USCIB Policy Experts Provided Extensive Input Into the B20

This year’s B20 Summit, held November 13-14, embraced the theme of ‘Advancing Innovative, Inclusive and Collaborative Growth’ in support of the G20 theme of ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’. The B20 Summit brought together world business leaders representing leading multinational corporations. In the lead up to the B20 Summit, USCIB policy experts worked closely with USCIB members through various B20 Task Forces, such as those focused on digitalization, trade and investment, integrity and compliance as well as illicit trade and illicit finance. 

USCIB Vice President for ICT Policy Barbara Wanner participated on the B20 Indonesia Digitalization Task Force on behalf of USCIB members. Wanner provided inputs to the Digitalization Task Force report aimed at ensuring that the substance aligned with USCIB contributions to the OECD digital work and the UN Global Digital Compact. According to Wanner, the focus of USCIB substantive inputs – which largely were taken on board by B20 Indonesia – were aimed at carrying through the themes of “data free flows with trust,” opposition to data localization requirements, risk-based and interoperable approaches to digital security, and the importance of multistakeholder participation in global digital consultations.  

USCIB Director, Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark served on the B20 Trade and Iinvestment Task Force and provided recommendations on behalf of USCIB members in four key areas: promote open, fair and inclusive post-pandemic global trade and investment policies; facilitate innovation and digitalization that supports international development and avoids future crises; encourage inclusivity in global supply chains; and ensure trade and investment drive greener and more sustainable development. USCIB Director for Customs and Trade Facilitation Megan Giblin also played a key role in advancing inputs and securing inclusion of customs and trade facilitation language to reflect member and Committee priorities.  

Meanwhile, USCIB Senior VP, Innovation, Regulation, and Trade Brian Lowry participated as a Member of the B20 Indonesia Integrity & Compliance Task Force alongside USCIB Policy Manager for Environment and Sustainable Development Agnes Vinblad, supporting as a deputy member of the task force. Giblin also served a critical role in coordinating efforts to gather USCIB member inputs, reflecting member and Committee priorities, on the inclusion of language specifically pertaining to illicit trade and illicit finance.  

Working with David M. Luna, chair of the USCIB Anti-Illicit Trade Committee, USCIB submitted comments pertaining to Policy Recommendation 3 to foster agility in counteract measures to combat money laundering/terrorist financing risk and Policy Action 3.1 to refocus on money laundering/terrorist financing risk factors identification. USCIB’s submission on language recognizing the “link between the sustainability agenda, illicit trade/illicit finance, and financial crime” was adopted by the task force and is included in the final policy paper. Additionally, commentary submitted by USCIB to include language on environmental crime and trade-based money laundering is also reflected in the final policy paper. 

USCIB Advocates Member Interests at OECD Trade and Investment Committees

Business at OECD (BIAC) Trade Committee led by Pat Ivory (center). Also in photo: Marion Jansen, Director of the OECD Trade Committee and USCIB’s Alice Slayton Clark

USCIB joined Business at OECD (BIAC) to advocate member interests in Paris at the October meetings of the OECD Trade and Investment Committees.

Under consideration by the OECD Trade Committee were the trade impacts of the war in Ukraine and the process for considering the OECD accession candidates—Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Peru and Romania. According to USCIB Director for Trade, Investment and China Alice Slayton Clark, who attended the meetings in Paris, of concern is managing OECD overload from undertaking market openness reviews for all five candidates, with the European countries likely to be fast-tracked due to their adherence to the European Single Market and Common Commercial Policy. BIAC stressed the importance of a robust role for business throughout the accession process, having already presented preliminary trade, tax and other business concerns for each candidate.

At the OECD Investment Committee meetings, BIAC urged countries to safeguard an enabling environment for private investment as the world is increasingly unstable due to national security concerns, and as the global rules-based trading system is under challenge.

“This is an imperative as private investors are pressed more than ever to contribute to COVID recovery and help emerging economies combat climate change, develop clean energy, improve healthcare and infrastructure, and bridge the digital divide,” asserted Clark. BIAC also urged OECD to pay special attention to in-and outbound investment screening, and to catalog strategies countries have developed to deal global value chain vulnerabilities.

