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International Affairs Division, U.S. Chamber Newsletter-Policy Update (9/24)

4 October 2021 Monday

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
International Policy Update
September 24, 2021
Chamber Hosts WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala
Brilliant: ‘Quad’ Summit a Chance to Clarify Indo-Pacific Agenda
U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council Hosts Bangladesh Prime Minister
Chamber Hosts Polish President in New York
Business Groups Outline Transatlantic Trade, Tech Priorities Ahead of Summit
Chamber Wades into House NDAA Amendment Debate
Chamber to Comment on Proposed Buy American Act Amendments
Business Coalition Presses for GSP Renewal
Chamber Welcomes Decision to Lift Travel Restrictions
Chamber Joins U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Letter on Pandemic
ICYMI: Senate Confirms White, Bianchi for Deputy USTR Slots
From the Home Front
Chamber Launches Television Advocacy Campaign Against $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill
Commercial Construction Contractors Struggle to Find Workers; Steel Tariff Concerns Grow as Recovery Stalls
Commentary
U.S. Businesses Lead COVID-19 Relief Efforts Across the Globe
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
International Policy Update
September 24, 2021
Chamber Hosts WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala
Brilliant: ‘Quad’ Summit a Chance to Clarify Indo-Pacific Agenda
U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council Hosts Bangladesh Prime Minister
Chamber Hosts Polish President in New York
Business Groups Outline Transatlantic Trade, Tech Priorities Ahead of Summit
Chamber Wades into House NDAA Amendment Debate
Chamber to Comment on Proposed Buy American Act Amendments
Business Coalition Presses for GSP Renewal
Chamber Welcomes Decision to Lift Travel Restrictions
Chamber Joins U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Letter on Pandemic
ICYMI: Senate Confirms White, Bianchi for Deputy USTR Slots
From the Home Front
Chamber Launches Television Advocacy Campaign Against $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill
Commercial Construction Contractors Struggle to Find Workers; Steel Tariff Concerns Grow as Recovery Stalls
Commentary
U.S. Businesses Lead COVID-19 Relief Efforts Across the Globe
Chamber Hosts WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark hosted World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on September 22 as she started a round of meetings in Washington, D.C. Accompanied by Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard, Okonjo-Iweala discussed the WTO’s reform agenda and priorities for the November 30 – December 3 ministerial conference with a small group of association CEOs at the Chamber.
Clark affirmed the high value the U.S. business community places on the WTO and voiced support for reforms to reinvigorate its negotiating function and to carry out reforms to facilitate restoration of its Appellate Body. The group discussed the need for progress in negotiations on fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, and services domestic regulation. The critical role of industry partnerships to support the rapidly expanding production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide was also addressed.
Okonjo-Iweala participated in the White House Global Covid-19 Summit later that morning and subsequently met with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. USTR issued a press release on their meeting that reads in part:
“This was the first in-person meeting between Ambassador Tai and Director-General Okonjo-Iweala after several virtual conversations throughout this year. They discussed trade’s essential role in the global economy and the importance of multilateral cooperation between countries and trading partners. They both agreed that the WTO must play a critical role in harnessing trade as a force for good.
“Ambassador Tai noted that a successful WTO Ministerial Conference needs to deliver a meaningful agreement in the fisheries subsidies negotiations and on WTO Members’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of WTO reform.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Brilliant: ‘Quad’ Summit a Chance to Clarify Indo-Pacific Agenda
U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant outlined a set of recommendations for the upcoming “Quad” summit in a September 22 column in The Hill. Brilliant lays out five key areas of cooperation for the group: (1) pandemic response, (2) climate and supply chains, (3) the digital economy, (4) cybersecurity, and (5) trade. He wrote:
“At the White House summit with the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan — Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi, and Yoshihide Suga — President Biden has a rare opportunity to add steel to the spine of the “Quad,” a potentially powerful group of Indo-Pacific democracies.”
