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International Issues Update 2024/05

By February 2, 2024No Comments

ON OUR DESKS

  • Participating in U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council stakeholder events 
  • Mapping key officials to engage on Argentina’s ongoing economic reforms
  • Advising on forced labor enforcement risks

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

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
  • February 20: Ambassador of Belgium to the United States Jean-Arthur Régibeau, Belgium’s EU presidency priorities and U.S.-Belgium relations

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

Middle East, Israel 

A February 1 executive order imposing financial sanctions and visa bans on four persons linked to “extremist settler violence” is the United States’ first such sanction on Israeli settlers accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank. Additional sanctions are expected and could further complicate the picture for U.S. assistance to Israel. 

In analysis also issued on February 1, the U.S. Energy Information Agency concluded that Yemeni Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea have increased transportation costs and shipping times for energy products. Attacks remain ongoing; for example, the USS Gravely reportedly came under Houthi on January 31 but was able to successfully defend itself. Drought conditions affecting the Panama Canal are forcing certain very large ships to route around the Cape of Good Hope, further impacting global trade. 

Contact: Chris Benscher, Pat Sheehy

Latin America

With the Maduro regime maintaining its ban on María Corina Machado’s opposition candidacy, the United States announced reimposition of sanctions on Venezuela, removing a license that had allowed transactions with Venezuelan gold mining company Minerven but authorizing a brief wind down of activities through February 13. A separate U.S. license that grants sanctions relief to the oil and gas sectors will not be renewed when it expires on April 18, unless the Maduro regime takes urgent steps to hold free and fair elections and release political prisoners. 

In Mexico, the Supreme Court overturned President Manuel Lopez Obrador’s signature energy reform law, which has been at the center of a U.S.-Mexico trade dispute. In response, AMLO said he will include electricity sector reform as part of a wide-ranging constitutional amendment package he will send to Congress on February 5.   

Meanwhile, Argentina’s Milei administration compromised on several controversial provisions of its economic reform package, with a government spokesman expressing confidence Argentina’s Congress will pass the bill in the coming week. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) praised the reforms as “bold actions to restore macroeconomic stability and address many of the long-standing impediments to growth and investment” and disbursed a $4.7 billion loan. The United States also welcomed the reforms in a January 30 meeting between Treasury Under Secretary Jay Shambaugh and Milei’s chief of staff.

Contact: Ethan Knecht, Pat Sheehy

China

During a two-day meeting in Bangkok, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached agreement to schedule a call between Presidents Biden and Xi and announced that the U.S.-China dialogue on artificial intelligence will meet in the spring.  Sullivan and Yi discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, as well as the Middle East crisis and cross-Strait relations. Secretary of State Blinken is planning a visit to Beijing later this year, and the U.S.-China Commercial Issues Working Group is expected to begin its work over the coming months.

Media reports indicate Yi will be replaced as foreign minister in March by Chinese Communist Party International Department Head Liu Jianchao, who recently concluded a visit to the United States during which he met with senior government, business, and think tank leaders. 

Amid the uptick in the bilateral agenda, the Department of Defense on January 31 placed 16 Chinese military companies on its list of those operating in the United States. The listing does not impose immediate prohibitions on transacting with the firms but does restrict certain government contracting and procurement, serves as a red flag for certain export controls, and may be used to guide future policymaking.

Contact: Ethan Knecht, Pat Sheehy

Europe

The fifth ministerial meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), held in Washington  on January 30, did not result in any policy agreements but featured stakeholder fora on the semiconductor supply chain and the Transatlantic Initiative for Sustainable Trade (TIST). 

USTR and DG Trade hosted a stakeholder event on “Crafting the Green Transatlantic Marketplace,” soliciting recommendations from the private sector on ways the two governments should collaborate on the digital and green transitions.  Ahead of the TTC, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombroskis discussed negotiations on the Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum and the U.S.-EU Critical Minerals Agreement, both of which face substantial hurdles before completion. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to the spring 2024 sixth TTC ministerial as the “capstone TTC,” as it will likely be the last held prior to upcoming elections in the EU and United States. 

