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 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.”

Donnelly Offers US Perspectives to Nordic Business Delegation

USCIB joined with the local Washington offices of key international partner business groups, including the Representative of German Industry and Trade RGIT/BDI, CII from India, TUSIAD from Turkey, Keidanren from Japan and CBI from the UK, in a very useful free-wheeling briefing session for a visiting delegation from leading Nordic business associations.

The visiting Nordic delegation included senior representatives from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (”SE”), Confederation of Danish Enterprise (“DI”), Confederation of Finnish Industries (“EK”), and Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (“NHO”), all of which are national committee partners of USCIB in one or more of USCIB’s international groupings of Business at OECD (BIAC), the International Organization of Employers and the International Chamber of Commerce.

Shaun Donnelly, USCIB vice president for investment and financial services, was the only representative in the room from a U.S. trade association, offering American perspectives and explanations for some of the unprecedented current policy developments in the U.S. and globally.

“Our Nordic partner business organizations are generally strong pro-market, pro-liberalization allies for U.S. business globally and, importantly, within the EU,” said Donnelly. “The delegations had met with the usual suspects on the Washington trade scene in their packed three-day visit but, frankly, left town with as many questions as answers. USCIB will continue to work our Nordic partner associations and other allies across our unique global network to advance our key policy objectives.”

USCIB Submits Negotiation Objectives for US-EU Trade Deal

USCIB submitted negotiation objectives for a U.S.-EU Trade Agreement to USTR.
The EU countries together make up the number one export market for the U.S., with goods exports to the EU in 2016 totaling $269.6 billion, constituting 18.6% of total U.S. goods exports.

 

USCIB submitted negotiation objectives for a U.S.-EU Trade Agreement to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on December 11. The submission was filed in response to USTR’s request for comments and emphasized the importance of a comprehensive negotiation, covering not only market access for goods, but also critical services issues.

The USTR request for comments follows the Trump administration’s announcement to Congress on October 16 of its intention to initiate negotiations on a U.S.-EU Trade Agreement. USCIB supports negotiation of a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU as part of a broader strategy to open international markets for U.S. companies and remove barriers and unfair trade practices in support of U.S. jobs. USCIB priority issues for negotiation of a U.S.-EU agreement include investment, customs and trade facilitation, express delivery services, improved regulatory cohesion, digital trade, intellectual property, government procurement and SOEs, and financial services.

“The EU is an important trade partner for the United States,” said USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl. “USCIB members see the value of common approaches toward establishing a more integrated and barrier-free transatlantic marketplace. Regulatory discrimination and differentiation across the Atlantic is an increasingly frustrating obstacle to trade, investment and the ability to conduct business.”

USCIB supported the negotiations of a comprehensive, high-standard U.S.-EU trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which commenced in 2013 and aspired to eliminate tariff and no-tariff barriers on goods and services trade between the U.S. and the EU. These negotiations were halted by the current administration, but the range of issues that were on the table at the time, ranging from strong investment protections, to increased trade facilitation, and regulatory coherence, continue to be of great importance to our members.

The EU countries together make up the number one export market for the United States, with goods exports to the EU in 2016 totaling $269.6 billion, constituting 18.6% of total U.S. goods exports. U.S. goods and services trade with the EU totaled nearly $1.1 trillion in 2016, with exports totaling $501 billion. The United States also has a surplus in services trade with the EU, totaling $55 billion in 2016. According to Hampl, a successful trade agreement with the EU should cover not just market access for goods, but also address important services issues.

Hampl Moderates Panel on Trade and Corruption in Paris

USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl was in Paris the week of March 26, participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum, during which she moderated a panel on “Integrity & Trade: No Need to Grease the Wheels,” which focused on the relationship between trade facilitation and opportunities for corruption at the border.

Other speakers included Senior Trade Policy Analyst at the OECD Evdokia Moise, Policy Director of Trade Negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway Benedicte Fleischer, Capacity Building Director at the World Customs Organization (WCO) Ernani Checcucci, and Director, ABAC Governance and External Engagement at GlaxoSmithKline Gonzalo Guzman. Hampl noted the importance of trade running smoothly for USCIB member companies.

“Corruption is a cost to business and companies invest in compliance systems, however there are limitations to what business can effect internally,” said Hampl. “The customs border presents many opportunities for corruption. One vehicle to address these issues, of course, is the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. USCIB has been very active in promoting the ratification of the agreement with U.S. FTA partners, as well as within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). As always, implementation is the key, and robust implementation is required to achieve the full benefits of the agreement.”

Moise presented preliminary work by the OECD that is being conducted in this space, addressing issues like automation and the relationship to corruption. Following the presentation, panelists and audience participated in a debate to address the various issues surrounding the topic, including transparency, the TFA and other global efforts.

