Global Business Coalition Launched to Advocate Workforce Use of New COVID-19 Vaccines, Pending Availability

New York, N.Y., July 30, 2020 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB),  The USCIB Foundation, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) have launched Business Partners to CONVINCE, a global communication and education initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among private sector employers and employees.

The new partnership will play an integral role in a broader multi-sector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Education) campaign to advance vaccine literacy and help ensure a strong and swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through widespread acceptance of safe, effective and accessible vaccines. The CONVINCE business coalition will leverage USCIB’s extensive global network of leading international business organizations and multinational corporations to help large employers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) worldwide to promote vaccine literacy and uptake, while BPSD will help to create public-private partnerships to extend the reach of the Coalition, especially in the developing world. Research has shown that employers are among the most trusted sources of information about pandemic response and recovery.

The global CONVINCE effort was developed initially by Wilton Park, a global forum for strategic discussion affiliated with the UK government, in collaboration with the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and the Vaccine Confidence Project™ of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Earlier this year, Wilton Park hosted a series of international dialogues to address the urgent need for collective action to ensure widespread uptake of COVID-19 vaccine(s) when available and boost trust in vaccination in general. Participants in these discussions, which included USCIB, agreed to form the CONVINCE initiative as a mechanism to complement and potentially help integrate existing worldwide efforts to build acceptance and uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine.

USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson stated, “We were pleased to contribute extensively to the Wilton Park dialogues and to highlight the potential role for employers as ‘Trusted Influencers’ as part of the CONVINCE initiative. As the United States affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers, and Business at OECD – three of the world’s largest and most representative business organizations – we expect to engage an extensive network to help corporate employers, SMEs and governments meet the intense global and local challenge of health and vaccine promotion. Together, we can mount an unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Prof. Heidi Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project at LSHTM, and author of Stuck (Oxford University Press, 2020), a definitive overview of global vaccine hesitancy, stated: “We need to start now to listen and engage local communities to build resilience against COVID-19 and recover as societies, schools and economies build a new future. We are thrilled to be part of this important initiative to build public confidence through CONVINCE.”

Nancy Lee, Programme Director at Wilton Park, said, “We are very pleased that the private sector has taken part in our multisector dialogues and has now made this important commitment to promote COVID-19 recovery by supporting global business efforts to build vaccine literacy and support for the potentially game-changing impact of a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Dr. Scott Ratzan, executive director of BPSD and Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY, said “Many people say the only way we can achieve a ’next normal’ world is with a vaccine, but it will take collective action to make this happen. We are pleased to work across sectors with business leaders, employees and customers on the innovative communication programs that are needed urgently to build the foundation of trust that can lead us towards vaccine-protected communities.”

In collaboration with global leaders in the private and public sector, Business Partners to CONVINCE will be a resource to generate evidence rapidly of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and to develop, test and widely disseminate responsible communication programs in line with the goals of the United Nations and respected science and evidence-driven organizations worldwide.

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. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC), and the International Organization of Employers (IOE), USCIB provides 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.

Contact: Mike Michener, Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation

Email: mmichener@uscib.org

 

About The USCIB Foundation, Inc.: Since 1980, The USCIB Foundation has been dedicated to a single mission: advancing the benefits of a free market economy and promoting the essential role of the private sector in stimulating economic growth and progress in social development. Today, the Foundation pursues that mission through a portfolio of initiatives that strives to inform future choices made by stakeholders and policy makers that benefit people around the world.

Contact: Abby Shapiro, Secretary and Director

Email: ashapiro@uscib.org

 

About BPSD:  BPSD was launched in 2019 as a Center to create new international public-private partnerships in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BPSD provides a framework for governments, business and civil society to share information, resources, activities and capabilities, and works in collaboration to achieve objectives together that the sectors cannot achieve independently.

