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International Issues Update 2023/45

By December 8, 2023No Comments

ON OUR DESKS

  • Providing outlook for extension of U.S.-EU agreement on Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs
  • Preparing executive briefing memo on trade and regulatory policy outlook for 2024
  • Advising on provisions in the National Defence Authorization Act conference report

These are just examples of client service. How can we help you? Email any IBC counsellor for assistance or consult our issues list to find the expert you’re looking for.

Note: Following next week’s edition on December 15, the publication of the International Issues Update will be on hiatus for the holidays, with a break on December 22 and 29. We will resume publication in the first week of the new year. 


WIBC DISCUSSIONS

In case you missed it:

  • December 7 (Virtual): U.S. Embassy in Brazil’s Economic Counselor Matt Lowe and Commercial Counselor Joel Reynoso, Commercial and political developments in Brazil

REMINDER: Our client portal, WIBC calendar, and other resources are available at redflag.global/washington.

WIBC discussions are open to WIBC members only. Not a member? Contact Alix for membership inquiries.


YOU NEED TO KNOW

COP28

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) completed its first week in Dubai, the United States announced a number of cooperative agreements aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels, building resilience to climate impacts, and providing financial support for vulnerable countries coping with climate change.  During the COP28 Global Methane Pledge Ministerial, countries pledged to cut methane at least 30 percent by 2030, with agreement to provide over a $1 billion in new grant funding for methane action and new national commitments from top oil and gas methane emitters. The U.S. EPA  announced final standards to sharply reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  

The United States also announced the core framework of the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), a carbon finance platform aimed at catalyzing private capital to support ambitious energy transition strategies in developing and emerging economies.   The United States also joined the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy, highlighting the need for development banks to include nuclear energy in their lending policies.  

COP28 negotiators are aiming to agree next week on how to bolster emissions-cutting targets set by the Paris Agreement and what to do about the future of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal. 

Contact: Chris Benscher

South America

The United States reaffirmed support for Guyana’s sovereignty and conducted joint military exercises with the Guyanese as the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has taken increasingly aggressive steps against Guyana.  The Maduro regime claimed that Venezuelans overwhelmingly approved a referendum asserting sovereignty over Guyana’s Essequibo region.  He has ordered the state oil company to prepare operations in the region and mobilized the country’s armed forces. 

The rising tensions over Essequibo come as Maduro’s agreement with the opposition appears increasingly fragile. Although last week Maduro’s government agreed on an appeal process to reinstate the opposition’s banned presidential candidate, the attorney general later ordered the arrest of several leading opposition figures. The State Department has issued a statement expressing that the Biden administration is “deeply concerned” and will “continue active diplomatic engagement.” A bipartisan group of Senators led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Rubio (R-FL) called for “imposing select sanctions” against the regime. 

Leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay met in Rio de Janeiro on December 7 for the Mercosur Leaders Summit. Statements suggest that the regional bloc will not conclude its free trade agreement with the European Union anytime soon and that the group “still faces difficulties for trade and integration.” The next Mercosur president, Paraguay, also indicated that the EU’s environmental protection demands were too onerous and that it would not continue negotiations during its presidency. Of the few positive deliverables, the bloc formally welcomed Bolivia into the group, the IDB and three other regional development banks announced $10 billion in new funding for local infrastructure, and Mercosur signed a FTA with Singapore.

Contact: Ethan Knecht, Patrick Sheehy 

Congress

Ahead of a recess scheduled to begin on December 15, Congress struggled to advance priority legislation including a Ukraine/Israel war supplemental and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The Biden administration urged Congress to act on aid to Israel and Ukraine, as well as measures to strengthen border security and fight the flow of fentanyl into the United States.   Senate Republicans blocked debate on the war supplemental bill on December 6, arguing the border security provisions were inadequate.  In addition to the border security language, another new issue complicating the legislation is an amendment offered by 13 senators (mostly Democrats) that would condition U.S. military aid to Israel on Israel’s adherence to international and U.S. domestic law.

House and Senate negotiators on December 7 released their finalized draft of the must-pass 2024 NDAA, which sets out defense and national security policy across a range of areas.  The conference report removes some previously-included provisions, including a foreign investment screening provision.  The NDAA would establish an Ambassador for the Abraham Accords and a new Middle East maritime defense cooperative initiative with U.S. partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia. Votes on the measure are expected next week, when the House will also vote on a provision removed from the NDAA that would ban uranium imports from Russia. 

Contact: Chris Benscher

Export Controls

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) on December 7 released a “90 day report” on export controls and licensing of technology to China by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  The report argues that BIS has been too permissive and calls for substantial rewrites of the export administration regulations to restrict the export of all items listed on the commerce control list. It also calls for the codification of certain licensing standards to remove agency discretion to approve certain licenses to Chinese parties of concern.  McCaul also called for additional funding for the agency to enable it to better meet its mandate.

BIS Under Secretary Alan Estevez echoed this call for more funding for BIS on December 7, calling his $200 million budget “pocket change” when compared to spending on defense items. He noted the agency’s budget has been flat since 2010 despite a substantial expansion of its responsibilities. 

BIS released three rules relaxing export restrictions on certain missile technology, crime control, and chemical and biological related items on December 7 when shipped to close partners. BIS is seeking public comments on a further relaxation of certain national security controls. This effort was undertaken to harmonize U.S. controls with allies and partners in the Global Export Controls Coalition, established following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  This is the group’s first public action on matters unrelated to Russia and Ukraine and may indicate the possibility for future multilateral cooperation.

