USCIB Welcomes Appointment of Mathias Cormann as New Head of OECD

Mathias Cormann speaks during a Senate inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra, October 20, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

New York, N.Y., March 15, 2021—The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of the world’s leading companies and which serves as the U.S. Member Organization of Business at OECD (BIAC), welcomed the announcement of Mathias Cormann, a former Australian finance minister, as the candidate to be appointed the next OECD Secretary General.

Phil O’Reilly, chair of Business at OECD, noted that the OECD’s ability to bring solutions to global challenges relies on its effective consultation with the private sector. “Our input has been critical to the success and implementation of major OECD initiatives,” O’Reilly stated. “Our strengthened collaboration will be essential to further increase the OECD’s policy impact in the coming years.”

“Multilateralism matters now, more than ever, and all of us at USCIB look forward to a productive partnership and a collaborative relationship with the new OECD Secretary General,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “USCIB and our members rely on BIAC’s work with the OECD to achieve the right policy responses and guidance. This cooperation will be critical as we all work together towards economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cormann will succeed Ángel Gurría following his 15-year tenure with the Organization. “We thank Mr. Gurría for his strong leadership and look forward to hitting the ground running with Mr. Cormann to show that multilateralism delivers clear benefits for business and societies,” stated Hanni Rosenbaum, executive director of Business at OECDRick Johnston, Managing Director, International Government Affairs at Citibank, and a vice chair of Business at OECD, joined Robinson in expressing deep appreciation to Secretary-General Gurria for a long and cooperative relationship over his tenure at OECD.

Cormann will assume the role of Secretary General on June 1, 2021 and, upon assuming his post, will be the first person from the Asia-Pacific region to lead the OECD.

Robinson Welcomes COVID-19 Vaccine Collaboration Between Merck, Johnson & Johnson

New York, N.Y., March 03, 2021Peter Robinson, president and chief executive of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which represents many of America’s leading global companies, released a statement today in reaction to President Joe Biden’s announcement on March 2 that Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine:

“We at USCIB commend our member companies J&J and Merck for collaborating in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership between these two companies and the commitment of their CEOs, both of which are USCIB Trustees, brings us a great amount of pride and excitement. Over the years, our motto at USCIB has been ‘Global Business Leadership At Work’ and we are pleased that our member companies have been demonstrating that and leading by example.

“The USCIB Foundation meanwhile is also building momentum on our most recent initiative – Business Partners to CONVINCE – a global, multi-sector effort to empower a ‘vaccine-literate’ public, led by employers as trusted messengers to their employees and based on trust in science and aligned commitment to future COVID-19 vaccines and other novel countermeasures.”

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.