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U.S. Chamber Newsletter-International Policy Update (10/22)

25 October 2021 Monday

 U.S. Chamber of Commerce
International Policy Update
October 22, 2021
Chamber Convenes Business Forum Ahead of AGOA Ministerial
Chamber Hosts “Forecast on Latin America and the Caribbean” Conference
Treasury Releases Results of Sanctions Review
Tai Addresses WTO Priorities in Geneva Speech
Treasury, USTR Announce DST Withdrawal Agreement
Chamber Supports Export-Import Bank Nominees
ICYMI: Chamber, Member Companies Announce New Efforts to Tackle Supply Chain Crisis
ICYMI: Chamber Applauds End of Ban on Non-Essential Travel
From the Home Front
Chamber Opposes ‘Government Knows Best’ Approach to Antitrust
Commentary
A New Urgency: Next Steps on the U.S. Steel and Aluminum Tariffs
Chamber Convenes Business Forum Ahead of AGOA Ministerial
The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Business Center on October 19 convened a private sector African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum ahead of this week’s AGOA Ministerial. Several hundred business leaders, diplomats, U.S. and African government officials, and others joined the Chamber-organized virtual forum under the theme “Leveraging New Pathways to Trade: Enabling the Digital Economy.” The forum focused on two aspects of the digital economy — the e-commerce sector and creative economy.
Participants underscored the growth potential for the e-commerce sector and its capacity to expand the number of enterprises involved in global trade and their opportunity to reach new markets. Keynote speakers provided case studies, and panelists articulated necessary ingredients for a thriving e-commerce ecosystem to include: clear and standardized regulations, physical infrastructure and digital connectivity, digitization of government services, improved logistics and trade facilitation, and access to financial services. On the creative and cultural industries, speakers addressed the tremendous opportunity for this sector to drive growth on the continent, support employment opportunities and skills development that further fuels the sector across Africa. They made the case for the ways in which U.S.-African partnership can create a virtuous circle of growth in a sector that is rapidly expanding. A link to the recording of the event can be accessed here.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai offered opening remarks the next day at the AGOA Ministerial on how to build upon and improve the preferential trade program to further strengthen U.S.-Africa trade ties. Her remarks read in part:
“As we consider AGOA’s future, we must ask ourselves what improvements we can make to attract more investment and help small and women-owned businesses find new markets for their products and compete in the global economy. Much has changed in the 21 years since AGOA was created, and as we think more broadly about the future of the program, my goal as the U.S. Trade Representative is to help create the conditions necessary for a long-term, durable trade and investment relationship between the U.S. and Africa.”
U.S.-Africa Business Center President Scott Eisner was quoted by the Africa Report discussing the AGOA ministerial, noting that as businesses from China and Europe engage in African markets, the U.S. risks getting locked out of lucrative export markets:
“I don’t think we want to be in a situation where we throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the fact that there are some 40 countries that benefit from AGOA... But after 25 years of any unilateral trade preference program, there has to be a re-evaluation… is this right for all the markets?”
The U.S.-Africa Business Center will convene an Africa Digital Economy Summit in December to build on the discussions of the digital economy in the AGOA Forum. For further information, please contact Vice President of the U.S.-Africa Business Center Kendra Gaither (kgaither@uschamber.com).
Chamber Hosts “Forecast on Latin America and the Caribbean” Conference
On October 21-22, the U.S. Chamber’s Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA) hosted its “Forecast on Latin America and the Caribbean” (FOLAC) conference. The event brought together government officials and business leaders from across the Americas to offer valuable insights on the most current hemispheric issues. The conference featured keynote remarks from H.E. Laurentino Cortizo, President of the Republic of Panama and H.E. Pedro Castillo Terrones, President of the Republic of Peru; a Capitol Hill update from Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade; and an armchair conversation with Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment at the U.S. Department of State José W. Fernández. Other panel conversations focused on global trade and the economy, sustainability, elections and political risk, supply chains, and digital transformation and cybersecurity.
For further information, please contact Executive Vice President for AACCLA Anne McKinney (amckinney@uschamber.com).
