Baird Discusses USCIB Priorities With Leaders of WTO and UNCTAD 

L-R: Whitney Baird (USCIB), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (WTO), Angela Ellard (WTO) in Geneva

USCIB President and CEO Whitney Baird was in Geneva the week of November 27, meeting with the heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to press membership priorities.  


The focus of the meeting with WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealaand Deputy Director General Angela Ellard was industry positions for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), with Baird underscoring concerns regarding the U.S. retreat from important digital safeguards in the JSI on E-Commerce negotiations, the imperative of a permanent renewal of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions and staunch opposition to a waiver extension under the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. USCIB also relayed its history as a leading industry voice in support of the WTO, spearheading business coalition letters urging better U.S. leadership in negotiations.   


“USCIB will attend MC13 in February 2024 showcasing our deep commitment to the WTO and a global rules-based trading system,” said Baird. “With some 70 percent of world trade covered under WTO rules, USCIB is a steadfast and staunch advocate for the WTO and its critical role in keeping the global trading system open for business particularly during times of pandemic or geostrategic crisis.” 


Baird also expressed her gratitude to the DG for establishing the WTO Director General business advisory group to ensure industry voices are heard. “USCIB truly understands the importance and the power of institutionalized stakeholder engagement as the unique U.S. affiliate to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE),” added Baird. 


Separately, Baird met with UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan to discuss mutual areas of interest regarding foreign direct investment (FDI) and issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). USCIB’s engagement with UNCTAD spans years of active participation at the World Investment Forum Meetings, the leading international meeting on investment matters. 


USCIB has been a longstanding, leading voice for the U.S. private sector on international investment policy issues in the multilateral system, promoting FDI and defending investor safeguards in investment agreements as a paramount priority.   


“USCIB advocates for inclusive practical multilateralism and welcomes opportunities to engage with UNCTAD in dialogue and through public-private partnerships to learn about the barriers to investments in developing countries,” said Baird.  


Baird added, “It is now more important than ever that international organizations like UNCTAD work with business to call for the necessary welcoming environment for FDI in quality projects that help put the SDGs back on track, power sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity. USCIB looks forward to a productive working relationship with the Secretary General and her colleagues at UNCTAD.” 

USCIB Highlights Critical Role of Business in Advancing Human Rights at UN Forum

Participants: IOE corporate partners, USCIB delegation, and UN Deputy High Commissioner
Photo Credit: IOE

The annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights took place the week of November 27 in Geneva. As the world’s largest conference on business and human rights (BHR), it convened governments, business, civil society, experts and practitioners to discuss the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, share best practices and learn about BHR initiatives from all regions.

According to USCIB Director for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Ewa Staworzynska, this year’s discussions were marked by the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the 12th year since the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). There was broad consensus that more progress was needed on human rights and many stakeholders called for a stronger role to be played by business. Emphasis was placed on leveraging the UNGPs in emerging topics such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and environmental protection.

IOE Business Caucus L-R: Ewa Staworzynska (USCIB & IOE), Renate Hornung-Draus (Confederation of German Employers (BDA) & IOE), Roberto Suarez Santos (IOE), Whitney Baird (USCIB), Jason Pegat-Toquet (IOE). Photo credit: IOE

The American business community actively engaged across the various discussions at the UN Forum and USCIB member companies, including Hewlett-Packard and Google, were featured in plenary sessions to share their valuable contributions to the human rights agenda. The commitment to progress on human rights was also underscored in the dialogue with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, during a Business Caucus organized by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), as well as in a business meeting with the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Youssef A. Al Nashif.

USCIB and the U.S. Mission in Geneva co-organized a dialogue between USCIB member companies and the U.S. Government delegation to the UN Forum. The dialogue allowed for an open discussion among businesses and representatives from the U.S. Departments of State and Labor and USAID, on key topics such as the UN Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights, AI, due diligence trends and labor rights.

The USCIB delegation was led by President and CEO Whitney Baird and included Ewa Staworzynska, director for corporate responsibility and labor affairs and Jose Arroyo, policy manager.

“We are thrilled to lead the U.S. business engagement at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights,” said Baird. “The presence and participation of U.S. companies highlights the private sector’s commitment to advancing human rights globally, and it is imperative that we do so in alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

USCIB Letter to US Administration Welcomes Strong US Leadership at COP28, Highlights USCIB Role at Climate COP

New York, N.Y., November 29, 2023—As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) prepares to open the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai tomorrow, the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), which will represent the U.S. business community at the Climate COP, sent a letter to U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The letter welcomes the continued strong leadership of the Administration in climate change and its constructive focus on catalyzing investment in all forms of energy to support a just transition, new green jobs and sustainable paths to shared prosperity across society.

