Dear Colleagues and Members,
I am writing following the 9th World Chambers Congress in Torino, Italy, which concluded last Friday after three days of intensive discussions on a broad suite of issues facing global business—from the reform of the global trading system through to efforts to enhance the gender balance within the workplace. The Congress brought together more than 1,300 chamber leaders from over 100 countries in what was a clear indication of the reach, power and potential of the global chamber network.
The Congress was just one of the highlights from what has been a busy schedule of activity over the past month. Here are some of the key aspects of our ongoing international engagement:
Climate Change – the road to COP21
ICC played a leading role at last month’s Business and Climate Summit, the centrepiece of Climate Week Paris and a key staging post in the run up to the landmark Paris Climate Conference (COP21) this December.
A particular emphasis of our advocacy at the Summit was on the need to foster a closer working relationship between governments and business in the development of climate policy. This was a point I made to both the head of the UN climate talks, Christiana Figures, and the UN Secretary General’s “climate envoy”, Janos Pasztor, in bilateral meetings during the Summit.
Building on this outreach, ICC Chairman Terry McGraw and I used an op-ed on cnbc.com at the end of Climate Week Paris to call for the creation of a recognized role for business under a future global climate regime. Such a role would, in our view, significantly enhance the effectiveness of climate policymaking by making full use of private sector leadership and technical expertise.
As you will have seen from the global media coverage, the use of carbon pricing was a central theme of the Summit discussions. While we acknowledge that carbon pricing instruments have an important role to play in countries and regions that choose to use them, we need to be sure that policymakers understand that they are just one of the tools that can be used to speed emissions reductions. Carbon pricing may be the most cost-effective climate solution in some countries, but other approaches—such as incentives or efficiency standards—may be a more viable option elsewhere. I used a recent letter to the Financial Times to underscore this message at the start of one of the UN’s final negotiating rounds ahead of the COP21.
Trade Facilitation Agreement
I’ve written about the need to generate greater momentum in implementing the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in a number of earlier briefings this year. But it is a theme worth returning to again as fewer than 10 governments have ratified the agreement to date, with some 108 ratifications required for this deal to take effect.
The TFA offers the potential to make trade easier, quicker and less costly by reducing unnecessary red-tape and bureaucracy at borders. According to new OECD research, ambitious implementation of the agreement could reduce global trade costs by around 12.5%. This would have a transformative effect on the ability of SMEs and microbusinesses to enter global markets—particularly as the internet breaks down other barriers to connecting buyers and sellers.
At the Congress’s opening plenary session, we called on chambers of commerce to intensify their dialogue with national governments with the aim of accelerating the ratification process ahead of the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference this December. More broadly, we’ll be using our position as the Secretariat to the International Business Advisory Council to ensure that the G20 shows the required leadership in this area. We look forward to your support to help realize the real-world results of this important agreement in the quickest possible time.
World SME Forum
The trade facilitation agenda underscores the need to ensure that global and national policies are designed with the needs of small businesses in mind. In this context, I was delighted to launch last month the new World SME Forum (WSF)—a major new initiative from the Turkish Presidency of the G20 and ICC to help maximize the potential of small businesses to create economic opportunity and employment.
The WSF mandate—to provide advocacy, know-how, and e-knowledge to support SME growth—was endorsed in April by G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. We hope that this initiative will significantly enhance the voice of SMEs in major international organizations and negotiations, as well as acting as a capacity-building hub for small businesses and entrepreneurs around the world. Further details on the roll-out of WSF activities will follow shortly through the usual channels.
One year on…
As I approach the end of my first year as ICC Secretary General, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the support you have given our activities over the past 12 months. We have already achieved a great deal and we now have a solid foundation to build on as we approach the culmination of several major policy processes towards the end of this year.
I’m looking forward to working with you in what will be a uniquely important period to shape the environment for businesses operating internationally for years to come.
With best wishes,