General Explanation of Position on Second Committee Agenda Items for Action

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 8, 2018


I would like to start by thanking Second Committee Chair Guatemala, under the strong leadership of Ambassador Skinner-Klee. We are impressed with the Chair’s willingness to enforce deadlines, and we encourage all Member States to ensure that the Committee’s work finishes by November 29.

We take this opportunity to make important points of clarification on some of the language we see reflected across multiple resolutions. We underscore that the resolutions, and many of the outcome documents referenced therein, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, are non-binding documents that do not create rights or obligations under international law.

We understand references in resolutions to “internationally agreed development goals” to refer to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the United States’ position is articulated in the Explanation of Position on that document. The U.S. supports the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a framework for development and will continue to be a global leader in sustainable development through our policies, partnerships, innovations, and calls to action. We applaud the call for shared responsibility, including national responsibility, in the 2030 Agenda and emphasize that all countries have a role to play in achieving its vision. However, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that each country must work toward implementation in accordance with its own national policies and priorities.

The United States also underscores that paragraph 18 of the 2030 Agenda calls for countries to implement the Agenda in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of States under international law. We also highlight our mutual recognition in paragraph 58 that 2030 Agenda implementation must respect and be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including negotiations, and does not prejudge or serve as precedent for decisions and actions underway in other forums. For example, this Agenda does not represent a commitment to provide new market access for goods or services. This Agenda also does not interpret or alter any WTO agreement or decision, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.

We take this opportunity to make important points of clarification regarding the reaffirmation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Specifically, we note that much of the trade-related language in the Addis outcome document has been overtaken by events since July 2015; therefore, it is immaterial, and our reaffirmation of the outcome document has no standing for ongoing work and negotiations that involve trade.

The United States notes that the U.S. Administration announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is eligible to do so, consistent with the terms of the Agreement, unless suitable terms for re-engagement are identified. Therefore, the Paris Agreement and climate change language in those negotiations is without prejudice to U.S. positions. We affirm our support for promoting economic growth and improving energy security while protecting the environment.

The United States reiterates our views on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction from the U.S. Explanation of Position delivered in 2015. We have been a strong supporter of disaster risk-reduction initiatives designed to reduce loss of life and the social and economic impacts of disasters. This assistance helps recipients build a culture of preparedness, promote greater resilience, and achieve self-reliance.

With respect to the New Urban Agenda, the United States believes that each Member State has the sovereign right to determine how it conducts trade with other countries and that this includes restricting trade in certain circumstances. Economic sanctions, whether unilateral or multilateral, can be a successful means of achieving foreign policy objectives. In cases where the United States has applied sanctions, they have been used with specific objectives in mind, including as a means to promote a return to rule of law or democratic systems, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, or to prevent threats to international security. We are within our rights to utilize our trade and commercial policy as tools to achieve noble objectives. Targeted economic sanctions can be an appropriate, effective, and legitimate alternative to the use of force.

The United States enjoys strong and growing trade relationships across the globe. We welcome efforts to bolster those relationships, increase economic cooperation, and drive prosperity to all of our peoples through free, fair, and reciprocal trade. However, as President Trump stated to the General Assembly on September 25, the United States will act in its sovereign interest, including on trade matters. This means that we do not take our trade policy direction from the United Nations.

It is our view that the United Nations must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not involve itself in decisions and actions in other forums, including at the World Trade Organization. The UN is not the appropriate venue for these discussions, and there should be no expectation or misconception that the United States would heed decisions made by the Economic and Social Council or the General Assembly on these issues. This includes calls that undermine incentives for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

The United States also notes that the term “inclusive growth” appears throughout many of the resolutions. Part of the problem with placing inclusive growth at the forefront of economic discussions is that the term itself is vaguely defined and applied freely to economic discussions, with little consideration for the trade-offs between higher levels of sustainable, supply-led economic growth and a more equitable distribution of resources of that growth. The United States recognizes the importance of studying inequality and improving the measurements of income and consumption across populations; however, we want to ensure that any work or goal related to inclusivity remain grounded in evidence and proven best practices.

And finally, it is our intention that this statement applies to action on all agenda items in the Second Committee. We request that this statement be made part of the official record of the meeting. Thank you.