“The general consensus after the panel was that while much is already being done, still more must be achieved, particularly when it comes to collaboration between governments, business, and civil society,” noted Hampl.

Donnelly and Claman Play Key Roles at OECD and BIAC Investment Meetings

Shaun Donnelly speaks at OECD, joined by (on the left) BIAC investment Committee Chair Winand Quaedvlieg of VNO (Netherlands)

Citi Director of International Government Affairs Kimberley Claman joined USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly at the recent March 12-13 meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Business at OECD (BIAC) Investment Committee meetings in Paris.

Claman, a last-minute addition to the wrap-up panel for the OECD’s day-long annual Investment Treaties conference, offered business perspectives on the day’s debates on investment treaties and investment chapters as tools to protect and promote much-needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows around the world.

After BIAC’s in-house Investment Committee discussions and strategizing on March 13, Donnelly and Claman joined the BIAC delegation, as well as invited labor and civil society “stakeholders,” to participate in the OECD Investment Committee’s discussion of “National Security” provisions and exceptions in Investment agreements.

“This was a very timely topic in light of the Trump Administration’s invocation of ‘national security’ justification for steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Donnelly. “Business took a strong position that national security provisions and especially their ‘self-judging’ nature could be serious threats to the quality of investment treaty disciplines.”

Donnelly joined the Dutch BIAC Investment Committee Chair at the table for formal stakeholder consultations with the OECD Committee, where they outlined BIAC policy priorities and positions, presenting BIAC’s “Proactive Investment Agenda for 2018.”  The day concluded with Claman, Donnelly and the rest of the BIAC Investment leadership hosting an informal working dinner for the OECD’s Investment Committee leadership, a useful off-the-record forum for explanations, probing questions, and candid debate.

“It was a long and challenging couple of days but with challenges growing to investment agreements and especially Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), it’s critical that USCIB be there standing up for strong investment protections, including effective enforcement/dispute settlement provisions,” noted Donnelly. “We offer special thanks to Kimberley for bringing her unique company and former USG negotiator expertise to the discussions.”

“Illicit Trade” Work Heating up at OECD

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Governance Committee’s Task Force on Illicit Trade is raising its profile and tempo of work and increasing its effort to include the private sector in that workstream.

USCIB Vice President Shaun Donnelly led Business at OECD’s (BIAC) participation in the first of two days of Task Force meetings in Paris on March 15-16 with strong participation from USCIB member companies and other private sector representatives.  Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Christa Brzozowski is one of the two new co-chairs for this OECD Task Force, driving this important OECD work and providing strong senior-level U.S. government leadership.

“Illicit trade is a broad and elastic concept, including but not limited to pirated, counterfeit, “gray market”, and smuggled goods but also illicit movement of arms, drugs, antiquities and endangered species as well as and human trafficking,” commented Donnelly.  “As the OECD steps up its policy and coordination efforts to combat illicit trade, strong, broad and proactive private sector involvement will be essential.  BIAC and its national committees, including USCIB, will play the key role in making this process work.”

Donnelly Offers Business Views on OECD Anti-bribery Convention

USCIB Vice President for Investment Policy Shaun Donnelly represented business on a panel discussion on November 29 marking the 20th anniversary of the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention organized in Washington by the Coalition for Integrity, “C4I”.  Donnelly joined senior anti-corruption officials from the OECD secretariat and the World Bank on a panel assessing the progress twenty years after the OECD’s “Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions” and where the convention and OECD’s anti-bribery work might be headed. 

Donnelly, who also serves as a member of the C4I’s Policy Advisory Board, emphasized three points in his comments.  First, while the OECD convention has delivered greater international attention on corrupt practices, much more effort is still needed from many convention member states on enforcement and prosecutions.

Second, the lack of any focus on the “demand side’ of the bribery dynamic, corrupt government officials extorting bribes from business, remains a very serious problem.  “Companies are not the origin of all, or even, most of the bribery in international business, and OECD anti-briery efforts need to recognize those inconvenient realities,” said Donnelly.

Finally, Donnelly urged the OECD’s Bribery Working Group and the Secretariat to open up their closed door proceedings to the established OECD stakeholders, including the Business and Industry Advisory Committee, where USCIB represents U.S. business.   

The C4I program included another panel, focused on the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the landmark U.S. anti-bribery law which really launched government efforts to combat corruption.  That FCPA panel included representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and the securities and Exchange Commission.   The afternoon panel program was organized around C4I’s annual awards dinner that evening where Senator John McCain received the prestigious “Integrity Award” and the OECD was recognized with a special award for its international leadership on anti-bribery and integrity issues. Donnelly represented USCIB at that awards dinner.