Contact:

Dr. Scott Ratzan, Executive Director, Business Partners for Sustainable Development

Email: sratzan@businesspartners4sdgs.org

Jumpstart American Jobs Series: Robinson Shares Views on Trade, Supply Chains, Inclusive Multilateralism

President & CEO of GBA Nancy McLernon interviews Peter Robinson, President of RILA Brian Dodge and President & CEO of FMI Leslie Sarasin

Just as American companies and employers led the way in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, they are now prepared to help drive America’s economic recovery. In a series of virtual interviews, the Global Business Alliance (GBA) has provided a forum for leading executives to share perspectives with top policymakers on what it will take to jumpstart American job growth. In the most recent installment, “Sold. Separately”, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson joined Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin and Retail Industry Leaders Association President Brian Dodge to share views from members and to emphasize the importance of open trade, diversified supply chains and inclusive multilateralism. President and CEO of GBA Nancy McLernon led the discussion.

Robinson kicked off the discussion with highlights of what some USCIB members, such as Target, Amazon, Hanesbrands, Nike and Mastercard, have been doing to address the pandemic.

“One distinctive attribute of USCIB members is their global perspective and action as partners in multilateral institutions to advance response and recovery,” said Robinson. “And they are very concerned about the health of the constituent components of their global supply chains overseas, as well as at home.” He noted that USCIB supports initiatives by ICC, IOE and BIAC calling for governmental support of SMEs to ensure business continuity.

Throughout the discussion, Robinson underscored the imperative of free and fair trade and competition, particularly in light of COVID-related disruptions in supply chains which have given air cover to embracing of protectionist measures by governments.

“We are still in the middle of the pandemic,” noted Robinson. “The only way to ensure that economies grow again is to ensure open trade and investment environments. Increased digitization is going to be a big part of that. The business community, including USCIB, has been vocally opposed to resorting to protectionist policies. It is our view that a reversal of many of these policies in place is necessary to ensure a sustainable, post-pandemic economy.”

Robinson also highlighted the depth of global interdependence and the need to join hands across borders to work on an inclusive pandemic recovery: “COVID-19 knows no borders: it’s a one-world enemy and we need a one-world response”. According to Robinson, “We are entering a ‘new reality’ for business and society—and a new imperative to enhance and strengthen employment, societal resilience, and sustainable development. Multilateral institutions are the vehicles to ensure we have an all-out collective and coordinated effort to ‘Build Back Better’—and all institutions across humanitarian, health, economic, trade, and environmental roles need to work closely with representative private sector organizations.”

USCIB Advocates Multilateralism, Partnerships, Vaccine Acceptance During HLPF

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was drastically different, necessitating a virtual platform as hundreds of governments, NGOs, and civil society tuned in remotely to side-events rather than congregating at the UN headquarters in New York. Despite the challenges of a remote HLPF, USCIB retained its active leadership role, co-organizing side-events on inclusive multilateralism, the private sector’s role in educating the public about vaccines, and partnerships to fight COVID-19 and to advance the UN 2030 Development Agenda.

Inclusive Multilateralism

USCIB kicked off the week with a side-event on “Inclusive Multilateralism in Action: Working Together to Build Stronger, Resilient and Sustainable Economies” on July 7. USCIB, which serves as co-chair of the UN’s Business and Industry Major Group, partnered with the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the UN Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the American Chemistry Council on the event. Dialogue among experts during the panels highlighted synergies at the national and global levels of COVID-19 response and recovery with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and made the case of mainstreaming private sector partnership and expertise into the UN Decade of Action and Delivery.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) Initiative Executive Director Dr. Scott Ratzan spoke on one of the panels alongside, First Vice Chair of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Maria Fernanda Garza, Secretary General, International Organization of Employers (IOE) Roberto Suarez Santos and UN Global Compact Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo. USCIB Vice President for International Strategic Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy moderated a panel which explored best practices from business in developing partnerships to address food security, health and waste management challenges, all of which have become more difficult for the global community to tackle in light of COVID-19.

“The presentations highlighted the role of business as ‘first responders’ in several key areas of the pandemic response,” said Kennedy. In concluding the panel, Kennedy summed up what is needed as businesses merge their SDG plans with crisis response and recovery: “Inclusive multilateralism involving and mainstreaming private sector dialogue and implementation is not a nice-to-have; it is a must-have for a successful UN Decade of Delivery, Action and Recovery.”