Contact: Patrick Sheehy

Quick takes

  • G7 leaders met virtually on December 6, joined by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for a wide-ranging discussion on continued support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, including the imposition of sanctions on Russian diamond imports in the New Year. The G7 also reaffirmed a commitment to engagement with China while opposing territorial aggression and economic coercion, urged the release of hostages and the open flow of aid into Gaza, and recommitted to climate goals. 
  • Treasury Secretary Yellen traveled to Mexico from December 5-7, where she announced a new agreement to monitor and share information about Chinese investments in Mexico in order “to prevent Chinese purchases of sensitive American technology.” She also met with a roundtable of business executives and announced new sanctions to limit the flow of fentanyl from Mexico to the United States. 
  • Several pieces of climate-related legislation were reintroduced this week, including the Clean Competition Act, a Democratic bill that would impose a carbon border adjustment on energy intensive imports, and the FOREST Act, a bipartisan measure that would restrict products from illegally deforested land from entering U.S. markets.  

NOTICES, BILLS & HEARINGS

Federal Register Notices

Newly-introduced legislation

House

  • H.R.6571 (Bucshon, R-IN) – Would establish a critical supply chain resiliency and crisis response program in the Department of Commerce, and to secure American leadership in deploying emerging technologies.
  • H.R.6580 (Rosendale, R-MT) – Would require that a foreign purchaser of agricultural land be subject to the same restrictions as are applicable to United States citizens and nationals in the home country of such foreign purchaser.
  • H.R.6586 (Burchett, R-TN) – Would require a strategy to oppose financial or material support by foreign countries to the Taliban.
  • H.R.6588 (De La Cruz, R-TX) – Would require the Secretary of the Treasury to assess whether international financial institutions are sufficiently focused on preventing terrorist financing.
  • H.R.6589 (De La Cruz, R-TX) – Would require a report on terrorist financing in the Americas.
  • H.R.6593 (Goldman, D-NY) – Would require that the regulations related to SAVE Plan shall have the force and effect of enacted law.
  • H.R.6597 (Lawler, R-NY) – Would establish a Task Force on the Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization.
  • H.R.6603 (Moran, R-TX) – Would apply foreign-direct product rules to Iran.
  • H.R.6617 (Buck, R-CO) – Would require a report on payments provided to the Taliban and congressional review of agreements signed with the Taliban.
  • H.R.6622 (DelBene, D-WA) – Would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a carbon border adjustment based on carbon intensity.
  • H.R.6625 (Fry, R-SC) – Would direct the Secretary of Defense to submit a report about the effects on national security of the surveillance conducted by the People’s Republic of China via the high-altitude surveillance balloon shot down in the airspace of the United States in February 2023.
  • H.R.6645 (Roy, R-TX) – Would terminate membership by the United States in the United Nations.
  • H.R.6665 (Fitzpatrick, R-PA) – Would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to eliminate certain fuel excise taxes and impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions to provide revenue for maintaining and building American infrastructure.
  • H.R.6682 (Mills, R-FL) – Would prohibit funding for the Government of Ukraine for the nationalization of strategic assets.

Senate

  • S.3386 (Rounds, R-SD) – Would temporarily suspend the importation of beef and beef products from Paraguay and to require the establishment of a working group to evaluate the threat to food safety and animal health posed by beef imported from Paraguay.
  • S.3395 (Shaheen, D-NH) – Would reauthorize the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004.
  • S.3405 (Scott, R-FL) – Would require reciprocity from certain countries with respect to the reporting of official meetings with State and local officials.
  • S.3414 (Kaine, D-VA) – Would support United States investment opportunities, strengthen bilateral collaboration in addressing criminal elements operating in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • S.3417 (Cotton, R-AR) – Would prohibit the importation of seafood and aquaculture products from the People’s Republic of China.
  • S.3422 (Whitehouse, D-RI) -Would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a carbon border adjustment based on carbon intensity.
  • S.3428 (Lee, R-UT) – Would terminate the membership by the United States in the United Nations.
  • S.3431 (Cassidy, R-LA) – Would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to strengthen the authorities of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enforce the customs and trade laws of the United States.
  • S.3441 (Warner, D-VA) – Would prevent Foreign Terrorist Organizations and their financial enablers, whether in currency or digital assets, from accessing financial and other institutions of the United State.
  • S.3445 (Daines, R-MT) – Would promote domestic energy production, to require onshore and offshore oil and natural gas lease sales.
  • S.3446 (Braun, R-IN) – Would require Federal banking agencies to report on interactions with nongovernmental international organizations.
  • S.3455 (Merkley, D-OR) – Would require the use of the voice and vote of the United States in international financial institutions to advance the cause of transitioning the global economy to a clean energy economy and to prohibit United States Government assistance to countries or entities to support fossil fuel activity.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

House

Senate

WHO’S WHO

Arrivals

  • Courtenay Dunn, Director of the State Department’s Ukraine Assistance and Recovery Division
  • Miranda Summers Lowe, NSC Director for Cyber and Emerging Technologies

Departures

  • Hannah Garden-Monheit, NEC Director for Competition Policy
  • Viraj Parikh, Economic Advisor to Vice President Harris

Want more scoops on personnel moves? Find the most recent Who’s Who here.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Looking farther ahead? Find the most recent full international events calendar here.

Any issue areas you would like highlighted? Have a specific monitoring request? Reach out to us.