USCIB also recognizes the unprecedented opportunity which the Inflation Reduction Act offers to mobilize private capital to achieve our shared climate goals and strengthen long-term growth at home and abroad.

For this year’s Climate COP, USCIB will bring a multisectoral delegation of globally leading U.S. companies ready to share commitments and solutions to tackle climate change, while prioritizing investment, employment and shared economic growth in the U.S. and abroad. It has perhaps never been clearer – every sector of American business plays a critical part in strengthening implementation.

USCIB also looks forward to supporting key progress on advanced climate technologies, especially through engagement with the CTCN and the current U.S. leadership of the CTCN Advisory Board.

COP28 has the potential to become the most inclusive COP in history, with governments, Observers, NGOs, business, and wider civil society coming together for the first Global Stocktake to reaffirm commitment to the Paris Agreement and keeping the promise of 1.5 alive.

The letter can be downloaded here.

The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) advances the global interests of American business. We do so through advocacy for an open system of world trade, finance, and investment, where business can flourish and contribute to economic growth, human welfare, and environmental protection. We are the sole U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Business at OECD (BIAC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE). USCIB is also the only U.S. business organization with standing at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and is recognized at the UN Environment Program (UNEP), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD).

USCIB Delegation at UN Talks on Plastic Pollution Stresses Critical Role of Business to Identify Innovation and Implementation Opportunities

Chris Olsen and Agnes Vinblad at INC-3 in Nairobi

USCIB and its members were engaged throughout the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-3). INC-2 was held November 13 to 19 at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. 

A USCIB delegation, headed by USCIB Policy Managers Chris Olsen and Agnes Vinblad, followed the negotiations and a range of events prior to and throughout the week. Additional USCIB members made the trip to Nairobi for the negotiations, joining through other observer organizations, and continued to convey how the business community can be solutions providers in the INC process. 

According to Olsen, the negotiations were organized into three contact groups, broadly covering: substantive elements; financing, capacity building and means of implementation; and elements not discussed at INC-2. The results of these groups will be compiled into a single “revised draft text from INC-3” that includes a compilation of all the options proposed in addition to those of the Zero Draft text, as well as a proposal and other submissions regarding those elements that had not been discussed prior to INC-3. The third contact group was also unable to reach consensus regarding intersessional work. This “revised draft text” will be the basis for the negotiations at INC-4, in Ottawa, Canada, next April. 

“Plastic Pollution is such a complex and multidimensional global issue, in need of even more multidimensional solutions,” said Vinblad while reflecting on the issues discussed throughout the week. “At INC-3, we have continued to see firsthand the wide range of views across countries and the wide range of perspectives across industries. It is critical that the INC process continues to be a negotiation inclusive of all observers and maintain a collaborative spirit, recognizing the key role of the global business community in identifying opportunities for innovation and implementation.” 

UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi.
Photo credit: Chris Olsen (USCIB)

INC-3 also saw a changing in its chair, with Gustavo Meza-Cuadra from Peru stepping back into a vice-chair role, and Ambassador Luis Vayas Valdivieso of Ecuador being elected to serve as the Committee’s Chair for INC-4, INC-5, and the final Diplomatic Conference in 2025. This had been agreed upon at the outset of the INC process. The host city of INC-5 was also announced as Busan, Republic of Korea, to take place late November of 2024. 

Regarding the outcomes of INC-3, Olsen went on to stress, “While the lack of consensus regarding recommendations for intersessional work cast a small shadow over the end of the week that many have focused on, the fact of the matter remains that solid progress was made on many important topics that can serve as the foundation for negotiations at INCs-4 and 5 next year. Business needs to be ready to continue to educate and inform policymakers on how we can be partners in addressing these global challenges in the year to come.” 

Business at OECD Releases Paper on Trade Priorities, Responding to 2023 OECD Trade Strategy 

This week, Business at OECD (BIAC) released its flagship paper “Trading Better, Living Better” outlining trade priorities aimed at promoting robust and resilient trade, innovation, open markets, a level the playing field and inclusivity. The paper is developed to inform the future work program of the OECD Trade and Agriculture Directorate. 


The paper was launched on November 27 at a virtual event including OECD officials, government policymakers and other trade stakeholders. USCIB Vice President for International Investment and Trade Policy and BIAC Trade Committee Vice Chair Alice Slayton Clark presented key priorities from the digital section of the paper. These included permanent renewal of the World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions, high standard outcomes from the JSI on e-commerce negotiations and OECD advancement of the benefits of cross-border data flows and negative effects of data localization measures. 