Contact: Stephen Ziehm

Quick takes

  • Farmers continued to stage massive protests across Europe this week, achieving notable concessions in Belgium and France, including a derogation on certain EU environmental rules and a pause in France’s pesticide reduction strategy.
  • A bipartisan tax bill passed in the House faces a steep challenge for Senate approval. The bill would eliminate pandemic-era employee-retention tax credits; end double taxation of U.S. companies operating in Taiwan; and allow businesses to deduct domestic research costs immediately, expand equipment purchase deductions.
  • Treasury’s February 1 Price Cap Coalition Compliance and Enforcement Alert provides an overview of Russian oil price cap evasion methods and details how to report suspected violations.
  • In a February 1 letter to the Federal Maritime Commission, 14 Members of Congress urged the agency to speed up rulemaking for shipping exchanges, “to prevent manipulation of the global ocean shipping market by the People’s Republic of China.”
  • Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) are urging President Biden to increase and enforce tariffs on Chinese solar equipment.

NOTICES, BILLS & HEARINGS

Federal Register Notices

Newly-introduced legislation

House

  • H.R.7111 (Mast, R-FL) – Would establish U.S. policy that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East should be disbanded completely.
  • H.R.7113 (Moskowitz, D-FL) – Would make emergency supplemental appropriations in line with the President’s request in response to the ongoing attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia and in response to the attacks in Israel for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024.
  • H.R.7122 (Smith, R-NJ) – Would prohibit aid to UNRWA for their support for Hamas.
  • H.R.7131 (Bacon, R-NE) – Would amend the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 to establish an additional reporting requirement.
  • H.R.7151 (Wagner, R-MO) – Would amend the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 to provide for expedited consideration of proposals for modifications with respect to entities on the Entity List.
  • H.R.7155 (Harshbarger, R-TN) – Would establish, within the Food and Drug Administration, an Abraham Accords Bureau to promote and facilitate cooperation between the FDA and entities in Abraham Accords countries wishing to sell products in the United States.
  • H.R.7169 (Gooden, R-TX) – Would require public reporting of funds received by charitable organizations from foreign governments and foreign political parties.
  • H.R.7181 (Curtis, R-UT) – Would require the Secretary of State to submit a report ranking the organizations of the United Nations.
  • H.R.7194 (Dean, D-PA) – Would codify a Federal cause of action and a type of remedy available for individuals significantly exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, to encourage research and accountability for irresponsible discharge of those substances.
  • H.R.7197 (Eshoo, D-CA) – Would carry out a study on the environmental impacts of artificial intelligence.
  • H.R.7202 (Jackson, R-TX) – Would direct the Secretary of State to submit to Congress a report on U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
  • H.R.7206 (Ogles, R-TN) – Would designate the UNRWA as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
  • H.R.7209 (Peters, D-CA) – Would provide for the establishment of a Caribbean and Latin America Maritime Security Initiative to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Caribbean and Latin America.
  • H.J.Res.108 (Tenney, R-NY) – Provides for congressional disapproval of the proposed foreign military sale to the Republic of Kosovo of certain defense articles and services.

Senate

  • S.3707 (Kennedy, R-LA) – Would require the Secretary of State to submit annual reports reviewing the educational material used by the Palestinian Authority in schools.
  • S.3708 (Kennedy, R-LA) – Would reprogram Federal funds appropriated for UNRWA to construct the southwest border wall and to prohibit future funding for UNRWA.
  • S.3717 (Scott, R-SC) – Would prohibit United States voluntary contributions to the United Nations.
  • S.3723 (Cotton, R-AR) – Would prohibit funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
  • S.3725 (Gillibrand, D-NY) – Would codify a Federal cause of action and a type of remedy available for individuals significantly exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, to encourage research and accountability for irresponsible discharge of those substances.
  • S.3732 (Markey, D-MA) – Would require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out a study on the environmental impacts of artificial intelligence.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings

House

Senate

WHO’S WHO

Arrivals

  • Chad Bown, State Department Chief Economist
  • James Coughlan, U.S. Export-Import Bank Senior Vice President and General Counsel
  • Katy Mastman, Acting Assistant USTR for Labor
  • Scott Levine, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Tax Affairs
  • Ted Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy and Delivery

Departures

  • Josh Kagan, Assistant USTR for Labor
  • Katie Tobin, NSC Senior Director for Transborder Policy
  • Sarah Biachi, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
  • Tom West, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy

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.