Skip to main content

International Issues Update 2024/04

By January 26, 2024No Comments

ON OUR DESKS

  • Assistance on responding to tax changes in Argentina
  • Briefing on plastics pollution regulatory proposals
  • Analysis of the impact of U.S.-China tensions on client operations in third country markets

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.


WIBC DISCUSSIONS

In case you missed it:

  • Jan 23: Assistant USTR for WTO and Multilateral Affairs Andrea Durkin, WTO MC13 priorities
  • Jan 25: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Asia Pamela Phan, U.S. commercial engagement in East Asia

Upcoming WIBC events:

  • February 13: NSC Director for China Economics Brendan Kelly, U.S.-China commercial and economic cooperation
  • February 15: Assistant USTR for Europe and the Middle East Bryant Trick, U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, steel and critical minerals negotiations

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

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


YOU NEED TO KNOW

Europe

The European Commission on January 24 issued a set of proposals to strengthen the EU’s economic security focused on export controls and investment screening. The Commission’s proposals are part of the roll-out of its European Economic Security Strategy and include a legislative proposal for the revision of the EU Foreign Direct Investment Screening Regulation, a White Paper launching a process to identify potential security risks linked to EU investment in third countries, and a White Paper on how to make EU exports controls more effective for dual-use goods.  

Citing “an increasing division and polarisation when it comes to topics related to agriculture,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on January 25 launched the Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture, a new forum intended to shape the EU’s agriculture policy, bringing together industry stakeholders for a series of thematic meetings in the first half of 2024.  Van der Leyen noted mounting challenges related to foreign competition, overregulation and climate change as issues to be addressed.  The EU has experienced a series of farmer protests, in part opposing the EU’s Green Deal “Farm to Fork” strategy.   

The EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will hold its fifth ministerial meeting in Washington on January 30 and is hosting a stakeholder event on January 30-31 to solicit input on the Transatlantic Initiative on Sustainable Trade (TIST) work program. Titled “Crafting the Transatlantic Green Marketplace”, the event will include a series of roundtable discussions on issues such as green standards cooperation, digital labeling technologies and the circular economy.   

Contact: Stephen Ziehm

Middle East

The United Nations’ International Court of Justice, in a decision in response to South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, ordered Israel on January 26 to do more to prevent the killing and harm of civilians in Gaza but did not call for a cease-fire. The ruling ordered six provisional measures including for Israel to refrain from acts under the Genocide Convention, prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to genocide, and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres promoted a two-state solution at a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East situation this week. The U.S. representative, Uzra Zeya, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, reiterated U.S. policy in addition to condemning Iran’s role in broadening the conflict throughout the region. 

In a letter to President Biden, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, and Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Todd Young (R-IN), expressed concerns about the potential for escalation in the region and underscored that any offensive or sustained military action against the Houthis in Yemen must require a vote of Congress. Members of the Senate Democratic caucus also filed an amendment to the national security supplemental package that reiterates longstanding U.S. policy in support of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Contact: Chris Benscher

South America

On January 22, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime arrested at least 33 opposition and civil society members for supposedly conspiring with the U.S. government to assassinate Venezuela’s leader. Though the authorities did not arrest opposition presidential candidate Maria Corina Machado, they released a video that purportedly implicated her in the conspiracy and warned that “more arrests will follow.” Three days later, Maduro called the Barbados agreements – aimed at ensuring fair elections in return for sanctions relief – “mortally wounded”, though he expressed hope that he could “save the Barbados agreements and, through dialogue, reach real overarching agreements through national consensus.”

In response, Venezuelan opposition leader Machado argued that the arrests violated the terms of the Barbados agreements and called for the regime to announce firm dates for the presidential election. The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the “politically motivated harassment” and warning non-specifically that “actions that run counter to the spirit and the letter of the Barbados Agreement will have consequences.” 

