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International Issues Update 2022/24

By February 3, 2023September 8th, 2023No Comments


  • Developing client priorities for Congressional engagement, including on the Farm Bill
  • Analyzing U.S. mining reform proposals 
  • Investigating U.S. government sectoral interests in key markets
  • Facilitating client connections with USAID 

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.


Upcoming WIBC events:

  • February 9: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert, Economic and political priorities in the Middle East

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



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hosting on February 3 in Kyiv the EU-Ukraine Summit with EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, and other senior bloc leadership in attendance. Zelenskyy announced a reform action plan aiming to align Ukraine with EU economic approaches (including in industry, agricultural, energy, digital services, transport, financial, [and] customs issues) and said Ukraine’s goal is to begin EU accession negotiations before the end of 2023. EU leaders, while generally supportive of Ukraine’s EU aspirations, have cautioned that the process cannot be rushed.  

The EU announced a seventh defense assistance package worth €500 million and a new €45 million training assistance measure for Ukrainian personnel. The United States announced new security assistance, including air defense and counter-drone capabilities,  armored infantry vehicles, and ammunition for previously transferred systems. The U.S. actions are collectively valued at $2.175 billion.

Contact: Pat Sheehy


Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his planned visit to Beijing following reports of a Chinese blimp U.S. officials described as an “espionage platform,” seen flying over U.S. nuclear facilities in Montana. Chinese authorities claimed the aircraft is a wayward “civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes.” While the Defense Department said the blimp posed little current risk, State Department officials characterized the overflight as a “clear violation of our sovereignty, as well as international law…” 

Blinken’s visit had been intended to lay groundwork for a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, which may now also be delayed. The episode may inflame sentiments in both countries and could advance the timetable for a variety of U.S. measures aimed at countering China. 

Contact: Pat Sheehy, Ethan Knecht

Forced Labor

The United States on February 3 took the significant step of removing a ban on imports of palm oil from the largest Indonesian producer, Sime Darby. The ban was put in place in 2020 due to indicators of forced labor at the firm’s plantations. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lifted restrictions after Sime Darby provided information about reform of its labor practices and evidence it no longer produces palm oil using forced labor. Of particular note, Sime Darby reimbursed workers $20 million in “recruitment fees,” paid to secure employment with the firm. The fees contributed to a scenario that CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner AnnMarie Highsmith described as “debt bondage.” 

The Department of Homeland Security also released its annual report on human trafficking. The report details, among other issues, broader DHS efforts on forced labor in FY2022. 

Contact: Pat Sheehy

South America

In a wide-ranging interview preceding his February 9-10 visit to Washington, Brazilian President Lula da Silva said priorities for conversation with President Biden include the U.S.-Brazil bilateral trade relationship, U.S.-Mercosur relations, climate and the environment, and the war in Ukraine. In contrast to his predecessor’s relatively isolationist stance, Lula outlined a more aggressive and active Brazilian foreign policy, including his desire to form a group of neutral countries to seek a peaceful conclusion to the war in Ukraine. Lula also hopes Brazil can act as a mediator with Cuba and Venezuela. 

German Chancellor Scholz traveled to Brazil, Argentina, and Chile as the EU and Mercosur look to ratify their long-stalled free trade agreement and ahead of an EU-Latin America summit this July. Scholz signed agreements on mining and climate change cooperation with Chile and on economic cooperation with Argentina. Rebuffing Scholz’s attempts to use the trip to rally support for Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina declined to send arms, and Chile pledged only to support Ukraine’s reconstruction after the war’s conclusion.

Contact: Ethan Knecht

Quick takes

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) formally released the zero draft of a “convention, treaty or other international instrument” on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Negotiations will resume February 27-March 3 in Geneva. The draft includes provisions on waiving intellectual property rights during pandemics; requiring companies to disclose details of public contracts for vaccines and treatments; and enabling WHO to reserve for use in poorer countries 20% of global supply of tests, vaccines or treatments.
  • USTR’s annual report on notorious markets for counterfeiting and piracy found that China continues to be the top source of counterfeit products in the world.  Goods from China, together with transshipped goods from China to Hong Kong, accounted for 75% of the value of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by CBP in 2021.
  • USTR is seeking comments on possible extension of Section 301 tariff exclusions on COVID-related imports from China, currently in place until May 15. USTR is asking whether these exclusions should be extended for an additional six months.
  • The Senate Agriculture Committee’s first hearing on the 2023 Farm Bill focused on trade, with Senators particularly emphasizing trade agreement enforcement (primarily, related to Mexico), foreign market access, and support for underserved producers.