Importantly, the document also urges the OECD to support policy efforts towards strengthening intellectual property (IP) protections, which serve as a fuel for innovation. It urges research on the benefits of IP safeguards and negative trade effects of weak IP rights enforcement.


“The paper underscores several key recommendations for strengthening trade and business,” said Clark. “It calls on the international community to foster rules-based and resilient trade, strengthen the foundations of open markets, advance the digital economy, level the playing field for government support and secure public support for open markets.


Read the full paper here.

Business at OECD Launches Responsible Business Conduct Committee, Co-Chaired by USCIB Member Laura Chapman-Rubbo (Disney)

Laura Rubbo attends USCIB’s 2019 International Leadership Award Dinner
L-R: Peter Robinson (formerly USCIB), Laura Rubbo (The Walt Disney Company), Guy Ryder (formerly ILO), Terry McGraw (formerly USCIB & S&P Global)

Business at OECD (BIAC) launched the newly formed BIAC Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) Committee on November 8 in Paris. The rationale for establishing a dedicated RBC committee is rooted in the growing OECD RBC workstreams, which are expected to expand in the upcoming years. While the BIAC RBC Committee was previously housed under the same umbrella as the Investment Committee, close coordination between both committees will continue. In line with this, two previous vice-chairs of the Investment and RBC Committees now serve as the new co-chairs of the BIAC RBC committee: Laura Chapman-Rubbo from USCIB member The Walt Disney Company and Paul Noll from the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA).

USCIB was delighted to nominate Chapman-Rubbo as co-chair. She has extensive expertise in working with OECD matters, closely collaborating with BIAC on the review of upcoming OECD RBC guidance. As a leading voice in RBC topics, Chapman-Rubbo brings an American perspective, along with know-how from a worldwide transnational company to the table. USCIB members are committed to driving positive change while ensuring that American business interests remain represented at the OECD level.

“I am honored to co-chair this committee,” said Chapman-Rubbo. “We are building on decades of important work by BIAC, their member national business associations, and their member companies to advance responsible business conduct and the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

The first BIAC RBC committee meeting was held on November 8 and now the committee is focused on a 2024 work plan and outreach.

USCIB Member Google Wins Prestigious ACE Award for Women’s Economic Security Work in Poland

U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski presents the award to Marta Poslad, Google Polska

USCIB member Google received the Department of State’s prestigious Award for Corporate Excellence (“ACE Award”) in the Women’s Economic Security category for the outstanding work Google of Poland (“Google Polska”) in promoting Women entrepreneurship, including among Ukrainian women refugees. Google was the only large U.S. multinational to win an ACE Award this year; the other four winners are small or medium U.S. enterprises operating in Africa. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted the annual award ceremony at the State Department on October 30.

Google’s win this year marks the 25th ACE Award win by a USCIB member company in the 24 years the Awards have been presented. Google Polska was recognized for setting the standard in promoting gender equality in the Polish and Central European workplace and supporting women in tech initiatives in Poland, Ukraine and the region. Women fill the large majority of senior leadership posts in Google’s very impressive Polish operations.

According to USCIB Senior Advisor Shaun Donnelly, who attended the award ceremony, Google Polska’s Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Central Europe Marta Poslad accepted the award on behalf of the Google team and delivered very heart-felt remarks. Google’s Head of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy Karan Bhatia represented Google corporate leadership. U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brezinski, who had originally nominated Google Polska for the award, flew home from Warsaw to be at the ceremony and to present the award to Google.

Whitney Baird, USCIB’s new president and CEO, and previously a long-time senior State Department senior official, was one of the invited guests at the annual ceremony.

“I’ve worked behind the scenes on the ACE award ceremony and selection process for many years,” said Baird. “It’s always been a great event, but I enjoyed seeing it this year from a private sector perspective. I was delighted to see a great USCIB member company among the winners again this year. Google in Poland is a prime example of the critical work USCIB member companies are doing around the world, representing and nurturing American values, promoting innovation and economic growth, and showing how businesses—large and small—can be responsible citizens that can do good while doing well.”

USCIB was the only major U.S. trade association represented at the ACE Awards ceremony this year.

“We have worked over the years to support the State Department team organizing the program, the nomination and selection process and to bring more attention to this great program,” said Donnelly.

USCIB Voices Concern Over UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights

Ewa Staworzynska

The “Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect To Human Rights” convened in Geneva this week for its ninth session of negotiations on Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights. The Legally Binding Instrument, also known as the “UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights,” is in its fourth draft, as released on July 31st this year.