USCIB used the opportunity to urge OECD staff and U.S. policymakers to promote the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions (e-commerce moratorium) through market openness reviews of OECD candidates. The OECD was also encouraged to provide additional studies to help inform the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce work program on the benefits of the moratorium for digital services in emerging economies.

Concurrently, OECD held its annual Global Trade Forum focused on the intersection of trade and responsible business conduct (RBC), with significant discussion about promoting more coordination and transparency as states and international organizations increasingly impose mandatory and voluntary RBC measures on supply chains. While RBC is good for business, BIAC warned policymakers to provide proper balance and not overload trade agreements with environmental and social expectations that countries cannot achieve through rule of law enforcement.

USCIB Attends WTO Public Forum, Meets with WTO Director General

Stacy Dieve (Cisco), Megan Funkhouser (ITIC), Alice Slayton Clark (USCIB)  with WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (center) with WTO Deputy Director-General Anabel González

USCIB was in Geneva for the WTO Public Forum last week, advocating with USCIB members and other industry associations for the launch of a new round of tariff eliminations under the Information Technology Agreement (ITA-3) and for permanent extension of moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

The meetings with WTO officials, including Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and WTO missions made progress in laying the ground work for member objectives, but also provided important insights into how USCIB and member companies can navigate the challenges ahead.

USCIB member companies also met with Representative Director of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Geneva Crispin Conroy to discuss the WTO landscape and USCIB/ICC international trade priorities. USCIB is working closely with ICC on WTO workstreams including with respect to the Joint Statement Initiative on Electronic Commerce, the e-commerce moratorium, the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) and WTO reform.

USCIB and ICC remain strong advocates for a more formal role for business and civil society input at the WTO, especially as the forum becomes one more focused on policy discussion.

USCIB Comments on China’s WTO Commitments: Urges Protection of IP, Voices Concern Over 301 Tariffs

USCIB submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative regarding China’s WTO compliance with its World Trade Organization commitments, raising a broad array of concerns including in the areas of digital, intellectual property rights (IPR), regulatory policies, competition, transparency and standards.

The comments urge the U.S. government to continue to press for a complete suspension of all existing and proposed measures involving trade-restrictive requirements in the digital sector, where China has enacted and enforced a variety of trade-restrictive and overly prescriptive requirements on information technology (IT). In the area of intellectual property, USCIB urges the U.S. government to continue to press for increased protections, as well as enhanced and efficient enforcement options, better coordination and enforcement by Chinese authorities, and more severe penalties for infringement of IPR. The comments add that concerns about Chinese behavior even extend beyond WTO compliance issues to areas such as government procurement.

USCIB also raises concerns over the Section 301 tariffs imposed against Chinese imports, noting that these tariffs have caused harm to domestic industry and done little to date to change Chinese behavior. The tariffs cover over $370 billion in goods, raising the cost of doing business in the United States and increasing prices for U.S. families and workers, a hardship exacerbated by today’s inflationary environment. According to USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark, “as these tariffs continue, they create uncertainty for businesses and negatively impact U.S. companies’ ability to invest in their companies to innovate new products, hire more American workers, and remain competitive globally.” It is essential that the United States adopt a robust strategy that does not only rely on the use of punitive tariffs to achieve its objectives with China.

“Engagement with China can be challenging but China’s importance in the global economy provides a strong incentive for the United States to engage on all fronts to find solutions and foster stability and growth in the relationship,” according to Clark. The United States must not only continue to promote U.S. interests in the WTO rules-based international trading order, but also work with allies to address common concerns with respect to China, and work bilaterally with China to resolve challenges.

