July 11, 2017
A note from Tom Donohue
Dear USIBC Member:
Given the events of the last several days, I want to communicate with you directly regarding the Chamber’s U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) and to set the record straight.
In 1975, based on the U.S. State Department’s recognition of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the voice of the business community in international trade relations, Secretary Henry Kissinger asked us to convene the U.S.-India Business Council to help promote business relations between the United States and India. For more than 40 years, the USIBC has operated successfully at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and we currently manage fifteen international business councils, having added over a dozen other councils through the years.
You may have received a letter from Ed Monser of Emerson Electric, purporting to speak on behalf of the USIBC. The letter states that, on July 7, a number of USIBC board members either voted or gave their proxy in support of the creation of a new U.S.-India organization outside of the Chamber.
I want you to be reassured that, regardless of this curious action, the Chamber’s USIBC program is alive and well, and that the Chamber will continue to operate the USIBC robustly to the benefit of its members and the business community, as it always has.
As experienced leaders of a nonprofit organization, we at the Chamber understand that all of the Chamber’s members, whether engaged in one program or many, are voluntary participants. As such, members are always free to join or leave the Chamber’s programs, and we welcome and encourage their participation in other groups as appropriate for their company’s business operations. Because the Chamber puts our members’ interests first, we would never waste your time by asking you to “side” with us or against anyone else. We urge you to continue your participation in the USIBC and we understand your participation in any other organizations that add value to your business.
While we have no ill will toward any member who ultimately chooses to leave the USIBC, I nevertheless feel I owe it to you to clear up any confusion that Mr. Monser’s letter may have caused with respect to the status of our program.
Contrary to Mr. Monser’s letter, members of the USIBC board have no ability to “transition” the USIBC to “a fully separate status.” The USIBC is a part of the Chamber, and the Chamber does not plan to transition it anywhere. The USIBC has no separate existence and its board has no legal authority. Rather, the USIBC board is an advisory board of volunteer members who provide USIBC with policy guidance. The Chamber on the other hand – which is a corporation and does have a governing board – takes its responsibilities as a membership organization very seriously. Thus, it will not consent to the demands of a group of disaffected individuals who seek to impact the USIBC’s entire membership by moving USIBC out of the Chamber, where it has operated for decades, into a new entity.
In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that any new entity will lack the benefit of the Chamber’s infrastructure and the coordinated policy development that has made the bilateral advocacy of the Chamber and its councils effective for so many years.
Turning to the future, we look forward to reconvening the USIBC board with directors who are supportive of our approach, the USIBC’s professional and dedicated staff who have been focused on their work throughout these recent events, and our mission. We have begun our search for a new USIBC president, following the departure last month of Mukesh Aghi. In the interim, we have asked Khush Choksy, a Senior Vice President at the Chamber, who has a long personal and professional background in India, to serve as interim president of the USIBC.
Finally, I want to thank the many USIBC members we have spoken to in the last few days who have expressed a desire for less internal strife, and more concerted work on the U.S.-India relationship. We could not agree more. We plan to sit down with members of the USIBC advisory board and other interested parties who are available this Friday to ensure their understanding of our intention to continue our comprehensive global program of work, of which the USIBC is a key component.
Thomas J. Donohue
President and Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Chamber of Commerce