Treasury Releases Results of Sanctions Review
On October 18, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released the results of its broad review of the economic and financial sanctions it administers and issued recommendations to preserve and enhance their effectiveness in supporting national security and U.S. interests. The review found that while sanctions are an effective policy tool, they face new challenges stemming from the pace of technological innovation. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo stated upon the review’s release:
“Sanctions are a fundamentally important tool to advance our national security interests. Treasury’s sanctions review has shown that this powerful instrument continues to deliver results but also faces new challenges. We’re committed to working with partners and allies to modernize and strengthen this critical tool.”
Key recommendations, which align closely with the Chamber’s Principles for Sanctions as a Tool of Effective Statecraft shared with Treasury early in the review, are outlined below:
  • Adoption of a structured policy framework that links sanctions to a clear policy objective;
  • Multilateral coordination wherever possible;
  • Calibration of sanctions to mitigate unintended economic, political, and humanitarian impact;
  • Ensuring sanctions are easily understood, enforceable, and, where possible, reversible; and
  • Investment in modernizing Treasury’s sanctions technology, workforce, and infrastructure.
Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant welcomed the report in a tweet: The U.S. Chamber agrees with Treasury “that sanctions must be targeted, tailored, and coordinated with allies to avoid humanitarian harm and costs to US workers and firms. We look forward to working to advance effective policies in these areas going forward.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Tai Addresses WTO Priorities in Geneva Speech
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai delivered a speech on October 14 to the Geneva Trade Platform outlining U.S. priorities before the World Trade Organization (WTO). Ambassador Tai affirmed the continued U.S. commitment to the WTO but reiterated longstanding concerns, including those with the partially shuttered dispute settlement system and the trade body’s torpid negotiating function.
Tai laid out several priority areas ahead of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference that begins on November 30, including the need for progress in areas such as trade and health; her controversial goal of an intellectual property rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and testing kits; and the long-running fisheries subsidies negotiations. Additionally, Tai emphasized the Biden administration’s desire to foster global trade that “empowers workers, protects the environment, and promotes equitable development.” She offered few specifics with regard to the Appellate Body.
Read the remarks and watch the event here.
Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy published an issue brief entitled “The Business Case for the WTO – And It’s Dispute Settlement System” ahead of Tai’s visit to Geneva. Murphy highlighted the benefits membership in the WTO has conferred on the U.S. and how the dispute settlement system is fundamental to those benefits. While reform is needed for the dispute settlement system and the Appellate Body, which has been unable to function since 2019, Murphy argued that the stakes of a lingering impasse are high and that the U.S. should taking a leading role in reform efforts.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Treasury, USTR Announce DST Withdrawal Agreement
On October 21, the Department of the Treasury announced that the United States had reached an agreement with Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom regarding the treatment of Digital Services Taxes (DSTs) during the interim period prior to full implementation of Pillar 1 of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework’s agreement on a new multilateral tax regime. The agreement includes provisions that allow U.S. companies to credit their DST liability during the interim period to future taxes accrued under Pillar 1. Additionally, the U.S. will terminate its currently-suspended tariff actions on those five countries.
In June, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced a 180-day suspension of Section 301 tariffs on products from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Austria, India, and Turkey in connection with their DSTs, a move in addition to an indefinite suspension of duties on goods from France in January. This week’s announcement notes that Turkey and India, the other two countries covered by the DST investigations, are not party to the agreement.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai stated upon the announcement:
“I commend Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom for addressing U.S. concerns regarding unilateral digital services taxes. We reached our agreement on DSTs in conjunction with the historic OECD global agreement that will help end the race to the bottom over multinational corporate taxation by leveling the corporate tax playing field. In coordination with Treasury, we will work together with these governments to ensure implementation of the agreement and rollback of existing DSTs when Pillar 1 enters into effect. We will also continue to oppose the implementation of unilateral digital services taxes by other trading partners.”