USCIB Launches Advocacy Campaign on OECD Accession Process

USCIB launched its advocacy campaign on the OECD accession process last week, co-hosting with the U.S. Chamber “The OECD Accession Process: Why it Matters for U.S. Business,” a high level dialogue featuring OECD legal counsel, Business at OECD (BIAC) and leaders of U.S. industry. The event featured Gita Kothari, OECD deputy director for legal affairs, Ali Karami Ruis, BIAC senior director, and Rick Johnston, chair of BIAC and the USCIB Trade & Investment Committee, who provided guidance on the accession processes and on how American companies can play a role in leveraging business interests. Norine Kennedy, USCIB senior vice president for policy and global strategy, and Gary Litman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior vice president for global initiatives, provided welcoming remarks.

Starting this fall, dozens of OECD committees will undertake detailed technical reviews of candidate country practices relating to a wide array of issues such as tax, environment, good governance and trade. The committees will consider the willingness and ability of the candidates to adopt OECD standards and recommend changes to laws and practices, a process that can take up to eight years, advancing at different paces depending on the candidate. Reforms must be adopted before a country is invited to accede.

“OECD accessions provide a unique opportunity for USCIB member companies to change policy and reform laws never thought possible before in candidate countries,” asserted Alice Slayton Clark, USCIB director for investment, trade and China. BIAC is distinctively placed to advance industry interests because it is authorized to participate in the work of the OECD and its committees. It also can activate its global business association members to coordinate advocacy strategies and provide high level access and engagement with the thirty-eight OECD ambassadors in Paris.

USCIB, through its unique affiliation to BIAC, offers its members a special avenue to influence this process. USCIB policy managers have already started engaging members at the committee level on priority issues to advocate through BIAC and with relevant Biden Administration officials.

“The OECD is a business friendly environment, bringing cooperation over the accession process to a new level and yielding tangible benefits for countries and companies,” stressed Clark.  “Now is the time for business to get involved and maximize results.”

USCIB has also released an OECD fact sheet on the advocacy campaign, which can be accessed here.

USCIB Supports US-Kenya Trade Partnership Initiative, Offers Recommendations to USTR

The U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) initiative launched July 14, the Biden Administration’s overture to Kenya in lieu of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations begun in 2020. The negotiation seeks to advance shared priorities in the areas of investment, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, worker rights and African regional economic integration but, like other Biden Administration trade initiatives, lacks the ambition of an FTA, excluding important market access and other components.

USCIB submitted public comments to USTR on September 16, supporting the launch of STIP but urging the Administration to create a “truly ambitious roadmap that advances a comprehensive and substantive agreement with concrete, meaningful outcomes, high standards and strong rules that are enforceable and binding.” The Administration should not limit U.S. objectives particularly with respect to market access, services, intellectual property rights protections (IPR) and investment. Instead, USCIB urged the Administration to look to existing FTAs to demonstrate consistency in international negotiations with respect to national objectives, harmonized rules, and pursuit of high standards.

“STIP, nonetheless, is important as it would be the first substantial trade agreement reached between the United States and a Sub-Saharan African country, contributing to Africa’s economic power and opportunity consistent with Biden Administration initiatives such as the newly released U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Clark. “It would enhance U.S. efforts to create more resilient supply chains, providing alternative sourcing for key inputs and ensuring Kenya remains less vulnerable to threats of economic coercion by non-democratic trading partners.”

To contribute to the economic success of STIP, USCIB recommends conclusion of a comprehensive agreement that advances key priorities in target areas like digital, customs and trade facilitation, good regulatory practices, and harmonization of standards that would bolster resilient and strategically integrated supply chains. USCIB comments emphasize that STIP should provide creative solutions for the new economy, climate and sustainability, socio-economic equality, emerging technologies and the role of SMEs. It should also include new digital governance rules that foster innovation, facilitate digital trade, enable trusted data flows, incorporate digital inclusion for small businesses, and promote digital enablement and skilling in the economies of the United States and Kenya.

USCIB’s comments also offer extensive recommendations on matters related to agriculture, anti-corruption, digital services tax, worker rights, standards collaboration and much more.

To view USCIB comments, please click here.

