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 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.

USCIB Calls for International Financial Support for At-Risk Businesses, Workers in Developing Countries Impacted by COVID

April 23, 2020 – As the continuing health consequences of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the globe, no country has been spared, but the impacts are particularly acute in vulnerable middle- and lower-income countries.

The scale and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic requires that all stakeholders come together to develop broad-based approaches to this pandemic crisis. Critically, without immediate support from international development finance institutions, the ability of vulnerable countries to reopen and resume economic activity once the pandemic is contained and addressed, will be severely compromised.

As part of the international response to address the health, economic and social crisis from this pandemic, the G-20 countries, including the G-20 Finance Ministers, have coordinated closely with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group and regional development banks, to mobilize resources to address urgent needs.

We call upon the G-20 and leadership of the international financial institutions to support those countries requiring assistance for the health care assets to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, we urge these countries and institutions to allocate necessary resources for:

  1. sufficient funds for governments to offer credit facilities to maintain and avoid the liquidation of businesses in export sectors vital to the economies of these vulnerable countries,
  2. funding to governments to support functioning social protection programs, including income to meet the basic needs of their work force so that they can be supported while they wait to resume their jobs once businesses can be reopened, and
  3. technical and financial support necessary for the export and other economic sectors in these countries so that workplaces can resume operation safely taking into account strategies to mitigate COVID-19 risk.

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USCIB’s Donnelly Retires; Will Take on a Consulting Role 

Shaun Donnelly

Vice President for Investment Policy and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly is retiring April 3 after eight and half years at USCIB.

Donnelly came to USCIB in 2011, after an impressive 36-year career as a Department of State Foreign Service Officer followed by shorter stints at two other leading Washington trade associations. Throughout his time at USCIB, Donnelly has been a leading voice for the U.S. and international business communities on a wide range of investment policy issues, speaking out forcefully and publicly, as well as privately, to the U.S. Administration, Congress and in international fora, from the OECD and World Trade Organization (WTO) to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Donnelly has also been a sought-after and a provocative speaker at investment conferences and seminars around Washington and around the globe.  But most importantly, Donnelly has always been willing and able to put his experience, his expertise and his rolodex to use to assist USCIB members, collectively and individually.

“It has been a real privilege to have Shaun as part of the USCIB team, and I’m delighted that he will continue on in an advisory role,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Shaun is a global regulatory diplomat par excellence, never hesitating to stand up for private sector interests in a forceful, rational and compelling way.”

In the State Department’s Foreign Service, Donnelly served eight years as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, at various times leading policy on Trade, Energy and Economic sanctions.  For almost five of those years he was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, the Department’s #3 economic policy official. Donnelly also served as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives and as Deputy Ambassador to Tunisia and Mali. In his final U.S. government assignment, Donnelly was detailed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) as Assistant USTR in charge of Europe and the Middle East, running USTR’s largest regional office.  He retired from the Foreign Service with the personal rank of Career Minister, roughly equivalent to that of three-star general.

“Simply put, it’s time,” Donnelly said.  “It’s been a great run and I have really appreciated the opportunity to work with so many great colleagues at USCIB and in our member companies.”

For us at USCIB, the good news is that Donnelly has agreed to stay on in a consulting role, serving as a senior advisor to Robinson and USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan, as well as to take on a few special projects.

“I look forward to staying involved behind the scenes with USCIB and helping where I can,” said Donnelly. “It’s a great organization and there is still a lot of important, challenging work to do.”

USCIB Supports Respect for Arbitration Awards in U.S. GSP Program

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly (left) and Chevron Supervising Counsel Andres Romero-Delmastro (right) testifying as panelists before the US Government’s GSP Subcommittee

USCIB went on the record at the January 30 Public Hearing of the USTR-led interagency Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Subcommittee, supporting respect for the GSP eligibility criteria, specifically the need for “respecting and enforcing international arbitral awards.”  USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly joined member company Chevron as the two business experts testifying on the specific issue of Ecuador’s continuing eligibility for GSP in light of the country’s very troubling record in a long-running major investment arbitration case filed by Chevron.

