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.

Michener Shares USCIB’s COVID-19 Response with ICC Americas Group

At a recent virtual meeting of the ICC Americas group, USCIB Vice President for Product Policy and Innovation Mike Michener discussed USCIB’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, which first and foremost, is to continue important functions as the entire USCIB team works from home in the New York and Washington metro areas.

“We are still representing member interests in multilateral institutions while highlighting individual company responses in tandem with international organizations, and featuring the important work of global affiliates such as International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as well as the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (known as BIAC),” said Michener.

According to Michener, USCIB is also flexing its institutional muscle as a thought leader in the nexus between business and the multilateral system, publishing op-eds and press releases, and promoting partnerships with international organizations through its new venture Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD).

Michener outlined how USCIB is fulfilling its function in representing member interests through virtual events; all committee meetings have been converted into a virtual format and USCIB continues to engage with global partners on events, such as the one held on April 29 with the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs on SDG 17 & Public-Private Partnerships: COVID-19 Response & Recovery in the Framework of the 2030 Agenda.

“We are proud to share the work being done related to COVID-19 across the world by our global network of affiliates on our web page, in particular focusing on ICC’s partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the ICC campaign to Save our MSMEs and ICC actions via the G20,” added Michener.

USCIB continues to spotlight what member companies are doing to address the COVID-19 crisis; featured companies include ExxonMobil, Qualcomm, Procter & Gamble, Nike, SAP, Google, Amazon, Apple, CenturyLink, IBM, AT&T, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Mastercard, Salesforce, Microsoft and HanesBrand, with additional spotlights in the pipeline.

More information can be found on this web page: Ensuring Business Continuity During COVID-19

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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A Call for Financial Support for At-Risk Businesses, Workers in Developing Countries Impacted by COVID-19

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.

 

IOE Hosts Digital Conference of COVID Impact on Global Trade, Supply Chains, Employment

The International Organization of Employers’ (IOE) hosted a digital conference on the impact of COVID-19 on global trade, supply chains and employment on April 8. The conference addressed the “pause button” placed on the global economy in efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and endeavored to answer questions such as: whether trade activities will return to normal, how many jobs will be lost, whether companies can continue producing and whether global production chains will be revamped after the crisis.

USCIB Senior Director, Investment Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl participated as a speaker.

In her comments, Hampl emphasized the importance of maintaining an open trade and investment climate, pointing to these conditions as being necessary to rebuild the economy post crisis.

“USCIB is working with our various partners and affiliates to develop policy that looks toward addressing the current problems, but also retaining the structures that work, and rebuilding those that were affected by the crisis,” said Hampl. “Right now the global economy is still in triage and international cooperation is key at this moment. High level statements like the G20 leaders’ statement committing to work with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations and others to address the crisis, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) coming together in a joint statement pledging to work together to facilitate trade in essential goods such as medical supplies, food and energy, are necessary and welcome to business at this time. As the global economy deals with this crisis and looks to rebuilding, business will be a key driver and partner of the recovery process.”