International Chamber of Commerce

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The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) bills itself as "the voice of world business".[1] Founded in 1919 it is one of the key corporate voices that governments and transnational organisations such as the UN automatically consult on business issues. The ICC's activities range from arbitration and dispute resolution to making the case for open trade and the market economy system and self-regulation. Combatting criminal activity such as corruption or counterfeiting is an increasing focus.

Organisation

The ICC's World Council is its supreme governing body and is made up of representatives from national committees. Day-to-day administration is carried out by a chairman, a secretary general and an executive board. Members on the latter serve for three years.

The ICC doesn't publish a full list of members.[2] However, in a 2012 press release issued by the ICC and reported by PR Newswire it was stated that the “ICC UK’s membership includes a small number of firms from the tobacco sector, contributing less than 4 per cent of the organization’s annual income.”[3]

British American Tobacco (BAT) is acknowledged on ICC's main website as a member,[4] and BAT has disclosed in the EU Transparency Register that it is a member.[5] Its American affiliate, the US Council for International Business (USCIB) has previously listed Philip Morris International as a member.[6]

Policy areas are looked at through ICC commissions, which have more than 500 business experts giving advice on policy issues. The various national committees play an important role in determining ICC actions. This page focuses on the International Chamber of Commerce (UK).

ICC UK

Historical Links Between ICC UK and BAT

Tobacco industry documents reveal a historically-established close relationship between BAT and the ICC UK. Key events documenting this relationship include:

1993: When the ICC UK considered setting up an East-West Committee, it offered BAT the chairmanship.[7] At the same time, Ken Etherington, then the Head of Group Taxation at BAT, was also chairman of the ICC UK Tax Committee,[8] a position he had held since at least 1989.[9]

1994: BAT was asked if it would like to be represented on the ICC UK committee looking at marketing, advertising and distribution.[10] The ICC's new director Richard Bate was keen to move forward with BAT by "improving its usefulness for business".[11] Meanwhile Rothmans International had met with Bate to raise issues around plain packaging and the ICC UK's committee on intellectual property was meant to monitor the situation. This appears to have been an ongoing effort by the industry over plain packaging in which they had drafted support from a number organisations including the ICC UK.[12]


1997: The ICC UK provided a forum for business leaders, sometimes of the tobacco industry, to meet senior political figures. One such example occured in 1997, when BAT chairman Lord Cairns met UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as part of a delegation.[13] Bate reported that:

"One of the initiatives to emerge from this ICC/UN cooperation was the development of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)/ICC investment guides for less developed countries, particularly in relation to Africa. A second initiative was a questionnaire to business executives on the crisis in the Far East, and this was likely to lead to a regular survey of key business issues."[13]

1999:Bate met regularly with BAT. At the start of 1999 he had lunch with Shabanji Opukah from BAT[14] Martin Broughton (CEO of BAT at the time), was also due to attend. The purpose of the get together was to discuss issues regarding the Earthwatch Institute.


2000:In summer 1999, Broughton met ICC UK chairman Sir Philip Watts at Wimbledon. Watts suggested Broughton join the ICC UK's governing body[15] and, following short negotiations over how much work that would entail, it was agreed he would join in 2000.[16] In a note to BAT staff explaining the decision a list of the membership benefits was given, including:

  • preferential access to UN and its constituent organisations as the ICC is the UN's preferred business partner
  • access to World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings at which the ICC Delegation has observer status
  • enhanced corporate profile within the UK and internationally
  • a neutral platform on which to access key stakeholders in the UK and internationally such as ministers, senior officials, diplomatic and business communities
  • direct input into ICC agenda of issues important to BAT at a global corporate level (intellectual property rights, self regulatory structures, corporate social responsibility, competition policy, trade and investment, the role of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) etc)
  • access to ICC Early Warning System on trans-national issues[16]

While these negotiations between the ICC UK and Broughton were continuing, Bate supplied BAT with a list of tobacco companies who were members of the ICC.[17] Thirty-six were named from across the globe, including two branches of the now defunct Tobacco Institute. In a covering note Bate wrote:

"I know that Reemtsma have been very active with us in Germany. Indeed, we helped them to fight a court case in which they were being prevented from using their brand name on non-tobacco products, a battle which I believe they lost, but I am not sure."[17]

At the time, the ICC already had a BAT staff member in a crucial position as Stephen Walzer was chairing its committee on Law and practices relating to competition.[18] The committee's three key priorities were described as:

"Firstly, to contribute business input to the work of the WTO and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on competition and trade. Secondly, to ensure that governments take business concerns about confidentiality of corporate information into account when cooperating in investigations of anti-competitive practices and mergers. Thirdly, to convince the European Commission to meet business needs in new policy and legislation."[18]

Although Broughton joined in 2000, he had already made it clear that he could only attend one meeting. However, a letter from the following year shows he considered the ICC a valuable advocate for some of his company's (BAT) concerns.[19] In the letter, Broughton responds to a request from ICC Secretary General Maria Livanos Cattaui to know what more it could do to help business:

"As you may know, the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently preparing an international framework convention on tobacco control (UN FCTC) - a process from which the tobacco industry has been officially excluded. Despite the tobacco industry not having been granted observer status, several anti-tobacco non-governmental organisations have and have also been invited to submit texts for negotiation by the delegations. In order to redress the current imbalance of representation, we would like the ICC to become involved in the negotiating process in much the same way as you have with climate change, leading the business and industry representation."[19]

Broughton goes on:

"The ICC's participation would go some way to addressing the worrying anti-business trends that many companies have identified within the UN and multi-lateral system. Several agencies appear to be exploiting their UN status and grant-giving capacity to exert inappropriate pressure on national governments and industry alike. You recalled the case of Nestle and UNICEF, I would draw your attention to the enclosed press cuttings which relate to a Board Director of Imperial Tobacco.(This refers to resignation of Derek Bonham as head of Glaxosmithkline which the newspaper said was due to shareholder pressure over his joint chairmanship at Imperial Tobacco[20] On a more positive note, I think that the ICC could also play an important, strategic role in helping to promote the positive contribution business is making to address the issues surrounding sustainable development labour standards and economic globalisation."[19]

Broughton concludes that his industry faces a "lack of awareness" about its " responsible face" but that it is working hard to address this. 'This' may partly refer to BAT's corporate social responsibility agenda which was moving into high gear at that point.

Recent Tobacco Links: Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP)

The ICC's lobbying aided tobacco companies' opposition to plain packaging proposals.

The ICC set up the Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) group, which consistently produced or promoted reports and meetings sympathetic to the tobacco industry.[21] In 2009, an ICC conference featured keynote speeches by BAT and Philip Morris representatives, [22] while in 2011 BASCAP held a meeting in Ukraine on intellectual property rights of food, alcohol and tobacco.[23]

With regard to plain packaging laws, BASCAP had a special section on its website listing its efforts to get the plans softened.[24] In 2011 the ICC's Secretary General, in a letter to the Australian trade minister, condemned the country's proposed tobacco packaging ban.[25] It based its objections, published in various press articles, on how such a ban would affect copyright and encourage counterfeit products and smuggling.[26] To this end, the ICC also promoted a Deloitte report commissioned by BAT about the potential unintended impacts of plain packaging which supported industry arguments against the policy.

The ICC also lobbied the European Commission in respect of revisions to the 2001/37/EC Tobacco Products Directive. In December 2010, BASCAP's Jeffrey Hardy wrote to the European Commission to express the organisation's "concern regarding the possible inclusion of the plain packaging for tobacco products ... our views pertain to extenuating impacts on intellectual property rights and counterfeiting and not the health-related aspects".[27] The letter outlined how BASCAP was "concerned that plain packaging would increase the prevalence of counterfeit goods in the market and reduce brand owners' ability to take action against such activity, besides undermining the ability of consumers to make informed purchasing decisions."

TobaccoTactics Resources

Notes

  1. International Chamber of Commerce, What is ICC, ICC website, Accessed January 2012
  2. International Chamber of Commerce, Links to ICC member companies, ICC wbsite, Accessed December 2011
  3. PR Newswire, ICC stresses need for wider perspective on plain packaging, 13 April 2012, accessed July 2014
  4. ICC, Links to ICC member companies, 11 May 2012 on the Way Back Machine, accessed June 2016
  5. EU Transparency Register, British American Tobacco, Entry made 4 May 2015
  6. United States Council for International Business, List of USCIB members, USCIB website, accessed June 2013, no longer accessible in June 2016
  7. BAT, "Extract from minutes', 2 February 1993
  8. BAT, Biographical details of speakers, 17 September 1993, p4
  9. BAT, Senior managers finance programme, 24 July 1989
  10. BAT, Note from Heather Honour to Jimmi Rembiszewski, 6 January 1994
  11. Rothmans, Note from Jacqueline Smithson to David Bacon, 29 June 1994
  12. ASH, The smoke filled room: How big tobacco influences health policy in the UK, May 2010, p14, Accessed January 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 BAT, Meeting of the committee on international trade and investment policy, 17 October 1997
  14. BAT, Lunch with Richard Bate, 2 February 1999
  15. BAT, Memo from Nicola Shears to Martin Broughton, 4 November 1999
  16. 16.0 16.1 BAT, Email from Nicola Shears to Wendy Foster, 24 November 1999
  17. 17.0 17.1 BAT, Note from Richard Bate, 19 November 1999
  18. 18.0 18.1 BAT, ICC UK Annual report and accounts 2000
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 BAT, Letter from Martin Broughton, 9 April 2001
  20. BAT, Cigs boss quits Glaxo, 14 March 2001
  21. Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, BASCAP 2010 year in review, BASCAP website, accessed January 2012
  22. Canadian Intellectual Property Council, Report on the Fifth Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting & Piracy, IP Council website, December 2009
  23. Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy, Protection of intellectual property rights and fair competition principles in the alcohol food and tobacco industries, BASCAP website, 3 June 2011
  24. International Chamber of Commerce, Views on plain packaging, ICC website, accessed January 2012, no longer available
  25. ICC, Letter to Australian trade minister, 20 April 2011
  26. This report from Tobacco Reporter Magazine is typical ICC criticizes Australia over plain packaging plans, 31 May 2011
  27. BASCAP, Letter to EU Commissioner John Dalli, 15 December 2010