The domestic political turmoil comes as Venezuela’s and Guyana’s foreign ministers met in Brazil to discuss their territorial dispute. Though the discussions failed to yield tangible results, both sides agreed to refrain from violence and to continue “addressing the issue through diplomatic channels.” More specifically, both sides agreed to meet again in Brazil in the coming months, to which Guyananese Foreign Minister Todd expressed optimism that the next discussion would result in “real advances.” 

Argentine President Javier Milei substantially amended his economic reform legislation by accepting around 100 amendments. These included eliminating certain proposed agriculture export taxes and the nationalization of the state oil company. The president also clarified that his government would lower export duties and taxation once the economy stabilizes. As a result, the comprehensive reforms passed the relevant congressional committees, although the country’s labor unions still expressed discontent in a general strike on Wednesday.

Contact: Ethan Knecht

Quick takes

  • The White House announced a temporary pause on pending decisions on exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to non-FTA countries until the Department of Energy can update its analyses on their impact on climate change.  Industry groups wrote to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, arguing that restricting U.S. LNG exports any further could exacerbate the energy crisis in Europe.
  • The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced new export controls on Russia and Belarus in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, banning the export of low-level goods including aircraft, spacecraft, and related parts and more basic inputs such as coal, petroleum products and basic chemical compounds and lubricants. 
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill (S. 2003) that would authorize the seizure of frozen Russian state assets to benefit Ukraine’s reconstruction. While unlikely to advance in the House at this time, the bill language may be included in a future legislative package. 
  • Prior to the third mid-year meeting under the USMCA, USTR Senior Advisor Cara Morrow met with Mexico’s Under Secretary of Economy for Foreign Trade Alejandro Encinas and underscored the “urgent need” to address the recent surge of Mexican steel and aluminum exports to the United States, citing the need for greater transparency with regard to Mexico’s imports from third countries.
  • Ahead of next month’s WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), a bipartisan group of 14 senators sent a letter on January 25 urging the Biden administration to reject the proposal before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • OECD health ministers, including HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, held a ministerial meeting in Paris on January 23, issuing a declaration on health systems resiliency which called for “strengthening trust in the use of AI and digital technologies.”

NOTICES, BILLS & HEARINGS

Federal Register Notices

Newly-introduced legislation

House

  • H.R.7062 (Finstad, R-MN) – Would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to periodically assess and report cybersecurity threats to, and vulnerabilities in, the agriculture and food critical infrastructure sector. 
  • H.R.7077 (Boyle, D-PA) – Would expand the categories of forfeited property available to remediate harms to Ukraine from Russian aggression.
  • H.Con.Res.86 (Zinke, R-MT) – Expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.

Senate

  • S.3631 (Cornyn, R-TX) – Would require reports on critical mineral and rare earth element resources around the world and a strategy for the development of advanced mining, refining, separation, and processing technologies.
  • S.3637 (Moran, R-KS) – Would amend the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 with respect to the definition of biofuels and sustainable aviation fuel.
  • S.3647 (Warnock, D-GA) – Would amend the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act to use funds in the lump sum catch-up payment reserve fund to make payments to Iran hostages and their families.
  • S.3655 (Budd, R-NC) – Would prohibit a drawdown and sale of petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if the President has withdrawn certain land from oil and gas leasing.
  • S.3661 (Cotton, R-AR) – Would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to periodically assess and report cybersecurity threats to, and vulnerabilities in, the agriculture and food critical infrastructure sector.
  • S.3666 (Braun, R-IN) – Would amend the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 to establish an additional reporting requirement.
  • S.J.Res.54, S.J.Res.55, S.J.Res.56 (Paul, R-KY) – A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Government of Egypt of certain defense articles and services.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

House

Senate

WHO’S WHO

Arrivals

  • Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA), Chair of the House Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee
  • Elizabeth Cannon, BIS Executive Director for Information and Communications Technology and Services
  • Kumar Chandran, Acting Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
  • Michael Vaccaro, State Department Director for Defense Trade Controls

Departures

  • Hasan Murat Mercan, Ambassador of Turkey to the United States
  • Josh Kagan, Assistant USTR for Labor
  • Lily Batchelder, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy
  • Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States

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.