“While the group’s promise is intriguing, its agenda is still in formation. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Quad leaders would discuss “advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Strategy and Global Initiatives Nisha Biswal (nbiswal@uschamber.com) or Senior Vice President for Asia Charles Freeman (cfreeman@uschamber.com).
U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council Hosts Bangladesh Prime Minister
On September 10, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings, the U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council hosted a virtual business roundtable with Bangladesh Prime Minister Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina and over 30 senior executives from U.S. and Bangladesh business community. Highlighting the importance for Bangladesh to have a robust trade and investment relationship with the United States, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that Bangladesh will offer a special economic zone exclusively for American businesses. She also expressed a hope that two-way trade between the two countries will continue to grow and acknowledged the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council can play a catalytic role in that regard.
Vice President of Business Development at Chevron and the Council’s Chair of Board of Directors, Jay R. Pryor opened the event:
“Improvements in human development, quality of life, life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy and more are all going in a steady pace. In short, Bangladesh is a vibrant and diversified economy with a growth goal of becoming a middle income country. Like any modern growing economy, a supply of reliable, affordable, ever-cleaner energy will play an instrumental role in realizing Bangladesh’s goals. Driving economic opportunity for all is an important step to ensure that development is sustainable and inclusive. Social progress starting with the empowerment of women has also fueled the economic charge of Bangladesh. There is undoubtedly exciting times ahead in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a true Asian success story.”
U.S.-Bangladesh Business President and Senior Vice President for South Asia Nisha Biswal noted:
“The U.S.-Bangladesh strategic relationship is a priority for both countries and the growing trade and investment flows have created an opportunity to deepen the economic partnership between the two countries. We know that there is much more that can be done to improve the ease of investing and the ease of doing business but we are bullish on Bangladesh and believe the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council can help advance economic opportunities that benefit the Bangladeshi people and the American people. The Council and our Board reflect a diversity of industries and businesses ranging from energy and finance to digital economy and healthcare and the retail and RMG sectors.  We see growth across all segments of the economy as we create a stronger commercial and trade dialogue with the government.”
The roundtable, which coincides with Bangladesh’s 50th anniversary of independence and the inaugural engagement with Prime Minister Hasina of the recently launched Council – also featured the launch of the U.S.-Bangladesh Energy Taskforce, co-chaired by Excelerate Energy and General Electric (GE), which will provide recommendations to both governments on the role the private sector can play to strengthen bilateral energy cooperation and development.
For further information, please contact Director of the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council Sid Mehra (smehra@uschamber.com).
Chamber Hosts Polish President in New York
On September 23, the Chamber’s European Affairs Program hosted a private breakfast roundtable with Polish President Andrzej Duda in New York on the margins of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant convened the meeting and noted following the event:
“It was a pleasure to meet President Duda, to discuss the vibrant ties between our countries and the important role that Poland plays at the heart of a robust transatlantic relationship.”
“American investors are bullish on Poland, which boasts a highly-skilled workforce. There are ample opportunities to partner, especially through things like the Three Seas Initiative which would better integrate the digital, physical, and energy infrastructure of Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, we welcome Poland’s continued strong advocacy for deeper ties between the European Union and the United States.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for European Affairs Marjorie Chorlins (mchorlins@uschamber.com).
Business Groups Outline Transatlantic Trade, Tech Priorities Ahead of Summit
On September 23, the Chamber joined several other groups in sending a letter to National Security Council Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness Peter Harrell ahead of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) Summit in Pittsburgh on September 28-29. The groups emphasized the need for the TTC to yield tangible progress in important areas of trade and technology and outlined the following recommendations as priority issues for the business community:
  • Finalize an agreement on transatlantic data flows;
  • Commit to treat companies in a non-discriminatory manner;
  • Avoid unnecessary trade barriers on digital services; and
  • Promote shared importance of trade facilitation.
The Chamber will continue to engage in advocacy surrounding the TTC and broader U.S.-EU relationship. For further information, please contact Senior Director for European Affairs Garrett Workman (gworkman@uschamber.com).