Partnerships

BPSD was also featured at a July 7 side-event organized by the UN 2030 Agenda Partnership Accelerator. Titled “Partnerships against COVID-19 – building back better together to advance the 2030 Agenda,” the event explored how partnerships can assist developing countries in addressing challenges of the coronavirus and its aftermath while promoting synergies between key sectors, such as the scientific and technological community and the private sector. Ratzan, representing BPSD, joined a select group of experts including Sustainable Development Officer, Division for Sustainable Development Goals, UN DESA Ola Goransson, Resident Coordinator, Mauritius and Seychelles Christine N. Umutoni and Professor and Department Chair of Development Sociology, Cornell University, member of the Independent Group of Scientists for the Global Sustainable Development Report Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue.

Scientific Advances and Vaccination Acceptance

BPSD Executive Director Scott Ratzan

BPSD, together with the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy organized “COVID-19 vaccines: scientific advances, access models and vaccination acceptance,” on July 10 to explore the status of scientific research advances, implications for policy, and generating public trust in science and building vaccine literacy, and addressing misleading vaccine information.

“Despite the major technological advances that have enlisted industry to fast track a COVID-19 vaccine, all these efforts will be for nought if not enough people accept a vaccine to reach the necessary community protection, also termed herd immunity,” warned Ratzan. “Vaccine hesitancy threatens uptake for a COVID-19 vaccine before it has even been developed. Anti-vaccination advocates are spreading disinformation and inciting fears including vaccine side effects, safety and/or efficacy. Compounding these ongoing issues is a reality in which globally, many do not believe COVID-19 is a real threat. While we are not sure how entrenched these groups are in their disbelief of the risks of coronavirus infection or believe the pandemic is a conspiracy,  there is much work to do to build vaccine literacy and combat a pervasive anti-science, anti-truth rhetoric.”

Ratzan also presented “The CONVINCE Initiative” (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Education), which will bring together key players in a multisectoral collaboration to formulate a whole-of-society approach to create frameworks, best practices and platforms to ensure vaccine uptake.

Brands on a Mission: USCIB Interviews Public Health Expert and Acclaimed Author Myriam Sidibe

Myriam Sidibe

USCIB sat down (virtually) with Myriam Sidibe, author of “Brands on a Mission: How to achieve social impact and business growth through purpose” (Routledge, 2020). “Brands on a Mission” was released on May 26 and immediately secured a #1 New Release Business Ethics category in Amazon Prime, being reviewed by Forbes, the FT and Global CEO Forum. Sidibe has worked with USCIB through The USCIB Foundation’s partnership with Business Fights Poverty; she has also worked closely with The USCIB Foundation “Business Partners for Sustainable Development” Executive Director Dr. Scott Ratzan.


You are a strong believer that brands must play a major role in promoting public health.  What led you to this view?

When I was ten years old, I fell into a septic tank. I couldn’t get out, I flailed around in the dark, screaming for help, sure I would die. I nearly drowned in shit. Today I remember the taste, the smell, the shame like it was yesterday. It remains one of the worst days of my life.

But it was also one of the best days of my life. It kicked off my career in health and hygiene – a career that has taken me all over the world – from Boston to Bujumbura, London to Mumbai, from the public to the private sector. Because I fell in that toilet’s septic tank, I was inspired and motivated to spend decades of my life getting rid of shit, literally! Whether by building toilets or washing hands.

Of course I didn’t want anyone else to have that hellish sensation, that near-death experience, that burning shame. I could relate to the 2 billion people that still lack a toilet.

After studying at some of the world’s greatest universities, I joined an NGO in Burundi, building toilets and handwashing facilities in war zones. Many of them remained unused as people preferred open air to our toilets, often using them for storing dried grain. Something didn’t feel right. We kept talking about ‘beneficiaries’, a term that bothered me deeply, as did the constant focus on the donors who paid for everything. Our success depended on writing grant applications for funding, and those grants measured success by how many toilets we built.

