USCIB Statement on the WTO’s New Director-General

Photo credit: Martial Trezzini/EPA, via Shutterstock

New York, N.Y., February 08, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, welcomed news ​of the Biden administration’s decision to support Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This decision is indicative of a shift in U.S. support for the WTO and its view of the criticality of the multilateral trading system. Further, the decision has been viewed as an affirmation of the U.S. commitment to constructively address substantive and procedural reforms.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, who will be the first woman to lead the organization, has shared that she intends to take a more active role as Director-General and to act as a sounding board to try to find common ground among the trade body’s disparate membership. Since the departure of former Director-General Roberto Azevedo in August of 2020 and the prior refusal of the U.S. to support Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, the ​future leadership of the WTO has been uncertain.

“Open trade and global value chains are fundamental drivers for recovery from the current global crisis,” said USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation, and Trade Brian Lowry. “Once formally approved by the WTO General Council, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will have the opportunity to lead the organization into a new era of increased action and inclusive multilateralism.”

About USCIB:

USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development, and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and regulatory coherence. Its members include U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world. As the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and Business at OECD (BIAC), USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More at www.uscib.org.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE Launch COVID-19 Challenge

In a recent press release, The USCIB Foundation, the education and research arm of USCIB, announced that its Business Partners to CONVINCE (BP2C) initiative has launched a ‘Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge,’ inviting companies and organizations around the world to listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19 and encourage vaccine confidence and uptake, among other things.

TheBP2C initiative is the private sector arm of the global, multi-sector CONVINCE (COVID-19 New Vaccine Information, Communication, and Engagement)initiative that advances vaccine literacy and promotes vaccine acceptance.

Members of the BP2C Steering Team, which includes global organizations such as Business Fights Poverty, Business at OECD, the International Chamber of Commerce, and the International Organization of Employers, jointly agreed to develop vaccine literacy strategies based on science, facts and emerging information to counter hesitation and vaccination opponents through communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.

Companies joining the Global COVID-19 Workplace Challenge agree to do the following:

  • Listen to employees’ needs and concerns about the impact and prevention of COVID-19
  • Follow the latest public health guidance to protect myself, my employees, my workplace, my customers, and my community from COVID-19
  • Promote vaccine literacy based on the latest scientific evidence of vaccination benefits and risks
  • Encourage vaccine confidence and uptake
  • Advocate for accessible, equitable, and timely vaccination of employees
  • Engage with communities, schools, faith-based organizations and public health leaders to stop the spread of COVID-19

“BP2C is developing a ‘toolkit’ of activities to help businesses address the COVID-19 Challenge,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Research has shown that businesses are a trusted source of information, and are well suited to engage, inform and educate workers, their families and communities with messages that inspire confidence in vaccination and encourage acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Scott Ratzan MD, executive director of BP2C and co-founder of CONVINCE, stated: “The potential for business to engage meaningfully in the growing international movement to address COVID with evidence-based vaccine literacy strategies is massive. Employers have the trust, respect and reach to support vaccine confidence with communication and education initiatives at the global, national and local levels.”

BP2C Steering Committee member Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project and co-founder of CONVINCE added that: “The COVID-19 pandemic challenges all of us to engage in meaningful ways. We urge businesses of all sizes and in all industries – from multinational corporations to small- and medium-sized national and local enterprises to sign up to the COVID-19 Workplace Challenge and help expedite our return to a pandemic-free society.”

To read the full press release, click here.

USCIB Statement on Selection of Samantha Power to Lead USAID

Photo source: www.samanthapower.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The USCIB Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Initiative Lead Scott Ratzan on MSNBC

Dr. Scott Ratzan, who helps lead The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners to CONVINCE  initiative, spoke on MSNBC on January 3, 2021 on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and the critical role of all sectors, including business, to engage in order to win “the war” against the coronavirus.

Business Partners to CONVINCE is a vaccine confidence initiative led by USCIB, The USCIB Foundation, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development.

Donnelly Advocates for Investment, Investor-State Dispute Settlement

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

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

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

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

USCIB Leads Business Dialogue on Climate Change and Trade, Investment and Recovery

The Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) held its annual Business Dialogue on December 7, en route to next year’s Glasgow Climate Summit; this year’s BizMEF event was held virtually following the postponement of COP26 in Scotland.  The event, Restoring Momentum, Advancing Synergies – Building Recovery into COP26 with the Private Sector, set the scene for a series of in-depth dialogues in 2021 on trade and climate, climate investment and finance for innovation and national climate pledges that reflect COVID19 impacts and recovery opportunities.