Chamber Wades into House NDAA Amendment Debate
On September 21, the U.S. Chamber sent a letter to Congress in support of the House version of the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022,” which aims to strengthen and advance the National Defense Strategy and ensure that unfunded procurement, research, and readiness priorities of the services are met. The letter also voiced opposition to several amendments.
An amendment put forth by Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), which was adopted, would prohibit U.S. banks from purchasing ruble-denominated bonds, which would limit the ability of U.S. banks to serve their U.S. corporate clients operating in Russia. While intended to impose constraints on the Russian government, the Chamber argued the legislation would have little effect on its ability to secure funds in global markets – given the Russian government’s strong foreign exchange and gold reserves – while harming U.S. companies’ operations in Russia and benefitting their competitors based elsewhere.
The Chamber successfully pushed back against an amendment requiring a CFIUS review of real estate transactions by foreign entities or companies controlled by foreign entities from as far away as 100 miles from domestic U.S. military installations and training ranges. This issue was addressed in previous CFIUS reform legislation, and the amendment’s broad geographic scope and associated mandatory filing would impose a severe administrative burden on the government and on those who manage real estate investments. The amendment was not made in order.
Among other amendments that did not advance was one that would prohibit the sales of products of the sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics on military bases and another that would require the Operating Committee for Export Policy to require a vote among four agencies to deny or grant export licenses. Neither advanced beyond the rules committee.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Chamber to Comment on Proposed Buy American Act Amendments
The Chamber has worked with several partners to draft comments in response to the Federal Register notice soliciting input on the proposed rule to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement an Executive Order (E.O.) addressing domestic preferences in government procurement. Per a request made by the Chamber and other groups, the agencies this week granted a 30-day extension of the comment period; comments are now due October 28.
The comments were drafted by the Chamber’s Executive Director for Procurement Policy Christian Zur with partners in the Council of Defense and Space Industry Associations (CODSIA), an industry-wide coalition that exists to coalesce positions on procurement regulations and other issues. CODSIA hosts quarterly meetings with the FAR Council and its member associations include the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Associated General Contractors (AGC), CompTIA, Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Professional Services Council (PSC), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
For a draft of the comments and to submit input, please contact Senior Manager for Cyber, Intelligence, and Security Jack Overstreet (joverstreet@uschamber.com).
Business Coalition Presses for GSP Renewal
On September 21, the U.S. Chamber joined 307 companies and trade associations in a Coalition for GSP letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program and refund tariffs paid to date. The letter laments that American companies have paid about $750 million in extra taxes since the expiration of the program and also expresses concern over Congressional efforts to add new eligibility criteria without also including new incentives or assistance to help participating countries meet the updated criteria.
GSP lapsed on December 31, 2020, and legislation to renew the program has languished amid disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on changes to eligibility criteria. The Senate passed a reauthorization of GSP in the “United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) of 2021” with a large bipartisan majority voting in favor. House Democrats released their own legislation that would modernize and add stronger eligibility criteria. The Chamber has long advocated for renewal of GSP, emphasizing the positive impacts the program has on U.S. businesses, workers, and consumers.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com)
Chamber Welcomes Decision to Lift Travel Restrictions
On September 20, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant issued the following statement on the Biden Administration’s decision to ease foreign travel restrictions to the United States:
“The U.S. Chamber is pleased that the Biden Administration plans to lift the current COVID-related international travel restrictions in November. Allowing vaccinated foreign nationals to travel freely to the United States will help foster a robust and durable recovery for the American economy.”
For further information, please contact U.S. Chamber Vice President for Immigration Policy Jon Baselice (jbaselice@uschamber.com).
