G20 Trade Ministers Release Statement on COVID-19

The G20 Trade Ministers met virtually on March 30 amid the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss stepping up cooperation and coordination to protect human life and lay the foundations for a strong economic recovery and a sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth after the crisis. Following the meeting, the Trade Ministers posted a statement.

The statement emphasized: “As we fight the pandemic both individually and collectively and seek to mitigate its impacts on international trade and investment, we will continue to work together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open.”

USCIB Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan noted the significance of all G20 members being able to agree on this statement as a much-needed coordinated response to the crisis and is hopeful that governments will soon follow up with more specific action items they will implement to keep trade open and facilitate the flow of essential goods for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

In advance of the G20 Trade Ministers meeting, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) sent a letter from its Secretary General John Denton, which included ten concrete actions that trade ministers can take now to speed up the health response for COVID-19 and minimize the economic damage.  It also included points on the need to maintain momentum on World Trade Organization (WTO) reform and e-commerce negotiations.

USCIB Concerned Over Draft “Buy American” Executive Order

USCIB joined a broad group of national trade associations, as well as state and local organizations, to send a letter to U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Steven T. Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Wilbur Ross and the National Economic Council’s Lawrence Kudlow expressing concern over the Administration’s draft “Buy American” executive order.

The group believes that such an order could be counterproductive in the Administration’s ongoing efforts with American allies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and warns that the order may delay the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine and other treatments, worsen shortages of critically-needed medicines and medical products, and undermine prospects for economic recovery.

The letter states: “Now more than ever, U.S. industries require access to international supply chains to produce critically-needed medical products. The United States simply does not produce all of the raw materials or intermediate goods that are essential to drug development or production of the medical equipment needed to thwart this pandemic. Preventing federal agencies from sourcing medical equipment and pharmaceutical ingredients from abroad — or that are made with non U.S. inputs — would only exacerbate the supply shortages racking the United States.”

The coalition also applauded the Administration’s focused response to the pandemic and emphasized that American companies will do whatever it takes to support America’s pandemic response and will continue to work hand in glove with government to get the job done.

USCIB’s Donnelly Retires; Will Take on a Consulting Role 

Shaun Donnelly

Vice President for Investment Policy and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly is retiring April 3 after eight and half years at USCIB.

Donnelly came to USCIB in 2011, after an impressive 36-year career as a Department of State Foreign Service Officer followed by shorter stints at two other leading Washington trade associations. Throughout his time at USCIB, Donnelly has been a leading voice for the U.S. and international business communities on a wide range of investment policy issues, speaking out forcefully and publicly, as well as privately, to the U.S. Administration, Congress and in international fora, from the OECD and World Trade Organization (WTO) to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Donnelly has also been a sought-after and a provocative speaker at investment conferences and seminars around Washington and around the globe.  But most importantly, Donnelly has always been willing and able to put his experience, his expertise and his rolodex to use to assist USCIB members, collectively and individually.

“It has been a real privilege to have Shaun as part of the USCIB team, and I’m delighted that he will continue on in an advisory role,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson. “Shaun is a global regulatory diplomat par excellence, never hesitating to stand up for private sector interests in a forceful, rational and compelling way.”

In the State Department’s Foreign Service, Donnelly served eight years as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (DAS) in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, at various times leading policy on Trade, Energy and Economic sanctions.  For almost five of those years he was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, the Department’s #3 economic policy official. Donnelly also served as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives and as Deputy Ambassador to Tunisia and Mali. In his final U.S. government assignment, Donnelly was detailed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) as Assistant USTR in charge of Europe and the Middle East, running USTR’s largest regional office.  He retired from the Foreign Service with the personal rank of Career Minister, roughly equivalent to that of three-star general.

“Simply put, it’s time,” Donnelly said.  “It’s been a great run and I have really appreciated the opportunity to work with so many great colleagues at USCIB and in our member companies.”

For us at USCIB, the good news is that Donnelly has agreed to stay on in a consulting role, serving as a senior advisor to Robinson and USCIB Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Rob Mulligan, as well as to take on a few special projects.

“I look forward to staying involved behind the scenes with USCIB and helping where I can,” said Donnelly. “It’s a great organization and there is still a lot of important, challenging work to do.”

USCIB and Business Fights Poverty Host Virtual Session on COVID-19 Business Impact

How can business best deal with the COVID-19 challenge? In an effort to answer this critical question, USCIB partnered with Business Fights Poverty (BFP) to host an online “challenge” discussion on March 19. USCIB Vice President for Innovation and Product Policy Mike Michener was on the panel, joined by USCIB policy staff and representatives of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD.