The BizMEF Business Dialogue marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement and welcomed over seventy participants from government, academia and business.  Opening the session were USCIB CEO and President Peter Robinson and the Chief Strategist for Minority, Policy and Communications of the Climate Select Committee from the U.S. House of Representatives George David Banks.  In his remarks, Banks cautioned against unilateralism and stressed that multilateralism, commercial strategies and leveraging domestic policies will go a long way in realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The dialogue discussed free trade and climate change, including the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment mechanism proposal, the impacts and considerations of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic disruption and development of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well as climate change finance and investment.

High-level government speakers at the December 7 dialogue included Ignacio Garcia Bercero, from the European Commission Directorate General for Trade, Motoko Ogawa, deputy director of Japan’s Environmental Economy Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Switzerland’s lead negotiator for climate finance, Gabriella Blatter.

USCIB is a founding member of BizMEF, an alliance of more than twenty leading multisectoral business groups from OECD and non-OECD countries, including BusinessEurope, Brazil (CNI), France (MEDEF), Japan (Keidanren), CGEM (Morocco), the AI Group (Australia) and others. BizMEF Dialogues at Climate Summits have been held every year since 2012 in Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Katowice, Marrakesh, Bonn and, most recently, in Madrid last year.

Foreign Direct Investment More Important Than Ever During Health and Economic Crisis

USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly was up early on Thanksgiving morning, participating virtually as a panelist in the annual International Investment Agreements (IIA) Experts conference organized in Geneva by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This year’s conference focused on the theme of IIA reform in the time of COVID-19. Donnelly participated in six of the last seven annual conferences organized by UNCTAD on international trade agreements.

In addition to his role as a panelist, Donnelly submitted a short written statement and a three-minute video message. 

“Our main message was simple,” said Donnelly. “In a time of health and economic crisis, private foreign direct investment (FDI) is more important than ever to restoring global economic growth, trade and jobs.” According to Donnelly, investment agreements, including strong dispute settlement provisions can be a critical factor to incentivizing FDI flows. 

Donnelly, a retired U.S. Ambassador and now a consultant to USCIB, also noted, “Unfortunately UNCTAD and many of the government and NGO speakers seem to share a view that FDI rules and IIAs need to be ‘reformed’ to reduce protections for investors and their access to independent arbitration to resolve investment disputes with host governments.  We have a different view; incentivizing and protecting FDI is more important than ever as we all strive for global economic recovery. So it is for business to speak up and get its views on the table in these international investment policy session. I was pleased to be joined this year on my panel by Winand Quaedvlieg from VNO, our Dutch counterpart national association and Chair of the Investment Policy Committee at Business at OECD.”     

UNCTAD’s link to the conference program presentations (including Donnelly’s) and documents.   

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

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

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

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

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

Hampl Discusses Role of Open Markets, Inclusive Multilateralism in COVID-19 Recovery

USCIB Senior Director for Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl provided a U.S. business perspective at the Joint Conference on Reviving the Global Economy by Opening Markets and Enhancing Cooperation. The event was co-organized by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on September 28.  During her panel, Hampl discussed what USCIB has been focusing on to advance open markets and an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been active in all available forums to advocate that governments refrain from misusing the COVID-19 pandemic to adopt arbitrary, discriminatory or protectionist policies which only disrupt supply chains and put further strains on the economy – this also includes measures already in place that are now being justified by the pandemic,” said Hampl. “We consistently emphasize the crucial role of open trade and global value chains as fundamental drivers to recover from this global crisis.”

Hampl also discussed longer-term solutions, such as diversifying supply chains, so that global issues, such as a pandemic, do not endanger the reliable supply of necessary goods and services.

According to Hampl, the pandemic has highlighted the transformative power of digital technologies.

“Companies across all sectors stepped up to work closely with governments and other stakeholders to respond to urgent medical, economic and social needs by deploying and driving digital technology solutions,” said Hampl. “Looking ahead, digital technologies have the potential to shape the sustainable recovery from the pandemic. This also includes accelerating the digitization of government services such as licensing, permitting, tax collection and procurement.”

Hampl also emphasized the importance of global cooperation through multilateral institutions and discussed the role of inclusive multilateralism in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“A COVID-19 response must be an ‘all hands on deck’ approach,” she noted. “When USCIB advocates for multilateralism, we mean multilateralism that promotes peace, cooperation and social justice, relies on effective and transparent multilateral bodies, advances collaborative approaches among states, encourages international dialogue and cooperation to design and implement effective policies and, finally, engages business across all sectors and other stakeholders in substantive dialogue and partnerships.

To view the video in English, please click here.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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