USCIB joined Chevron in recommending that, in light of Ecuador’s continuing refusal to enforce final arbitral awards by the panel, Ecuador’s access to GSP unilateral trade preferences should be suspended until they come into full compliance with those panel orders. According to Donnelly, after a senior official from the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s office presented the government’s case, a senior Chevron attorney detailed the long saga of Ecuadorian non-compliance. Donnelly then offered broader comments to the sub-committee on the important policy implications of Ecuador’s non-compliance and the importance of maintaining and enforcing the clear eligibility criteria laid out in the GSP statute. The Ecuador investment arbitration case was one of nine “country eligibility cases” on the agenda for public comments before the GSP subcommittee in its two-day meeting January 30-31.

“We at USCIB are strong supporters of the GSP program but it is not an entitlement for Ecuador or any other beneficiary developing countries” Donnelly explained.  “When a country refuses over many years to respect legitimate arbitral awards, in this case from an investment arbitral panel under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), the U.S. government’s patience must have a limit. Ecuador has clearly fallen short of the standards under the GSP statute. I think the detailed case presented by Chevron was compelling.”

Chevron and USCIB have been filing formal comments and testifying to the GSP sub-committee along these same lines regularly since 2012. USCIB has long been a leading voice in the U.S. and international business communities on the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI)  to economic growth and development in both the capital exporting and destination countries.  A vital key to incentivizing FDI flows in all direction is strong, transparent and enforceable investment protection, most often in the form of international investment agreements such as BIT treaties or investment chapters in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs.)  When investment disputes arise, access to and respect by all parties for the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) arbitration system under those legally-binding investment agreements is essential.

USCIB has led international business advocacy on investment and ISDS issues, including respect for arbitral panel decisions, for many years including at meetings of the OECD, UNCTAD, and UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL.)

To read Donnelly’s full testimony, click here.

USCIB Commends Phase 1 China Deal, Urges Further Negotiations

Washington, D.C., January 15, 2020 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, welcomes the signing of a Phase One deal with China today in Washington.

China continues to be an important market for U.S. business, and we recognize the progress on food and agricultural export opportunities in this agreement. It also addresses issues related to resolving intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, which negatively affect the global competitiveness of our companies, but more remains to be done to ensure American companies are afforded a level playing field in China.

USCIB continues to support a comprehensive, high-standard deal that that holds China accountable for complying with their international obligations, vigorously pursuing a level playing field overseas, while avoiding policies that undermine U.S. industry competitiveness. We look forward to studying the details of this initial Phase One deal, and to a next phase of negotiations to address remaining issues, including removing the harmful tariffs that have been imposed on both sides.

In addition to working directly with China, we also continue to urge the Administration to work closely with allies to address many of these concerns on fundamental Chinese policies and practices. We are therefore pleased that the United States is continuing to work with the European Union and Japan toward that goal, exemplified by the cabinet-level meetings this week in Washington.

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, generating $5 trillion in annual revenues and employing over 11 million people worldwide. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD (known as BIAC), USCIB helps to provide business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More information is available at www.uscib.org.

USCIB Opposes Proposed Rule on ICT-Related Transactions 

USCIB joined a coalition of over thirty other associations to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross regarding a proposed rule to implement an Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services (ICTS) Supply Chain. This rule would provide the U.S. government with the authority to block, intervene in and unwind certain ICTS-related transactions on the grounds of national security.

The letter stated: “Our members share the Administration’s commitment to ensuring that ICTS transactions do not pose undue risks to national security. However, we view the proposed rule as vague and highly problematic because as written, it would provide the Department with nearly unlimited authority to intervene in virtually any commercial transaction between U.S. companies and their foreign counterparts that involves technology, with little to no due process, accountability, transparency, or coordination with other government programs that are also designed to protect national security.”