USCIB Urges Biden Administration to Oppose Extending TRIPS Waiver to COVID Diagnostics, Therapeutics

USCIB is urging the Biden Administration to oppose current efforts at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend a waiver of rules under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics. USCIB remains disappointed with the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines announced at the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in June; it is staunchly opposed to extending the waiver to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics.

Rules under the TRIPS Agreement are being challenged today by nations seeking to leverage the pandemic to gain unfettered access to competitively sensitive, proprietary biopharmaceutical manufacturing technology. In a letter to senior Administration officials dated September 12, USCIB contends that the TRIPS agreement provides ample flexibility to address disparities in access to medicines and treatments; the real problem is insufficient healthcare infrastructure and distribution systems necessary to distribute and adminster vaccines and medicines to remote populations around the globe, as well as residual vaccine hesitancy.  “Extension of the TRIPS waivers is a solution in search of a problem, undermining innovation, global health security, international rule of law, and faith in the global trading system,” argued USCIB Senior Vice President for Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry.

USCIB further asserts that “it took decades studying coronaviruses and developing messenger RNA (“mRNA”) technologies to lay the foundation for the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines and other medicines of today. These revolutionary innovations, developed at unprecedented speed and scale, were fueled by global rules that protect IP which provide companies with confidence to undertake high-risk ventures over extended timelines.”  No nation has more to lose from weakened intellectual property rules than the United States, which leads the world in biopharmaceutical and technological research, Lowry stressed.

The letter was addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs at the National Security Council Jacob Sullivan, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President Ashish Jha and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Kathi Vidal.

USCIB Files Comments on US Government Trade Strategy to Combat Forced Labor

USCIB filed public comments with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) August 5 in response to a request for input on a U.S. trade strategy to combat forced labor. According to the submission, a successful U.S. forced labor trade policy must assume a whole-of government approach that is multi-faceted, multilateral and risk-based in nature, focused on addressing the root causes of forced labor, including promoting rule of law in nations struggling to adopt and enforce internationally recognized labor standards.

With respect to trade policy tools, USCIB argued that USTR should leverage positive and accelerated, market incentives and market access for countries striving to tackle forced labor; provide capacity building and technical assistance to help governments struggling with compliance; and increase interagency collaboration and engagement with industry, allies, and multilateral institutions on promoting solutions to common supply chain problems. USCIB’s comments, which were built on past positions, statements, and work related to the critical topic of forced labor in supply chains, focused on both policy and technical issues, and supported the need for increased engagement with the trade community writ large.

“USCIB members condemn all forms of forced labor, and are deeply committed to preventing the use of forced labor in their supply chains,” said USCIB Director for Investment, Trade and China Alice Slayton Clark. “In fact, when they trade and invest in the global marketplace, they deploy and export responsible business practices and promote social responsibility around the world.”

For the U.S. Government’s forced labor trade strategy to be effective it must be developed considering industry perspectives and inputs.

The government must engage the trade community in partnership to support trade, investment, supply chain due diligence and compliance. They must also provide clear guidance to companies, addressing any new rules implementing forced labor eradication strategies.

“USCIB and our member companies are ready, willing and able to provide general policy as well as technical customs and trade facilitation guidance to support the effort to develop a focused trade strategy to combat forced labor,” added Clark.

Through its membership affiliation with the International Organization of Employers (IOE), USCIB holds the formal role as the U.S. employer representative at the International Labor Organization (ILO), and has long served as a leading industry voice in promoting core labor standards, bolstering human rights, and eradicating child labor and forced labor in global supply chains.

USCIB Policy Experts Contribute to The Economist Impact’s Global Trade Week

The Economist Impact kickstarted its four-day, second annual Global Trade Week (GTW) in London on June 27. The summit commemorated the supply-chain resilience day on June 28, amid other thematic issues, and had a melee of high-profile speakers including European Commission Director-General for Trade Sabine Weyand, office of the United States Trade Representative Senior Advisor Beth Baltzan and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile Director General of Multilateral Economic Affairs Marcela Otero Fuentes. USCIB policy experts – Senior VP, Innovation, Regulation and Trade Brian Lowry, Director, Investment, Trade, and China Alice Slayton Clark and Senior VP, Policy and Global Strategy Norine Kennedy moderated crucial panels during the week that focused on technology, data and supply-chain resilience.