But I kept seeing a lot of empty toilets, as the ‘beneficiaries’ weren’t using them. I wondered, was my career going to be constantly chasing donor money to build unused toilets? Was I going to make decisions for powerless people? As a young African woman, I wanted to be part of the development of my continent. But my work felt both undignified for the beneficiaries and unsatisfying for me. So if the humanitarian route wasn’t for me, what else was there?

I went back to school, equipped myself with a doctorate in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, then spent a few years researching and monitoring children washing hands or rather not washing hands. And then I presented my findings to the company that had funded my research: Unilever. They offered me a job.

And very soon, I fell in love – not with a fancy marketer but with a word. Crazy as this sounds the word was ‘consumer’. I realised that Unilever didn’t treat its audiences as beneficiaries, but as

consumers. Instead of offering hand-me-downs and pity, Unilever treated consumers, however vulnerable they might be, with respect and dignity. That’s because consumers have a choice: they choose with their wallet what to do with their money.

It was an exciting moment that changed everything for me. I went from giving resources to beneficiaries in Burundi who had no choice, to making solutions attractive to consumers who did have a choice, however humble their circumstances. And by doing so I have achieved so much more than I could have done in the public sector alone.

Health and wellbeing is the foundation of social justice – the most rewarding business investment in every sense of the term.  And I know now that through marketing, businesses – brands – are uniquely well-positioned to make consumption conscientious and improve both society as a whole and individual customers.

Do you think the message is getting through?  What are some of the best examples of companies taking a leadership position, in your view?

The message is definitely getting through.  As we are seeing right now with brands like Nike, Walmart, Ben & Jerry’s, Twitter and Google taking a stand on pressing issues such as racism and the accuracy of statements by political leaders, brands are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on society and their potential to make that impact a positive one.  That awareness is all the more clear in the steps many brands, such as Aunt Jemimah and Fair & Lovely are taking to drop racist product names and devote significant amounts of money to raise awareness and facilitate conversations about racism. Brands are recognizing that they no longer have a choice, and that they will be held accountable for their actions.

Unilever as a corporation has set an excellent example by integrating the 1 billion goal into Lifebuoy’s business strategy and actually combining global partnerships for public health.  Other great examples are Danone, which is beginning to identity as a Brand on a Mission, and LIXIL, which developed SATO, short for “Safe Toilet”, which helped vastly improve sanitation conditions  in 25 countries across Africa and Asia, among the poorest of the world’s poor.  LIXIL’s mission is to bring better living solutions to the world for today and the future.

While brands in general are seeing the value of purpose, they have changed and gotten better at this, we still need to hold them accountable.

It seems that Unilever was ahead of its time in recognizing the power of purpose in business success.  Can you talk about your time there?

I spent 15 years at Unilever, where I was provided with an excellent platform for developing initiatives that I could never have undertaken in the public sector. Thanks to this platform I was able to create a movement to change the handwashing behaviours of one billion people, the single biggest hygiene programme in the world.  I also helped  Pepsodent toothpaste improve oral hygiene in Africa and Knorr bouillon cubes fight anemia through encouraging mothers and girls to eat more green leafy vegetables alongside its iron-fortified cubes.

As I mentioned earlier, I was inspired and energized by the fact that Unilever didn’t treat its audiences as beneficiaries, but as consumers, and that however vulnerable these consumers might be, Unilever treats them with respect and dignity. Thanks to all of this  I have achieved so much more than I could have done in the public sector alone. I talk more about this in my book,  Brands on a Mission.  Of course I have my shares of stories of navigating the system as an intrapreneur and as a black woman in dominantly white corporate environment but my purpose which is to inspire and pioneer new ways to address social justice through sustainable business kept me going. And I have not regretted it.

What more can be done to ensure that government and business recognize the need to work together to address global challenges, including of course, COVID-19?