The U.S. Chamber on October 6 sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen encouraging the OECD to maintain coherence in the international tax system as it continues work on a Two-Pillar solution to meaningfully address digital tax issues. The Chamber emphasized that any agreement must be conditioned upon a complete withdrawal of unilateral measures such as the DSTs. The letter urges the Treasury Department to ensure a complete withdrawal of those unilateral measures by including a country-specific list in any agreement. It also encourages Treasury to consider the inclusion of enforcement mechanisms that will ensure all unilateral measures are withdrawn and prevent new unilateral measures from being adopted.
The Chamber has consistently pressed countries subject to Section 301 investigations in connection with their unilateral DSTs to immediately drop those discriminatory measures and focus their efforts on completing the multilateral negotiations.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Chamber Supports Export-Import Bank Nominees
On October 26, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Reta Jo Lewis to serve as President and Chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im). Lewis previously served as Vice President and Counselor to the President at the U.S. Chamber, where she led the Chamber’s initiatives focused on fostering strategic alliances between small businesses, especially women and minority-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and executives. The Chamber sent a September 29 letter to the Senate Banking Committee in support of the Biden administration’s nominees to Ex-Im. In addition to expressing support for Reta Jo Lewis, the letter also urged the committee to favorably report the nominations of Judith DelZoppo Pryor as First Vice President and Owen Herrnstadt as a Member of the Board of Directors, both of whom appeared before the committee on September 30.
That hearing proceeded along predictable lines, with Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressing support for the Bank and Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) sharing his long-held critical views. The Chamber maintains that Ex-Im plays a vital role supporting U.S. exporters by leveling the trade finance playing field for American companies.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President for International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
ICYMI: Chamber, Member Companies Announce New Efforts to Tackle Supply Chain Crisis
On October 13, President and CEO Suzanne Clark joined with CEOs of several major companies and other stakeholders to meet with senior administration officials today to address the supply chain bottlenecks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For several weeks the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been convening retailers, shippers, port operators, and others to develop concrete steps to help alleviate the bottlenecks in the supply chain. President and CEO Suzanne Clark made the following statement on the meeting:
“American companies are stepping up to combat the bottlenecks and delays and this will make a crucial difference as we seek to tackle this problem head-on. This supply chain crisis is hurting businesses and consumers alike, leading to inflation and shortages of key supplies. Coupled with massive labor shortages, this is a major threat to our fragile economic recovery and long-term competitiveness.”
“We applaud the administration’s engagement in helping to solve this crisis. We will also continue to work with them and other stakeholders to advance commonsense solutions for the long term – including addressing the labor shortages, modernizing our ports, and passing the infrastructure bill.”
“Today’s White House meeting underscores the urgency to strengthen American supply chains to promote economic security, national security, and jobs here at home. We have not a moment to waste.”
ICYMI: Chamber Applauds End of Ban on Non-Essential Travel
On October 13, Vice President of Immigration Policy Jon Baselice released the following statement on the amended DHS regulations to allow non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate paperwork to enter the U.S.:
“The Chamber welcomes the Biden Administration’s plans to allow fully vaccinated ‘non-essential’ travelers to enter the U.S. from both Canada and Mexico through our land ports and ferry crossings. However, for border communities, the label ‘non-essential’ is wrong: Jobs across a host of trades depend on the flow of travelers across our shared borders, and this shift will allow long separated families to reunite after many months apart. Safely lifting these travel bans will help struggling communities get back on their feet.”
From the Home Front
Chamber Opposes ‘Government Knows Best’ Approach to Antitrust
On October 14, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley issued the following statement regarding the announcement of antitrust legislation introduced in the Senate this week:
“This is a deeply flawed proposal that will upend the rules of the road that have made the U.S. the envy of the world when it comes to innovation and growth.
“This legislation is not substantially different from the progressive proposals pushed in the House earlier this year that seek to turn antitrust from a tool to promote competition into one designed to allow big government to manage competition.
“All companies should be expected to compete and held accountable when they don’t. But no company should be singled out by legislation designed to weigh down their ability to compete on the merits.
“The proposed bill relies on levels of market capitalization to apply one set of rules to some companies and a different set for everyone else – the very definition of government picking winners and losers. We call on Republicans and Democrats alike to reject this government knows best approach.”
Commentary
U.S. Chamber (October 12) by John Murphy
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