Chamber Joins U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Letter on Pandemic
On September 21, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant joined 21 business and non-governmental organization leaders in a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition letter to President Biden supporting his move convene a virtual Global COVID-19 Summit to rally world leaders to vaccinate the world, save lives, and invest in pandemic preparedness. The letter also endorses the imperative that at least 70% of the world’s population be fully vaccinated in all countries by next year’s UN General Assembly and presses support for the Biden administration’s commitment to leverage the private sector in helping stop COVID-19 globally. The letter reads in part:
“To achieve this target, America must lead, and our allies must step up. This will require more than just words, but a true commitment to the necessary resources and tools to ensure vaccine readiness and delivery to get shots into arms. We support new financing to close critical gaps in the global COVID-19 response. As business and development community experts with global operating networks, supply chain expertise, and last mile global health programs, we stand ready to help with ideas, innovations, and technical and manufacturing assistance.”
“America’s leadership on the global response to COVID-19 is essential for our health and economic wellbeing. We thank you for taking this important step forward with this week’s Global Summit and stand with you in support of the Summit’s important targets. We look forward to working in close collaboration with your Administration in ending this pandemic.”
During the virtual Global Covid-19 Summit, President Biden announced that the U.S. would buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to low and middle-income countries around the world, bringing the total U.S. commitment of donated vaccines to 1.1 billion.
The Chamber leads the Global Task Force on Pandemic Response (GTF), a public-private partnership of major U.S. companies with support from Business Roundtable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation also offers a COVID-19 Business Response portal, a platform for U.S. businesses to offer essential in-kind products and services needed outside of the United States. Visit the portal to review a list of critically needed supplies or offer in-kind donations to support Indonesia’s pandemic response.
For more information on the Global Task Force’s work, please visit pandemictaskforce.org.
ICYMI: Senate Confirms White, Bianchi for Deputy USTR Slots
The Senate confirmed Jayme White and Sarah Bianchi on September 22 and 23, respectively, as Deputy United States Trade Representatives under Ambassador Katherine Tai. White’s responsibilities include the U.S. trading relationship with Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and the Middle East as well as labor and environmental issues. Bianchi’s portfolio will include Asia, Africa, investment, services, textiles, and industrial competitiveness.
From the Home Front
Chamber Launches Television Advocacy Campaign Against $3.5 Trillion Reconciliation Bill
On September 22, the U.S. Chamber launched a six-figure paid advertising campaign in opposition to the $3.5 trillion plus reconciliation bill that poses a significant threat to the American economy. President and CEO Suzanne Clark made the following statement upon the launch:
“This reconciliation bill is effectively 100 bills in one representing every big government idea that’s never been able to pass in Congress. The bill is an existential threat to America’s fragile economic recovery and future prosperity. We will not find durable or practical solutions in one massive bill that is equivalent to more than twice the combined budgets of all 50 states. The success of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations provides a much better model for how Congress should proceed in addressing America’s problems.”
Commercial Construction Contractors Struggle to Find Workers; Steel Tariff Concerns Grow as Recovery Stalls
In the midst of escalating challenges including worker shortages, materials shortages, and rising costs, commercial construction contractors are seeing a slowdown in the pace of their recovery from the pandemic, according to third quarter data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index (Index). Almost all (92%) contractors report some level of difficulty finding skilled workers, but this quarter, 55% indicate high levels of difficulty—a jump of 10 percentage points from Q2. The lack of workers has caused 42% of those contractors reporting difficulty finding workers to turn down work, up from 35% in Q2.
Also, a record 93% of contractors report they are facing at least one material shortage. Prices are also a worry: An all-time high of 98% of contractors say building product cost fluctuations are having an impact on their business, up 35 points year-over-year.
As steel replaces lumber as most-reported shortage, steel tariff concerns grow, and 46% of contractors say steel and aluminum tariffs will have a high to very-high degree of impact on their business in the next three years, up 11 points from 35% in Q1 2021. Additionally, 30% expect high impacts from trade conflicts with other countries, the same as in Q2 2021.
Commentary
From “Above the Fold,” U.S. Chamber (September 23), by Kaitlyn Ridel
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