Above all, we need successful examples to follow.  Examples of coalitions between the public and private sectors  which launched Global Handwashing Day, or The National Business Compact for Coronavirus in Kenya, which brings together competing brands in the hygiene business, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, a number of industry associations and the UN family in Kenya whose mandate is to accelerate local action and support government efforts in countering the pandemic. They also collaborate with Business Fights Poverty and other Business networks alike on global best-practice sharing.

Such examples can serve as a blueprint for others striving to do the same.

You’ve called for a “global marketing campaign” to beat COVID-19.  What do you mean by that and who would be involved?

Yes, we need an industry-wide approach to help support handwashing and other prevention measures.  Kenya’s National Business Compact for Coronavirus is an example.  We must get businesses to work together to distribute hygiene products.  In Kenya, we’ve set up over 4500 public handwashing facilities and ran a national campaign. We’re also supporting governments to help more people to grow their own foods.  When people are hungry, they won’t respect any of these measures such social distancing.  When your choice is die of Covid19 or die of Hunger I suppose the choice is easily made.

How do we address issues of public mistrust in our large institutions, particularly government, business and the media?

The most important factors are time and positive examples. It takes time to build trust, and to come back from the mistrust that disparity and inequality create.  Over time, with enough positive examples as reinforcement, we can build (or rebuild) the public’s trust in institutions.

What do you see as the role of organizations like Business Fights Poverty and the USCIB in the post COVID-19 world?

These organizations must leverage their strong reputations and reach to help companies and businesses create brands that embrace social missions, are more inclusive in both their hiring and their marketing, help educate the public about the issues their business affects and are intentional about their social footprint.  By reinforcing the need to continue in a direction that upholds a world of positive change and inclusiveness, such organizations can make a real difference.  And of course share my book lol.

Your new book is titled “Brands on a Mission: How to achieve social impact and business growth through purpose.” In it you say brands are crucial to addressing social justice, infectious disease, violence, fitness and a range of challenges.  Why are they so powerful?

With their natural incentives to get people to buy their products, brands have an inherent ability to reshape people’s views and habits. They have decades of experience convincing consumers to do just that, and the tools, resources and creative heft to change social norms and influence conversations.  They can spread messages far and wide, among both consumers and their employees.

In today’s world, brands have become tantamount to individuals who hold great power.  With such power and influence, it is simply no longer acceptable for brands to remain silent, especially in these times when consumers are craving positive examples to fill the void left by governments.

After spreading the word about the importance of handwashing for years, COVID-19 has put your work in the spotlight.  How are you responding to all the attention and momentum?

I’m going out there and making things happen. I helped create Kenya’s National Business Compact for Coronavirus, and have been doing a lot of speaking to keep spreading the message and building momentum. This has been catalyzing further response, which in turn is inspiring companies to innovate to respond to social and public health challenges we’re facing, including by supporting handwashing.

How do you stay optimistic in this difficult time?

I look at my three children and think about how the future will look when this difficult period has passed. They give me hope that these times will perhaps open up an opportunity for us to build a better world going forward, since the current crises we’re experiencing are exposing so many inequalities and injustices  we need, collectively, to address and rethink.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USCIB Works with UN, IOE to Host Virtual Dialogue on Public-Private Partnerships, SDG17

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), USCIB’s All In 2020 Campaign, Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) organized a “Virtual Dialogue on SDG-17 and Public-Private Partnerships: COVID-19 Response and Recovery in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda” on April 29.

The dialogue, initiated by USCIB, offered private sector ideas in lieu of ECOSOC rescheduling its Partnerships Forum in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers from business, academia and government highlighted areas in which partnerships with business can be catalyzed and scaled to tackle COVID-19 challenges while advancing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

USCIB Vice President of Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement Norine Kennedy moderated the virtual dialogue. “The wide-reaching impacts of COVID19 require integrated solutions and international cooperation – now is the time to advance substantive U.S. business engagement in inclusive multilateralism,” she said in her comments.