For years, the business community has been concerned about onerous requirements on business, liability risks and legal uncertainty the draft Treaty would create both for States and companies, and these challenges continue to persist based on the fourth draft. It also promotes extraterritorial jurisdiction and includes broad definitions, causing further questions about its viability and implementation feasibility.

“USCIB is firmly committed to respecting human rights and advancing responsible business conduct globally,” said Ewa Staworzynska, USCIB director of corporate responsibility and labor affairs, who represented USCIB during the negotiations. “This draft Treaty, in its current form, would create a severe level of legal uncertainty for governments and for business, and it would contribute to divestments and market exits, especially in developing countries. Unfortunately, the current draft Treaty takes us away from the well-respected UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.”

The negotiations progressed slowly, only covering three out of 24 articles with vast disagreements on what the scope of the Treaty should be. The governments ultimately adopted the session report, by consensus, and thus agreed to present a procedural decision to the Human Rights Council in 2024 to request additional resources for the process. In addition, intersessional consultations will be held, together with legal experts, ahead of the 10th negotiation next year.

USCIB Supports Joint Global Business Position on UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights

USCIB joins in support of the Global Joint Business Position on the Draft Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Right.

The position paper responds to fourth Draft of the Legally Binding Instrument, also referred to as the “UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights,” prepared as the basis for the Ninth Session of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights (OEIGWG).

According to USCIB Director for Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs Ewa Staworzynska, the Joint Business Position is the result of extensive inputs from USCIB member companies, as well as the International Organization of Employers (IOE), BusinessEurope and Business and OECD (BIAC).

Since the beginning of the negotiations of the Treaty, there have been fundamental concerns, and these continue to persist based on the content in the fourth Draft.

“At the core, the Treaty fails to address the root causes of adverse human rights impacts, such as weak governance, weak rule of law, corruption, lack of development and high levels of informality,” said Staworzynska. “Further, it blurs the differentiated roles of States and business when it comes to human rights, it promotes extraterritorial jurisdiction, and it would create severe liability risks and legal uncertainty if it were to be adopted in its current form.”

USCIB is committed to advancing responsible business conduct and encourages governments to take into account the legal implications and the feasibility of implementation and further urges governments to ensure that the Treaty is aligned with the well-respected and widely supported UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The position paper can be accessed here.

USCIB Participates at Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Kyoto, Hosts USCIB Foundation/BIAC Roundtable on AI 

Elizabeth Thomas Raynaud (OECD), Nicky Jackson Colaco (Roblox), Nicole Primmer (Business at OECD), Paula Bruening (Casentino Strategies), Barbara Wanner (USCIB), Liz Thomas (Microsoft), Maylis Berviller (BIAC), Nan Schechter (USCIB), Minami Kakuda (BIAC)

USCIB attended the 18th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Kyoto earlier this month. The Forum featured the theme of “The Internet We Want – Empowering All People” and was headlined by notable speakers such as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner was on the ground, along with USCIB Policy Associate Nan Schecter.   

Wanner coordinated USCIB members at the IGF including Amazon, Disney, EY, Google, Lego, Meta, Microsoft, Netflix and Verisign. USCIB members offered insights and expertise throughout the week in main sessions, workshops, and the “hallway meetings” that participants have come to value from the IGF. USCIB also participated in conversations on critical policy topics, including responsible AI governance, the upcoming WSIS+20 review to renew and reaffirm the IGF mandate, negotiations for a UN Cybercrime Convention that will prioritize law enforcement and stifle criminal activity and the Declaration for the Future of the Internet. 

A joint project between Business at OECD (BIAC) and The USCIB Foundation, entitled “Data Privacy in the Metaverse and Immersive Technologies,” was also spotlighted at two IGF side events. 

On October 9, USCIB members and stakeholders convened at a roundtable to discuss data governance issues related to emerging metaverse and immersive technologies. The conversation focused on the Asia Pacific region and highlighted how companies such as NEC and Toyota are employing metaverse training, content development and research funding to promote growth in the region of the metaverse. 

On October 11, Wanner moderated the panel “Creating virtual worlds? A case for innovation and policy that protects users and fosters trust.” Part of the Nikkei Digital Forum, this premier event featured speakers from the OECD, Microsoft, Roblox, and the Japan-based Center for International Economic Collaboration who discussed the status of development and adoption of immersive technologies, as well as necessary policy considerations for its deployment. 

“I want to thank the Government of Japan for hosting such an important event and for highlighting AI governance as the dominant topic for the 18th Forum,” said Wanner. She continued, “IGF as a whole, as well as the joint events between The USCIB Foundation and BIAC, allowed our members to share their technology priorities and enabled us to advocate for balanced policy and regulatory approaches to AI and the Internet.”