The USCIB Foundation’s Business Partners for Sustainable Development (BPSD) initiative Executive Director Dr. Scott Ratzan joined BFP’s Co-founder and CEO Zahid Torres-Rahman and Harvard Kennedy School’s Myriam Sidibe for the online discussion, supported by a panel of leading executives from business, civil society, the United Nations and the UK government. The discussion began with an evaluation of the current situation, and the impact on business and others. This was followed by dialogue on the immediate priorities for business, including best practices.  The panel ended by weighing how business can partner with others to support immediate action, and well as longer-term resilience.

Michener said, “We are all in this together, and partnerships are key to solving all of the problems posed by this crisis – health, economic, and protecting the most vulnerable. I appreciated the opportunity to engage in the valuable BFP discussion, and I look forward to continuing the conversation.”

The USCIB Foundation’s program, Business Partnership for Sustainable Development, with Business Fights Poverty.

USCIB Comments on Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines

USCIB submitted comments recently on the Draft Vertical Merger Guidelines announced in January by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

In the submission, USCIB indicated that members understand the tremendous procompetitive benefits and efficiencies that can be associated with vertical mergers.

“Our members value transparency and predictability in vertical merger enforcement policy and welcome the agencies’ joint effort to clarify the analytic framework and methods they employ to review vertical mergers,” said USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl. “USCIB applauds the agencies for proposing draft vertical merger guidelines based on the well-established economics of vertical relationships and grounded in the consumer welfare standard.”

The comments are intended to support final guidelines that foster transparency and eliminate unnecessary regulatory obstacles to efficient vertical transactions.

USCIB member Lisa Kimmel, Ph.D., senior counsel, Crowell & Moring LLP, was also invited to participate in one of the public workshops announced by the agencies in February. Unfortunately, those workshops which were scheduled to take place this month, were cancelled due to COVID-19 related measures.

USCIB Talks OECD Accession With New US Ambassador to Brazil   

Todd C. Chapman

USCIB trade and investment policy staffers Shaun Donnelly and Eva Hampl had an introductory conference call on March 19 with the recently-confirmed new U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman and State Department Brazil Desk Economist Ben Kalt.  Ambassador Chapman, with whom USCIB worked in the past during Chapman’s earlier appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, had hoped to meet in person with USCIB staff and member companies but settled for an introductory call in light of COVID-19 precautions.

According to Donnelly, the Ambassador assured USCIB that the Brazil’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) accession process will be at the top of his policy agenda throughout his assignment in Brazil.

Donnelly and Hampl outlined USCIB’s role in the OECD accession process, serving as the official voice of U.S. business in all OECD matters, directly and as the U.S. affiliate of the Business at OECD (known as BIAC) business coalition on the ground at the OECD.

“We shared our experiences with the OECD, BIAC, the U.S. Government, the government of Colombia and business leaders on Colombia’s recent OECD accession,” said Donnelly. “We discussed possible modalities for embassy-USCIB cooperation throughout the OECD accession process as well as ways both USCIB and the embassy might work most effectively with CNI, which is Brazil’s largest and most influential business organization.”

USCIB has also worked extensively with CNI–as national committee partners in Business at OECD, as well as in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF) for climate change.

Ambassador Chapman enthusiastically signed up for a meeting with USCIB member companies on one of his early return visits to Washington after he gets settled in Brasilia.

The OECD accession process is a comprehensive, rigorous, and lengthy process, often running three to five years or more, with more than a dozen OECD committees and other bodies each carefully reviewing the candidate country’s laws, regulations, and practices to confirm they are in line with OECD standards.  When all relevant OECD committees and subsidiary bodies are satisfied by the applicant’s “like-mindedness” and commitment to OECD standards, the OECD “Council” of thirty-six ambassadors can formally approve the accession and invite the candidate country to file its binding acceptance of membership.

According to Donnelly, given Brazil’s prominent role in the global economy and, frankly, its history of barriers to foreign goods, services and investments, Brazil’s candidacy will likely attract great interest from OECD member governments and the Business at OECD coalition.  USCIB will be at the head of the line in that business effort.  The Brazil accession case has some important unique aspects, probably most important the strong early endorsement from President Trump personally.

If you have questions, concerns, or recommendations concerning Brazil OECD accession process, please contact Eva Hampl (ehampl@uscib.org) or Shaun Donnelly (sdonnelly@uscib.org).

Business Continuity During COVID-19

Open Letter to Members from Peter Robinson, CEO and President USCIB: Response to COVID-19

USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson

Dear Members,

Things have been rapidly developing since my last message to members of March 9. Going forward, our emphasis will be on doing what we can to ensure business continuity during COVID-19.

During this period of uncertainty, USCIB will be using our weekly e-newsletter to stay in touch on what we, along with the international business organizations for which we serve as American affiliate, are doing to ensure the continued, proactive representation of your interests internationally. Our newsletter will focus on communicating what is happening in the UN and multilateral system with regards to response efforts, which we hope will mitigate the impact on your business.

