Our nation's manufacturers need global institutions to be accountable
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Manufacturers in the United States already face tough competition in the global economy and troublesome actions by some foreign governments. Now, they can add one more challenge to the list: meddling from global institutions like the United Nations that could harm U.S. manufacturing jobs and growth.

While still a candidate, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres claimed, “The key to further enhancing U.N.’s effectiveness is attitude: cooperation instead of duplication, sharing instead of competing, and collective responsibility instead of circumstantial individual interests.”


In practice, however, a growing number of U.N. initiatives do not meet even these basic criteria. Instead, many of these initiatives show clear mission creep, a lack of respect for good regulatory practice or sound science, and — most importantly — a clear lack of accountability.


For example, then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in late 2015 commissioned a UN High Level Panel (UNHLP) report on access to medicines. It was an incredible opportunity to have an open conversation with all stakeholders about the real barriers to access, including health care infrastructure, the lack of trained health care providers, and government policies that limit flows of health products. Instead, the panel was hijacked by those pushing a polarizing, anti-innovation agenda and became a politicized assault on the concept of intellectual property, a cornerstone of U.S. manufacturing.

After one full year of work that largely excluded meaningful engagement with member states and even other relevant U.N. bodies, the UNHLP published a final report with recommendations so tilted that the secretary general himself did not endorse. These efforts thus amounted to a missed opportunity, a waste of time and money, and a distraction for an organization that should be solving problems — not creating them.

This is not a lone example. Manufacturers are witnessing activities from a range of global institutions, such as misguided policy proposals based on bad science and resolutions supporting discriminatory price controls to recommendations that undermine innovation and job creation.

For decades, the United States has played a major role in shaping and leading global institutions such as the U.N., Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These institutions and the rules-based international system that they reflect have contributed directly to global progress and stability, economic growth and other goals that benefited U.S. interests.

U.S. stakeholders, including manufacturing industries that the new coalition Engaging America’s Global Leadership (EAGL) represents, remain firmly committed to an ambitious bilateral, regional, and multilateral economic agenda in partnership with the international community; to transparent, high-quality initiatives focused on global challenges, and to constructive U.S. leadership in these forums.

Such engagement, however, must deliver results and hold institutions accountable. Successful global institution initiatives must reflect the core missions of these entities, and be fully transparent and accountable to the interests of member states like the United States and to stakeholders, including those in the private sector, that benefit from and are impacted by these initiatives.

EAGL urges all stakeholders, including Congress and the Trump administration here in the United States and government counterparts around the world, to stand up for manufacturing and demand greater accountability. This must include smart, coordinated engagement by U.S. government officials in these international organizations to defend U.S. economic and other interests.

Manufacturers in the United States and around the world are depending on it to make sure that global institutions are working properly, and working for all.

Linda Dempsey is vice president of international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.