According to the letter, the proposed rule does not provide sufficient legal clarity to American companies to identify transactions that could be in scope, which would create significant uncertainty in the business community, disrupt global supply chains and make a range of trade and investment decisions very difficult. Under the proposed rule, companies may also bear higher costs as they alter long-standing business relationships, search for new suppliers and unwind transactions, which will harm U.S. competitiveness and technology leadership.

“An open investment climate with predictable rules is vital to economic growth and development,” said Eva Hampl, senior director of investment, trade and financial services at USCIB. “While national security concerns should be a consideration, virtually unlimited government authority to intervene in transactions could cause significant economic harm to U.S. businesses and consumers.”

Donnelly Pushes for Strong Investment Protections at UNCTAD

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly led a small but vocal team of international business representatives at the November 13 annual High-Level Experts Group on International Investment Agreements (IIAs) at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva. In a room dominated by developing country and NGO reps and academics, Donnelly was the sole business speaker on the opening keynote panel. Donnelly also joined a French business delegate on the key follow-up panel on “Reforming Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).” Other panels included business representatives from USCIB’s BDI colleagues (German industry group) and from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

“In both my presentations, I emphasized a business view on the need for strong investment protections to help reduce risk and mobilize much-needed foreign direct investment (FDI) flows,” said Donnelly. “With limited public finance and official development aid resources, FDI is key to global economic growth and progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, strong IIAs are key to mobilizing FDI. In turn, strong ISDS provisions are essential to effective IIAs.”

According to Donnelly, on the ISDS panel, he was able to rebut a European Commission official who was pitching, as they are in multiple fora these days, their proposal for a standing multilateral investment court to replace the well-established ISDS arbitration system.

“UNCTAD can be a challenging organization, often promoting unhelpful non-market views, but in the investment area it offers a unique opportunity for good dialogue with developing country officials and a platform to confront unhelpful EU initiatives,” he added.

Promoting U.S. Business Access: USCIB Submits NTE Comments

USCIB filed comments on October 25 for the annual National Trade Estimate (NTE) report to highlight significant barriers that American companies continue to face with regards to exports of goods, services and U.S. foreign direct investment. The comprehensive comments included barriers faced by U.S. companies in over twenty countries, including in Brazil, China and India.

According to USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner, the comments urged the U.S. Trade Representative to encourage Brazil to promote an international, interoperable policy framework for the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions that includes M2M permanent roaming, among other things.

“Many IOT and M2M solutions will only reach their optimal scale if they can operate around the globe,” said Wanner. Monitors on airline cargo or shipping containers must be able to operate wherever their freight travels. Automakers sell vehicles across many different countries and operators drive vehicles across national borders for commercial and personal purposes; automakers and customers alike need a single communications platform to support their connected vehicles.

“The Brazilian government should modify the regulatory framework to support providers of IoT and M2M services and devices and allow them to choose between various available options for numbering and device management (including permanent M2M roaming), rather than imposing a single, one-size alternative for all cases,” added Wanner.

With regards to China, USCIB’s submission focused on China’s WTO compliance record in services, particularly China’s indiscriminate filtering and blocking of online services. China’s expansive definition of value-added services, high capitalization requirements for basic telecommunications services, lack of an independent regulator, and restrictions that specifically apply to the non-Chinese companies for provision of value-added services remain key outstanding issues for U.S. business.

Finally, while India has accelerated broadband deployment, USCIB’s comments stressed that it must also implement policies that foster an innovative environment through predictable, progressive and technology-neutral policies that are compatible with global standards.

“It is important to keep encouraging the Indian government to support further market liberalization and to remove remaining market access barriers,” said Wanner. “India should be urged to continue its efforts to provide legal and regulatory policy certainty both in the development of a body of clear and consistent laws and regulations, and in the transparent and equitable application and enforcement of those laws and regulations. Unfortunately, in recent years the government of India has implemented a number of policies that constitute significant market access barriers to U.S. companies, including in data localization, remote access policy and cloud computing.”