I assure you that USCIB is fully operational during the pandemic and we will continue to provide the services you depend on.  While there are challenges to this new reality as we adjust to social distancing, travel restrictions, work from home and rescheduled or cancelled meetings across the multilateral system, we have implemented a comprehensive teleworking strategy for conducting our daily routine that allows us to protect our employees and respect the role we all play in preventing the spread of the virus to our families, friends and communities.

On the policy front: to maintain the flow of information and advocacy critical to support your interests, policy managers continue to monitor and report back to their committees (through virtual meetings and conference calls) new measures that our global affiliates and network of multilateral organizations we typically interact with have implemented.

Going forward, we will communicate this aspect of our work under this page “Business Continuity During COVID-19”, (see also tool bar on the right of this page) that will keep you informed on how we represent your interests at the multilateral “virtual” meetings we will continue to attend.

On the trade services side: to provide the services required in our role as the National Guaranteeing Association for ATA Carnet in the U.S., our Carnet managers continue to process claims and handle inquiries from Carnet holders in support of the free flow of goods and services across borders during this difficult time, and our Service Providers are adapting their processes and procedures to the new circumstances. Relevant developments will be reported that may impact your operations globally.

Our dedicated web pages mentioned above will spotlight USCIB-member initiatives, such as new public-private partnerships, financial assistance programs, innovations, and accelerated projects that help identify, develop and scale potential treatments and vaccines, all of which strive to minimize the devastating global impacts of the virus.

During this uncertain time staying in touch is critical.  We want to hear from you.  Please let us know where USCIB can add value in coping with the crisis by answering a few questions:

  • Where can USCIB assist your company or association during these challenging circumstances?
  • What role should global business networks like ICC, IOE and Business at OECD (BIAC) take to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?
  • Which are good private sector practices and partnerships to be shared through the multilateral system?

If members find it helpful, we will organize weekly exchanges tracking efforts to advance private sector solutions and initiatives as the pandemic affects countries across the globe.

In closing, the COVID-19 pandemic has significant implications for every policy area in which USCIB engages. Rest assured that we remain focused on how we can best engage with our partners in business, government and the multilateral system to bring business solutions to the discussion.

Hampl Facilitates Discussion on WTO Digital Trade Negotiations

World Trade Organization (WTO) members met earlier this month in Geneva for their seventh round of negotiations of a plurilateral agreement on electronic commerce. Negotiations started last year on this critical issue, and there will be two further rounds in Geneva to work toward an outcome by the WTO Ministerial, which will take place in June in Kazakhstan. Following the first round of negotiations this year, USCIB Senior Director for Investment, Trade and Financial Services Eva Hampl moderated a session February 25, in Washington DC around expectations and priorities for the talks leading up to the Ministerial. The panel included representatives from Siemens, IBM, and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“USCIB supports these negotiations to update the WTO’s digital trade framework, including support for a permanent ban on customs duties’ application and other customs processes on electronic transmissions for all WTO members.,” said Hampl. “We are encouraged by progress that was made last year and look forward to a high-standard outcome that includes important issues like data flows and data localization.”

This event was organized by the Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT).

USCIB Urges US Participation in WTO’s Procurement Agreement

USCIB joined over twenty industry associations in signing a letter to high-level government officials emphasizing the critical importance of continued U.S. participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). The letter was sent to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, Secretary of the Treasurer Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow.

The letter argues that the GPA provides benefits to the U.S. economy, businesses and workforce by empowering the United States to negotiate reciprocal terms under which GPA signatory countries open their government procurement markets to U.S. companies and commit to transparency and procedural protections that support the rule of law.

“The GPA is the only part of the WTO system that provides binding guarantees of the right to sell to foreign governments (which are not covered by other WTO disciplines). The GPA is also unique among WTO plurilateral agreements in that only the forty-seven current country signatories to the agreement benefit from and can enforce its binding commitments,” the letter stated.

Additionally, the letter warns that if the U.S. withdrew from the GPA, it could no longer negotiate the terms under which China could join the GPA. As a result, other GPA signatory countries would be less likely to demand comprehensive access to Chinese government procurement markets.

USCIB Supports US–Singapore Joint Statement on Financial Services Connectivity

Washington DC – February 6, 2020 – The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) today voiced its support for the recent U.S. – Singapore Joint Statement on Financial Services Data Connectivity. We applaud this holistic approach to cooperation on the critical issue of Data Policy.

USCIB further recognizes the importance of ensuring seamless transfer of data across borders in conjunction with the business of a financial service provider. We support fostering greater understanding of this important public policy issue and acknowledge the importance of unfettered data connectivity and its role in global trade, innovation and economic growth.

Link to the Joint Statement by U.S. – Singapore on Data Connectivity:

https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm899