USCIB Outlines Priorities for UN Climate Meetings (COP27) in Letter to US Government

USCIB policy experts are now at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. In advance of COP27, USCIB sent a letter on behalf of USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry, setting out USCIB members priorities for COP27. The letter can be downloaded here, or viewed directly below.

Dear Special Presidential Envoy Kerry:

Addressing the multiple challenges of climate change in all their complexity, alongside advancing food and energy security, are interconnected imperatives. The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomes the Administration’s leadership as it has engaged with the international community for ambition and progress on these linked issues en route to the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh next week.

As Administration officials have emphasized, COP27 is a chance to focus on “Implementation Plus”– win-win opportunities to incent investment and create jobs for shared climate -friendly prosperity, not just from governments but across society. Implementation Plus approaches should catalyze innovation and trade to deploy U.S. private sector technology and partnerships on mitigation and adaptation. Implementation Plus oriented COP outcomes should encourage synergies between climate and nature protection agendas and actions. And those outcomes should recognize and mainstream supporting frameworks for voluntary pledges from business and other non-state actors.

In particular, USCIB members look for progress at COP27 in the following areas:

  • Just transition for workers, society, and employers: Further discussions of just transition should reflect the fundamental role of social dialogue, and recognize the impacts and opportunities for workers, societies, and employers. In this regard, representative employers’ federations are essential to sound climate change and just transition policy and its implementation.
  • Integrated Approach to Adaptation and Resilience: Incentives for private sector investment are needed to direct funds not only to infrastructure, but also to other key societal sectors for adaptation and resilience, such as agriculture and food production, supply chain, and access to the internet.
  • Enhanced Substantive Engagement of Business and other Stakeholders: The involvement of business in all its diversity is more important than ever to deliver on Paris, Glasgow, and Sharm El-Sheikh commitments. The Administration has consistently supported the inclusion of all stakeholders in the UNFCCC and this is more crucial than ever at COP27. We urge you to continue to speak out strongly for enhanced and meaningful inclusion of business with all stakeholders, and oppose any measures that would discriminate against or exclude any constituency.

In Glasgow, despite unprecedented business commitments to reduce GHGs and mobilize financial and technical resources, COP26 decisions did not mention the private sector apart from a reference to finance. For USCIB, this sent the wrong signal, and contradicts a record of real achievement and commitment by the private sector to do more.

The Administration has encouraged business from every sector to step up on climate change and join diverse U.S. climate initiatives for ambition, green energy, green purchasing, and more. USCIB member companies have responded positively, and many have additionally launched their own actions to keep 1.5 alive, commit to net-zero and meaningfully contribute across numerous other climate-relevant areas.

We ask therefore for your support to include acknowledgement in COP27 outcomes of the distinct role of business, recommending increased dialogue and partnership with the private sector, and consulting with business and employers to hear views and recommendations on policy options under the UNFCCC.

USCIB members will bring their commitment and solutions to tackle climate change to Sharm El Sheikh, and USCIB looks forward to supporting the U.S. delegation at these meetings. We will be joining forces with our global sister organizations, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) to achieve outcomes for broad deployment of lower carbon options across all forms of energy, to strengthen market-based approaches to tackle mitigation and adaptation, and to take international cooperation to a next level of ambition and impact.

Sincerely,
Peter M. Robinson
President & CEO

Focus Turns to Global Food Security as Commodity Supplies Destabilize by War in Ukraine

According to USCIB Senior Vice President for Regulation, Innovation and Trade Brian Lowry, the focus in the United States last week shifted from sanctioning Russia toward urgently addressing global food insecurity caused by the war in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a high-level UN Global Food Security Ministerial Meeting on May 18, bringing together approximately thirty-five countries to discuss ways to stave off global food shortages linked to the conflict in Ukraine, which is potentially impacting forty million people, according to the World Bank. The U.S. issued a fact sheet calling for Days of Action on Global Food Security and Blinken provided a statement outlining objectives for the ministerial meeting. Ministers ultimately produced a Roadmap for Global Food Security-Call to Action, a commitment to act urgently to address global food security and nutritional needs as well as strengthen resilient and “inclusive” food systems in line the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals and the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

That same day, multiple International Financial Institutions (IFI) released the IFI Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity, a program of financing, policy engagement, technical assistance, and know-how developed by the by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group to address food insecurity. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen commended the release May 18 as the Action Plan was conceptualized at a meeting she convened with the international financial institutions in April.

The G7 joined the World Bank Group to announce on May 19 the launch of the Global Alliance for Food Security to support work on food security at the UN and other international institutions.  The Alliance will leverage existing institutions and programs to develop a short-term response to shortages in food, fertilizer, and fuel and work together to remove trade barriers and provide the support needed to alleviate the negative impacts of the war.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of which USCIB is unique affiliate, called on G7 governments on May 19 to spearhead efforts to provide logistical supports – humanitarian sea corridors, rail and road land routes – sanctions carve-outs, and risk guarantees to restore trade in Ukrainian grains and vegetable oils and Russian fertilizers. Ukraine and Russia had been major exporters of wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizers, creating a trade a gap today that cannot be readily filled. This is consistent with recent messaging from UN Secretary General António Guterres to reopen the Black Sea to agricultural shipments from Ukraine.

Similarly, the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governor’s released a communique May 20 expressing support for Ukraine and a commitment to help close short-term financing gaps and ensure its macro-economic stability. They pledged continued coordinated action to isolate Russia and Belarus from the global economy through economic and financial sanctions, to prevent sanctions evasion and backfilling and to support the ongoing work of the Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs Task Force.

According to USCIB, there is no doubt that additional sanctions are in the offing, as the G7 Foreign Ministers released a statement May 14 affirming continued coordinated actions against Russia and in support of Ukraine. They pledged to continue working together to pressure Russia with future economic and financial restrictions on sectors that Russia depends on, and by imposing penalties on Russian elites, institutions and military. In fact, the United States has already resumed punitive actions this week.

Lowry Discusses Role of WTO in Digital Revolution of Agriculture at WTO Public Forum Event

USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry gave remarks at a World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum side-event on “Digital Services and Green Transition: A Promising Alliance that Needs an Incentive Multilateral Regulatory Framework.” The September 29th event, held in Geneva, was organized in partnership by USCIB, ICC France and Afed (the Association of French Large companies).

Lowry was joined by other prestigious speakers including the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the WTO and Chairperson for the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the WTO and Co-Chair of the Joint Initiative Statement (JIS) on e-commerce negotiating committee Ambassador Tan Hung Seng, the Deputy Director General of the WTO Jean-Marie Paugam and ICC’s Representative Director in Geneva Crispin Conroy.

Lowry discussed how digital tools can help mitigate risk and make farming more rewarding for all farmers—whether smallholders in developing countries or large-scale farms in the United States or Brazil.

“Digital farming can turn field, weather and agronomic data into insights that help address climate change and sustainable productivity,” said Lowry.

“However, this digital revolution does nothing if farmers do not have access to it. Whether it is the smallholder farmer in Africa or a large landowner in Argentina, the WTO can help by supporting market access for the technology and addressing data protection, the cross-boundary data interchange for both access and analysis, and the need for standards and disciplines for a carbon mechanism that promotes consistency and integrity,” added Lowry.

USCIB Meets With Ngozi to Enhance Synergies Between WTO and US Industry

U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO and USCIB Trustee Suzanne Clark hosted a meeting of top U.S. trade association leaders on September 22 with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in advance of the WTO ministerial meeting (MC12) in December. USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson attended for USCIB, accompanied by Alice Slayton Clark, director of Investment, Trade and China. The intimate gathering provided an opportunity to enhance synergies and understanding between the WTO and U.S. industry, a goal for the new director general.

Dr. Ngozi repeated her continued concerns about the viability of the WTO, and the need to produce concrete results at the MC12 on fishery subsidies, food security, trade and health/access to vaccines, as well as the joint statement initiatives on e-commerce and services domestic regulations. Robinson noted the multifaceted challenges facing vaccine access, and urged reduction of trade and regulatory barriers to distribution and administration as the most important approach. He emphasized a letter USCIB sent to Dr. Ngozi this summer on this issue, co-signed by the Chamber and BusinessEurope, among others.

In addition, Robinson stressed USCIB interest in revitalizing and expanding negotiations on an environmental goods agreement that were sidelined in 2016 largely over concerns about the definition of products to be included. Other USCIB priorities were also raised during the meeting, including: concerns about industrial subsidies, dispute settlement procedures, and special and differential treatment; and support for the science of agricultural biotechnology and extension of the e-commerce moratorium. There was a good deal of consensus on many of these key issues among the participants.

Robinson also expressed support for the initiatives to work with the WTO in improving the global trading system that are underway in the three global business organizations with which USCIB is affiliated, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD (BIAC).

USCIB’s member companies rely on the WTO as the multilateral forum for resolving trade disputes and expanding market access for selling goods and services overseas. It urges the Biden Administration to take a leadership role at the MC12 in reforming and updating the WTO so it can remain a viable source for trade adjudication and liberalization in the decades to come.

USCIB Joins Global Coalition on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened a Food Systems Summit during the UN General Assembly (UNGA76) on September 23. The Summit launched bold new actions as part of the UN’s Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to USCIB Senior Vice President Brian Lowry, the goal of the Food Systems Summit was to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food within the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in order to meet the challenges of poverty, food security, malnutrition, population growth, climate change and natural resource degradation.

The U.S. government supported the UN Food Systems Summit and participated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Recognizing that sustainable productivity growth and climate-smart agriculture are essential to sustainable food systems, the United States announced the formation of a global Coalition of Action on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation (the SPG Coalition). The coalition will accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems through agricultural productivity growth that optimizes sustainability across social, economic and environmental dimensions. The coalition will advance a holistic approach to productivity growth that considers impacts and tradeoffs among multiple objectives. USCIB is part of the SPG Coalition.

“USCIB proudly joins an influential group of companies and industry associations such as the Agricultural Retailers Association, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and countries including the United States, Australia, Brazil, non-governmental organizations, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to become part of the SPG Coalition to achieve a common goal of a sustainable food system and resource conservation and help combat challenges such as food security,” said Lowry. “We look forward to working with the United States, the FAO, and other stakeholders on this critical effort for future generations.”

USCIB Hosts A Conversation About the Future of Food

On the eve of the United Nations Food Systems and Nutrition Summit on September 23, USCIB convened a virtual event—The Future of Food: A Conversation— with experts and practitioners from across societal, scientific, value chain and innovation perspectives.

The September 21 event highlighted the need for and successful examples of innovation across the food and agriculture industry, the roles and relevance of collaborative approaches to innovation, and how shared value and understanding can hold the key to future opportunities.

Facilitated by USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation, and Trade Brian Lowry, the event was convened around the premise that in order to feed a growing population within planetary boundaries—considering amount of global climate emissions linked to agriculture and food—leaders must rethink how food, and especially protein, is made and sourced. Transforming the food system is not a solitary task; industry must come together and find new ways to collaborate and partner, and new alternatives must be created in a complementary manner.

Expert speakers included USCIB member Dr. Randal Giroux of Cargill, who also chairs the USCIB Agriculture Committee, as well as Valerio Nannini, Novozymes general manager for Novozymes Advanced Proteins Solutions. Other experts included Christine Gould, founder and president of Food for Thought, and The Good Food Institute Vice President, Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell.

Together, these experts discussed how industry is responding through strategy, science, and sustainability; the types of complementary solutions that are under development within value chains, and how new ways of thinking and working together can be applied to support such efforts; the views of younger generations and how younger consumers are changing the landscape around the sustainable food revolution; and how we can incorporate alternative sources of food and proteins into the future of sustainable farming and how to factor in climate change, and subsequently, climate action.

In closing, Lowry said, “Welcome to the starting line of what is clearly and important race  – a marathon – to transform the global food system.  I am thrilled to be at the start of this marathon with such an impressive and passionate group of people. People who do not want to watch it happen, but want to make it happen.”

WTO and UN Host Global Dialogue on Trade and Food

USCIB Senior Vice President, Innovation, Regulation, and Trade Brian Lowry participated in an outreach event on July 6 convened by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat in collaboration with the United Nations Food Systems Summit.

The Global Dialogue on Trade; Trade, An Essential Piece of the of the Food Systems Puzzle was curated by Dr. David Nabarro and convened to encourage an informal dialogue and exchange of views amongst invited participants, representing a broad range of stakeholders from government, civil society, business, farmers, academia and more.

A high-level opening plenary with WTO Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Special Envoy of the United Nations Food Systems Summit Dr. Alice Kalibata, was followed by discussions in ten breakout sessions amongst invited participants under Chatham House rules. Lowry participated in breakout discussion on Realizing the Human Right to Food, which was facilitated by Michael Fakhri, UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food. Other sessions focused on topics such as, international trade in food in times of crisis, global agricultural value chains, nutrition security, ensuring sustainable food trade and food safety.

According to Lowry, no reports or outcomes will emerge from the discussions in the breakout rooms. A high-level closing plenary presented in broad terms some of the subjects discussed in the breakout sessions and included closing remarks by WTO Deputy Director General Jean-Marie Paugam.

USCIB Announces New Policy Leadership

Brian Lowry

New York, N.Y., February 01, 2021: The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) announced that Brian Lowry, a former executive in the agriculture and crop science industry, and longtime USCIB corporate member leader, has joined USCIB’s staff as senior vice president of innovation, regulation, and trade. Lowry will be replacing Mike Michener, vice president for product policy and innovation, who is departing USCIB to join the Biden Administration to coordinate international food security policy.

Norine Kennedy

In addition, USCIB announced the promotion of Norine Kennedy to the position of senior vice president, policy and global strategy. With over 25 years’ experience as USCIB’s lead on environment, energy and climate change, Kennedy has been a forceful and respected voice for U.S. business at the UN Rio, Johannesburg, and Rio+20 sustainability conferences, at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) meetings, all Conferences of the Parties of the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Kennedy also spearheaded USCIB’s strategic international engagement initiative to advance meaningful business engagement, partnership and regulatory diplomacy across the UN system.

Working from St. Louis and USCIB’s Washington, DC office, Lowry will lead the organization’s policy work on trade, health, food, agriculture, chemicals, and intellectual property. He will also coordinate USCIB’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

“Brian brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to USCIB, especially his background in working within a multinational corporate entity and with international organizations, that will contribute greatly to our efforts on behalf of members,” said Peter Robinson, USCIB CEO and president. “We are excited to have him join our team at a time when the policy and regulatory issues facing American companies are complex and growing—but also when the innovative capacity of the private sector can contribute so much to solving the global challenges we face today.”

Lowry most recently served in St. Louis as deputy general counsel at Bayer U.S. – Crop Science Division (formerly Monsanto) and headed the Office of Law & Policy. He was responsible for key legal functions and public policy efforts including international trade policy, negotiations, and compliance; multi-lateral undertakings and conventions and UN-related matters; human rights, human resources, and immigration; business conduct, ethics, and anti-corruption; intellectual property policy; and stakeholder and socially responsible investor engagement. Lowry also co-chaired the USCIB working group on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda and was the first board chair of the UN Global Compact Network USA.

In 2017, Lowry was recognized by the Financial Times as one of the six best leading in-house counsel specialists as “The Thought Leader.” In 2011, he was a finalist in the International Law Office Global Counsel Awards, and in 2014, he was recognized as the American Corporate Counsel International Lawyer of the Year. He is regularly engaged in university discussions on food security and business and human rights, and participates in a number of philanthropic, arts and community boards and activities. Lowry has taken advanced studies at Stanford University and Harvard University, and holds degrees from the University of Dayton, BS Education, and Washington University, Juris Doctorate.

Mike Michener

Michener is a former administrator of the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service who has also served as a U.S. diplomat in Rome and association executive in Brussels; he also worked with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and he served with the United States Army for seven years in Europe.

Robinson said, “We are sorry to see Mike Michener leave us, but happy as always to see USCIB alumni going on to key corporate and governmental positions. And we are fortunate to be able to count on the collaborative leadership of Norine Kennedy and Brian Lowry in advancing opportunities for private sector solutions to critical global issues at a time when multilateralism matters to business.”

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.

USTR Must Urge Canada and Mexico to Honor USMCA Commitments

USCIB joined the Alliance for Trade Enforcement (AFTE) to send a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to ensure that Canada and Mexico abide by the commitment they have made in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and treat U.S. interests fairly.

The letter stated: “We applaud the sentiments that you expressed in your recent congressional testimony about your willingness to seek dispute settlement on issues of importance to U.S. manufacturing, agriculture and service sectors where those countries fall short, including patent, trademark and market access issues impacting innovative industries from both new and longstanding policies and regulations in Mexico and Canada.”

The group noted support for Lighthizer’s attention to the full enforcement of IP commitments made in the USMCA which protects U.S. IP-intensive industries, such as patent linkages and provisions to protect against abuses of the regulatory review exception, as well as broader market access barrier to innovative products, namely the lack of approvals for imported agricultural biotech products. AFTE argued that Mexico’s failure to approve such products threatens both trade with Mexico and U.S. farmers’ access to important technologies; meanwhile, Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board continues to develop and implement unfair pricing and reimbursement regulatory schemes that don’t account for the cost of research and development of innovative treatments, which ultimately reduces incentives for American scientists and manufactures to research and develop new treatments.

AFTE however applauded the important leap forward made by the USMCA’s digital trade provisions, which include key commitments and significant improvements over prior agreements.

AFTE is a coalition of trade associations and business groups dedicated to ending foreign unfair trade practices that harm American businesses and workers and to ensuring that America’s trading partners are held accountable for the commitments that they have made to treat American goods and services fairly. AFTE members represent companies – both large and small – from across the economy, including the manufacturing, agriculture, and service sectors. AFTE supports actions and policies that encourage U.S. trading partners to open their markets, reduce barriers to trade, and provide effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights.

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.