Federal Register Notices

Newly Introduced Legislation


  • H.R.825 (Waltz, R-FL) Prohibits contracting with Maduro regime connected businesses.
  • H.R.809 (Newhouse, R-WA) Prohibits certain foreign persons from U.S. agriculture real estate purchases.
  • H.R.804 (Newhouse, R-MO) Prohibits certain transactions involving China’s central bank digital currency.
  • H.R.803 (Lucas, R-OK) Requires financial regulators to exclude Chinese government representatives from certain banking organizations.
  • H.R.801 (Lesko, R-AZ) Would suspend imports from designated countries to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • H.R.797 (Khanna, D-CA) Would place a moratorium on large concentrated animal feeding operations to require country of origin labeling on beef, pork, and dairy products.
  • H.R.796 (Kelly, D-IL) Would establish an office of supply chain resiliency in the Department of Commerce. 
  • H.R.784 (Fulcher, R-ID) Would require web based sales companies to disclose ownership by entities located in China.
  • H.R.760 (Barr, R-KY) Would impose sanctions on Chinese military surveillance companies.
  • H.R.759 (Barr, R-KY) Would limit U.S. financial institutional engagement in Russian energy transactions.
  • H.R.752 (Eshoo, D-CA) Would require SelectUSA to coordinate with State-level economic development organizations to increase foreign direct investment in semiconductors.
  • H.R.748/H.R.747 (Tenney, R-NY) Would prohibit the distribution of federal funds to Chinese entities for certain public works projects/ Would require the SEC to require disclosures of issuers that have connections to China.
  • H.R.722 (Green, R-TN) Would decrease dependency on Chinese manufacturing and decrease migration due to lost regional opportunities. 
  • H.R.690/H.R.686/H.R.683 (Steube, R-FL) Would impose sanctions on persons engaging in Afghanistan rare earth minerals/Requires continuation of export controls on Huawei/Prevents certain agricultural transactions. 
  • H.R.647 (Johnson, R-OH) Would repeal restrictions on natural gas exports and imports.
  • H.R.638 (Smith, R-NJ) Would withdraw China from normal trade relations treatment.
  • H.R.589 (Banks, R-IN) Would impose sanctions on the Supreme Leader and President of Iran.


  • S.257 (Scott, R-FL) Prohibits contracting with Maduro regime connected businesses.
  • S.256 (Cruz, R-TX) Would terminate sanction waivers for Iran under the JCPOA.
  • S.229 (Peters, D-MI) Would require SelectUSA to coordinate with State-level economic development organizations to increase foreign direct investment in semiconductors.
  • S.190 (Rubio, R-FL) Would prohibit oil exports to China. 
  • S.168 (Rounds, R-SD) Would require a CFIUS review of certain agricultural transactions.
  • S.158 (Durbin, D-IL) Would establish goals and marshall private investment to expand exports to Latin America and Africa.
  • S.153 (Rubio, R-FL) Would safeguard certain U.S. technology and IP from Chinese influence.
  • S.150 (Cornyn, R-TX) Would amend the FTC to prohibit product hopping.

Upcoming Congressional hearings 





  • Kenneth Schragin, Assistant USTR for Services and Investment
  • Louis Bono, State Department Senior Advisor for Caucus Negotiations 
  • Sarah Ladislaw, NSC Senior Director for Climate and Energy
  • Sean Bartlett, U.S. Ex-Im Bank SVP for Communications & External Engagement


  • Allison Varricchio, NSC Director for Afghanistan
  • Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council 
  • Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

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


  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat (Indonesia), February 3-4
  • Ecuador constitutional reforms referendum, February 5 
  • President Biden delivers the State of the Union Address, February 7
  • State of the Union, February 7
  • Brazilian President Lula da Silva travels to Washington, February 9-10

    EU Council Meeting (Brussels), February 9-10

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