The summit aimed to connect supply-chain, procurement, manufacturing and finance executives with high-level government representatives including ministers, policymakers and advisors. According to the organizers, the summit allows for the new reality of trade to be understood in its entirety, including geopolitical and climate-change risks.

Clark moderated the June 27 panel, “Changing tariffs and trade barriers – are you prepared?” under the theme geopolitical dynamics impacting supply chains and was chaired by Mayra Souza (TradeExperettes), Darya Galperina (Pernod Ricard), Fernanda Herrmann (Diageo) and Stewart Paterson (Hinrich Foundation).

On June 30, Lowry moderated the panel “How to eradicate forced labor in global supply chains” and participants included Romain Chambre (French Treasury), Gemma Brierley (Danone), Desirée LeClercq (Cornell University) and Evan Smith (Altana).

According to Lowry, key issues discussed was how countries, multilateral institutions and businesses can collaborate better to eradicate forced labor from global supply chains and the role of trade policy in facilitating and addressing these issues.

Kennedy moderated the panel “Delivering a greener, fairer global economy” with panelists: Aik Hoe Lim (World Trade Organization), Marion Jansen (OECD) and Elisabeth Tuerk (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe).

Key issues discussed included links between trade and the environment and how trade could offer solutions to enforcing international climate agreements.

Temperatures Soared in Geneva and So Did the WTO!

Washington D.C., June 17, 2022—Despite a shaky start, the WTO negotiators delivered a historic trade deal this morning. After hours of negotiations, the 164-country organization adopted the “Geneva Package” with commitments on some very difficult issues, including pandemic response, intellectual property, fisheries, food security, electronic commerce and institutional reform.

For many, this Ministerial was about the continued viability of the WTO. Recent struggles caused by increased protectionism and previous Ministerial Conferences that created few – if any – outcomes, raised serious questions about the rules-based trading system that grew out of the GATT in 1995. Concerns have ranged from relevance to functionality to value.

The WTO adoption of a ministerial decision to waive intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines raises serious questions and presents a number of risks. This waiver under the WTO TRIPs Agreement will not solve vaccine access issues but, rather, it brings dangerous implications on incentives for innovation for future health challenges and future pandemic preparedness and response.  As disappointing and counter-productive as this decision is, business continues to work to advance vaccine literacy and fight COVID-19.

The Ministerial Statement on WTO Reform has charted a path forward for the trade body that is expected to address longstanding concerns and set a process for discussions on how the WTO can be reformed to be fit for purpose.

The “Geneva Package” covers a range of topics. A group of Ministerial Declarations was adopted on WTO response to emergencies covering food insecurity; export prohibitions on World Food Programme food purchases; and WTO pandemic response and preparedness.

A partial deal to curb fishing subsidies was reached; however, it fell short of a fuller agreement that has been under negotiation for more than 20 years. The agreement addresses rules to prohibit subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, while action on subsidies for fuel, ship construction and other areas was left unresolved.

Negotiators wrestled to address divergent views on the continuation of a moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions that has been in place since 1998 but was set to expire at the end of the ministerial. A handful of countries challenged the benefits of the digital economy for the developing world, seeking to end the moratorium, gain policy space to address the digital divide and collect needed customs revenues. Ultimately, delegates agreed to an extension of the moratorium with a commitment to study development impacts and revisit the issue at the next Ministerial Conference.

“USCIB congratulates WTO Director General Ngozi and all participants in MC12 for proving that multilateralism is alive and still functional in Geneva,” said Brian Lowry, USCIB Senior Vice President, who is reporting from Geneva at the ministerial meeting as an NGO delegate.

Several concerns about agriculture went without resolution. “The lack of a declaration on these concerns was a disappointment to some but the overall success of MC12 is noteworthy,” said Lowry.

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. USCIB is the U.S. affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and Business at OECD. More at www.uscib.org.