remote work, new data and cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities have emerged. Organizational leaders have needed to ensure they are extending the same security capabilities and best practices in their enterprise networks to all at-home network environments, leveraging cloud-delivered security technologies to do so rapidly and at scale. The pandemic has reshaped many global governments’ understanding of critical infrastructure and “essential” services, to better recognize the complex and interdependent nature of modern supply chains and that data and cybersecurity are essential to business continuity. 

Policy Recommendation – Governments should recognize the criticality of cybersecurity to continuity of essential services across all critical infrastructure sectors; help educate businesses and citizens about data and cybersecurity risk management and their respective responsibilities related to secure remote networking; incentivize the use of cloud-delivered security to enable secure remote workforces and schools at scale; and promote greater voluntary sharing of cyberthreat information and online safety best practices.

E-Commerce and Delivery of Essential Goods and Services – While the COVID-19 crisis accelerated digital transformation in general, the accelerated progress was especially evident with respect to the online sale and provision of goods and services. E-commerce driven by large companies and SMEs alike helped to ensure economic continuity especially during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy Recommendation – Policies should be reviewed and updated, if necessary, to ensure that they do not impede expeditious online provision of goods and services, including public sector services.

Importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The pandemic highlighted how AI could be used to control the impacts of the virus as well as aid mitigation. For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, committing $20 million to accelerate diagnostic research, innovation, and development to speed collective understanding and detection of COVID-19 and other innovate diagnostic solutions to mitigate future infectious disease outbreaks.  More broadly, U.S. business recognizes the potential of AI to address economic, societal, and environmental inequalities. AI and other virtual/augmented reality technologies will continue to evolve and develop in ways that will facilitate mitigation of future crises.

Policy Recommendation – Business believes that existing regulations are sufficient for many AI applications and that any new requirements should be carefully considered in consultation with stakeholders to ensure they are narrowly tailored to address specific concerns as they arise. It is essential that all stakeholders work together to shape the development of AI to foster trust and broaden deployment so we are poised to use it effectively in addressing future crises.