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This Week In Trade

Trump administration hits 100 days; TTIP back in play; Brexit heats up

Posted: April 24, 2017

President Trump's tenure will hit the 100-day mark on Saturday amid a flurry of action on Capitol Hill this week as lawmakers address how to fund the federal government and assess the White House's tax plan, while EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will be in Washington to meet with congressional leaders.

Malmström's visit comes as hope for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has been revived, and is just ahead of a special meeting of the EU heads of government to discuss the EU's strategy in the Brexit negotiations.

Trump will celebrate the 100-day mark of his administration with a Saturday rally in Harrisburg, PA. Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, he has withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and signed a slew of trade-related executive orders. The impact of those actions remains to be seen, however, as no new trade initiatives have been announced, and the orders generally require agencies to conduct studies that will be the basis for future action.

Trump remains without a U.S. Trade Representative, however, as his nominee for the position, Robert Lighthizer, awaits a vote in the Senate. Sources said the Senate Finance Committee this week is likely to mark up both Lighthizer's nomination and a resolution of a statutory waiver that Democrats say is required for him to lawfully serve.

Trump should have an Agriculture secretary in place soon: The Senate is expected to approve the nomination of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) on Monday evening.

The Center for American Progress -- a think tank founded by Bill Clinton allies -- will use the 100-day mark to take a critical look at Trump's “broken promise to working Americans” on Thursday with Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff Thea Lea, Economic Policy Institute Director of Policy Heidi Shierholz, and CAP Action Fund President and CEO Neera Tanden.

The president may hope to secure a legislative win ahead of the 100-day mark this week with a vote on healthcare reform, which sits ahead of tax reform in the congressional queue. If the administration is successful in its push for a vote on healthcare reform it could clear the way for Congress to focus on tax reform. However, funding for the federal government -- which expires on Friday -- will likely be Congress' top priority this week.

The White House is set to release details on its tax reform plan on Wednesday, which may or may not include the controversial border adjustability tax in the GOP plan issued by House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady. Many U.S. trading partners have criticized the border adjustability tax as a deviation from the United States' World Trade Organization obligations.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will deliver remarks on the prospects for tax reform on Wednesday at an event sponsored by The Hill. Following Mncuhin's remarks, a panel featuring Center on Budget and Policy Priorities senior fellow Jared Bernstein, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist will continue the discussion on tax reform's prospects.

On top of a full slate of domestic legislative affairs, Senate leaders will also carve out time on Tuesday to meet with Malmström during her first trip to Washington since Trump took office. According to her public schedule, Malmström will meet with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-OR), as well as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX).

Malmström is also slated to meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday.

The EU Trade Commissioner's visit comes as European media reported over the weekend that the Trump administration showed a willingness to negotiate a trade deal with the EU during a meeting between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March. The timing is especially pertinent for the EU as heads of government from the EU27 are slated to meet in Brussels on Saturday to adopt guidelines on the negotiations of the United Kingdom's exit from the union. The European Council's draft guidelines stressed that the UK will not be able to have similar benefits as a third country as it enjoyed as a member of the EU.

The UK has vied to be near the top of the queue for a trade deal with the U.S., with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying that she wants to start laying the groundwork for a U.S.-UK deal during her DC visit in January. Sources have suggested that the prospect of a deal with the U.S. could be used as leverage in the Brexit negotiations.

Ross also said it would be 'logical' for the U.S. to focus on a trade deal with Europe this past weekend.

May also will meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday in London to discuss the UK's exit from the EU.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) last week said the he would “chart a path forward” on TTIP, while also saying the U.S. is ready to start negotiating a trade pact with the UK. (The Congressional Research Service recently issued a report on the prospects for a U.S-UK free trade deal.)

Not to be left out of the Brexit discussion, WTO Director-General Robert Azevêdo will meet with UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox on Thursday.

Azevêdo is also slated to take part in a ministerial meeting held by the “Friends of E-Commerce for Development” on Tuesday. WTO ambassadors have suggested that e-commerce is one area in which members could find enough common ground to negotiate on an outcome for the WTO's 11th ministerial in Buenos Aires in December. However, members have different levels of interest in that area, which could jeopardize any possible outcome.

Also on the international front, the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss China's excess capacity.

Back in Washington, the Commerce Department is set to announce preliminary countervailing duties on Canadian softwood lumber on Tuesday. The ongoing softwood lumber dispute between the U.S. and Canada got its first presidential mention on April 20, as Trump ripped Canada's practices on lumber as well as dairy.

Trump made those comments while also saying his administration will release a plan on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement within two weeks.

The Farm Foundation will discuss NAFTA's future on Wednesday with former Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman, National Association of Manufacturers Vice President for international affairs Linda Dempsey and Grocery Manufacturers Association senior director of global strategies Melissa San Miguel.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies will focus on Trump's Asia policy, with an eye on China in particular, during three events this week. On Tuesday, SAIS and the Asia Society will discuss Trump's Asia policy over the administration's first 100 days. The discussion will feature Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and former Deputy USTR Wendy Cutler.

Later Tuesday, SAIS will discuss “The State of State Capitalism in China” and the source of China's economic structural problems with Yasheng Huang, professor in Chinese economy and business and associate dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Management.

China will be the sole focus of SAIS's Wednesday discussion about U.S.-China relations during the Trump administration. That discussion will feature Yun Sun, senior associate in the Stimson Center's East Asia Program; Mima Nedelcovych, president and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development; John Goodman, associate director of the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program; Bobby Pittman, managing partner at Kupanda Capital; and Leocadia Zak, former director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

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