According to its Secretary General Roberto Suarez Santos, IOE has been actively responding to the pandemic and has organized multiple webinars and provided resources for employers across the globe understand and mitigate impacts of COVID-19. “The most important element of COVID-19 response by employers federations is what we do together with other government and worker partners. Because of this, SDG 17 is more relevant than ever,” said Santos.

Novozymes’ Senior Advisor of Public Affairs Justin Perrettson, who also serves as co-chair of the USCIB Environment Committee, explained that “international COVID-19 actions must strengthen and animate private-public partnerships, working in new ways and with new partners. To help overcome COVID-19, Novozymes has done everything from utilizing our products in COVID-19 diagnostic kits to helping the most vulnerable communities in healthcare, education and food.”

High-level speakers included:

  • H.E. Ambassador Munir Akram, vice president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN
  • Elliott Harris, assistant secretary general and chief economist, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)
  • Myriam Sidibe, Harvard fellow
  • Dr. Scott Ratzan, executive director, Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD), an initiative of The USCIB Foundation

A recording of the event can be found here.

OECD Digital Economy Policy Group Discusses Data Governance, Privacy Amid COVID-19

The OECD Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP) and one of its working parties held virtual meetings April 21-23 against the uncertain global backdrop caused by the COVID-19 virus. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner participated.

By necessity, the normally week-long meetings were streamlined, focusing on only a few items pertaining to data governance and privacy as well as pursuing “alignment and agreement” on the 2021-22 CDEP Program of Work and Budget. These meetings were preceded by webinars on April 15 and April 17, which focused on (1) “Data Governance and Privacy Challenges in the Fight Against COVID-19” and (2) data portability, respectively.

“Not surprisingly, discussions in the data portability webinar and CDEP meetings repeatedly circled back to the appropriate use of digital technologies and data to address COVID mitigation and recovery,” said Wanner.

According to Wanner, CDEP’s consideration of the 2021-2022 Program of Work and Budget featured numerous government interventions noting the importance of addressing COVID-mitigation in the near term, but urging the CDEP to view the COVID-19 crisis through a wider lens in the medium term and consider how technologies and data may be galvanized to address future global crises.

“The CDEP’s focus should be on [the role of data and digital technologies in] crisis management, in general, since the next global crisis may not be health-related,” the European Commission representative urged; the U.S. Government concurred.

Under the auspices of Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB members stepped up in both workshops and in the CDEP meetings to provide expert commentary that detailed how they are endeavoring to develop privacy-respecting COVID solutions. In BIAC’s PWB intervention, BIAC CDEP Co-Chair Makoto Yokozawa echoed the theme of government interventions, encouraging OECD current and future work-streams to consider lessons learned from the pandemic about the use of data and digital technologies.

One example was USCIB members’ Apple and Google application programming interfaces to make it possible to trace COVID transmission. Importantly, the venture addresses many of the issues identified by the data regulators as necessary to build public trust and safeguard privacy protections. For more information on this joint venture, please click here.

USCIB member Microsoft’s Carolyn Nguyen intervened on behalf of BIAC. Addressing the topic at a higher level, she cautioned the OECD to avoid policy siloing in developing COVID-19 policy recommendations, urging a holistic, cross-committee/cross-sectional approach as was used for the Going Digital project. Nguyen further underscored the importance of public-private partnership and voluntary and responsible data sharing in enabling rapid response. She also suggested that the OECD’s review of the 2013 Privacy Guidelines review and the Enhanced Access and Sharing of Data (EASD) initiative should take the Covid-19 experience into consideration before going forward.

“It’s clear that technology can and must play a part in creating the environment in which we can safely and carefully begin to return to work and re-open businesses. It also is clear that any solution needs to be approved by elected officials, designed with strong privacy protections in mind, include clear and transparent communications with citizens, and only be used to address public health needs,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen further noted Microsoft’s efforts to build privacy compliance into its tools and services has made it easier for the organizations that it supports to focus their efforts on advancing their missions of combating the pandemic. For example, she noted that Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot is being used to build COVID-19 self-assessment tools by organizations around the world, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.